Friday, February 26, 2010

Myth: Eating margarine instead of butter will keep my cholesterol down.

Answer: Busted!

Choosing margarine over butter will not automatically lower your cholesterol. From a fat and calorie standpoint, butter and margarine are the same with about 35 calories and four grams of fat per teaspoon. Both are primarily fat; only the source differs. Butter contains more saturated fat than most margarine. Because margarine is made from vegetable oil, it has no cholesterol, but the stick margarine is high in trans fats.

For a spread with less saturated fat and minimal or no trans fat, buy soft or liquid margarine. Whipped versions of butter or margarine have less fat per tablespoon too. Reduced fat margarine is also available but is not suitable for cooking.

Whether you prefer the taste of butter or margarine, enjoy in small portions. For margarine, choose liquid or tub, rather than stick. These tips can help you make the right choice.

To keep your cholesterol at healthy levels, eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods, lean meats and poultry, fish at least twice a week and fat-free or 1 percent dairy products and adopt other healthy lifestyle habits.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Myth: My diet is heart healthy because its low-fat, so I don’t have to pay attention to sodium.

Answer: Busted!

Sodium affects our risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends getting less than 2300 mg of sodium per day- only about 1 teaspoon of salt. Most Americans get about 3436 mg of sodium daily – about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
High-sodium diets are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. A recent study found that if Americans reduced their sodium intake by 1200 mg per day (about 1/2 a teaspoon) it could decrease the number of heart attacks by 54,000 to 99,000 per year!

Reducing sodium is more than just putting down the salt shaker. In fact, most of the sodium we eat is hidden in processed foods that are canned, frozen, or pre-packaged. Rely less on convenience foods and you can control how much sodium you eat. One can of soup can have more sodium than you need in an entire day. Make your own soup with low-sodium chicken broth and fresh vegetables. Freeze the leftovers in individual containers for later.

Other tips for reducing your sodium intake:
- Use herbs and spices to flavor your foods instead of salt
- Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned
- Limit salty snacks such as pretzels and potato chips
- Buy low- or reduced-sodium versions of foods when possible
- Prepare foods from scratch: Try making your own salad dressing with vinegar and oil
- Read nutrition labels

For more information about lowering you sodium intake check out

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Myth: I need a cleansing diet to rid my body of harmful toxins.

Answer: Busted!

Cleansing diets, also known as detoxification diets or fat flushes, claim to remove harmful “poisons” that build up in the body. They often include herbal supplements, liquid diets, and eliminating foods from the diet such as dairy, sugar, and caffeine, often promising a quick-fix to weight loss and better health.

Your body already has a “detox” system in place. The lungs, liver, kidneys, and skin remove toxins from the body, and no studies show they need help with this.

Beware of diets that are short-term, very restrictive, or leave out entire food groups. They may contain empty promises. Although you might lose weight quickly on an extreme cleansing or detox diet, the weight loss is usually temporary and water and muscle. Fatigue, irritability, and other side effects are likely when you don’t get enough calories, protein, vitamins and minerals, and other essential nutrients.
Bottom line, you don’t need a cleansing diet, just clean up your diet. Eat a lot of whole foods — fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, plenty of water and an occasional treat. You should feel better in no time!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Myth: “Cholesterol free” foods are heart healthy.

Answer: Busted!

Almost everyone knows that it is a good idea to limit foods high in cholesterol. The food companies know this as well and that is why they are selling numerous products labeled “cholesterol free”. However, many products labeled “cholesterol free” may still be high in the artery clogging saturated fats and trans-fats and may not be heart healthy. Saturated fats and transfats will raise your blood cholesterol levels. Limiting how much saturated fats and trans fats you eat is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease.

So, even if a label boasts “cholesterol-free”, read the Nutrition Facts Label carefully to help you choose foods that are heart healthy. Eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, lean meats and fish is always healthier for you. Don’t be persuaded by misleading advertising.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dark chocolate is better for your health than milk chocolate.

Answer: Well---maybe

A few studies have been done which suggest that dark chocolate may be better than milk chocolate because it has a higher cocoa content. The cocoa is the ingredient that is known for its rich source of flavonoids (an antioxidant that clears out bad cells in the body) also found in some colorful vegetables, teas, and red wine.

Even though dark chocolate may contain ingredients that are beneficial to health, you should not necessarily eat more chocolate products. Chocolate is high in fat, sugar and calories. Moderation is always the key - having a piece of chocolate once in a while is not going to harm your health. Avoid replacing healthy foods with chocolate but when choosing chocolate for this Valentine’s Day, go for the dark chocolate for its higher flavonoid content.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Myth: I am thin and I exercise. So, heart disease is no threat to me. Right?

Answer: Wrong!

It doesn't matter what shape you are in, you can still be at risk for heart disease. Sometimes, being thin can carry a false sense of security. No one can look at you say if you are healthy or not. Even your own doctor may not know how much physical activity you get every day or the amount of colorful fruits and vegetables you are eating.

Even if you don't fit the typical profile, speak to your doctor about heart disease. Ask to have your blood profile taken. This will tell you your HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, and other numbers. The test will tell you what range you fall into such as normal, below, or above normal. In many cases you may feel healthy but have high cholesterol. This is one of the many reasons to have your blood profile done. These numbers will help you determine where you can start making changes to become healthier. Have a blood profile done at least yearly.

For more information on cholesterol, visit The American Heart Association.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Myth: I won’t have to worry about heart disease until I’m much older.

Answer: Busted!

Although heart disease occurs most frequently in middle aged adults, research shows that it does not spare the young either. In fact, according to a recent study, one in five American teens has unhealthy cholesterol levels, a major risk factor for heart disease. Eating a variety of nutritious foods daily can reduce your risk of heart disease later in life.

To get you started, aim for:
  • Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day.
  • Fish (preferably oily fish, like salmon, trout, herring): At least two 3.5-ounces a week.
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: At list three 1-ounce-equivalents a day. One ounce is about 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice.
  • Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day. (Hint: 1 teaspoon salt = 2, 300 mg sodium).
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more that 450 calories (36 ounces) a week.
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least four 1-ounce equivalents a week. One ounce equivalent is about 1/4 cup cooked beans, 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds.
  • Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs: No more than two 3-ounce equivalents a week.

In addition, get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity - like brisk walking - every week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity - like jogging - every week. Remember, even small changes can make a big difference in living a better life.