As a cardiologist who’s treated thousands of patients, Dr. Elizabeth Klodas is often asked about what she eats for a healthy heart. Most of us know that a diet full of cheeseburgers, French fries and doughnuts isn’t good for our health, but some of the other foods we commonly eat aren’t as healthy for our heart as we think.
These are five foods Dr. Klodas tries to avoid eating in excess and what she opts for instead”
- Bread - Did you know that bread and baked goods are some of the biggest sources of sodium in our diets? It’s surprising, but a plain bagel can contain 500 milligrams of sodium, which is about a third of what the American Heart Association recommends per day for most adults. Refined flours in bread can also make blood sugars spike. Klodas looks for at least three grams of fiber per 100 calories in bread, as well as visible grains and seeds in every slice.
- Margarine - Butter alternatives aren’t always healthier than the real thing. Lots of margarine spreads are made with palm oil, which contains high amounts of saturated fats that can raise your cholesterol. Those made from olive oil or flax oil are better choices for heart health.
- Skim milk - Dairy products containing milk are major sources of saturated fatty acids and even though skim milk may be the better dairy option, Klodas encourages people to try dairy-free alternatives. Almond, cashew and macadamia nut milks have more heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as do soy, hemp and flax milks. And for calcium, foods like almonds, broccoli, kale, beans and oranges are all good heart-healthy sources.
- Diet soda - Recent studies have found that artificial sweeteners in diet soda can impact the production of important proteins in our gut that protect against diabetes and obesity. Sparkling water with no added sweeteners is a better option, as is tea, which is full of heart-healthy compounds.
- Granola bars - The oats, nuts and fruits they contain aren’t the problem, but the added sugars, artificial sweeteners and ingredients like palm oil are. Dr. Klodas prefers raw nuts to snack on and when she eats oats, she has oatmeal sweetened with dried or fresh fruit instead.