As a cardiac registered dietitian, I meet with many people who are trying to learn about the correct eating patterns to protect their hearts. Here are the top myths I hear from my patients and keep you up to date about current heart-healthy recommendations.
Don’t eat eggs (or shrimp or shellfish)
My patients are always excited to learn they can eat eggs. When you’re looking at cholesterol levels, it’s the LDL (bad) cholesterol that you want to keep low and the HDL (good) cholesterol you want to keep high. The types of dietary fat that you select are the most important factors affecting these numbers, not the amount of dietary cholesterol found in foods. The current cholesterol recommendation is less than 300mg per day and the average large egg contains about 185mg. The American Heart Association states that an egg a day fits into a healthy lifestyle. Eggs (yolks) are a good source of vitamin D and contain high-quality protein. Shellfish is very low in fat, just don’t fry it or add a lot of additional fat.
If you don’t use the salt shaker your intake of sodium is low
The average American intake from sodium is 4,200mg per day. The recommended daily intake is 1,500mg per day for adults older than 51 years, African Americans, people with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease. Everyone else is allotted 2,300mg per day. Most of the sodium we consume comes from convenience foods like canned soup, lunch meat, cheese, boxed items and dining out. Select reduced-sodium foods when possible and keep a sodium journal to tally your day’s intake.
Take a fish supplement if you don’t eat fish
This myth can be true but I cross paths with so many patients who don’t know the correct amount of fish oils to take or what to look at on a bottle of fish oil. Go to http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/114/1/82.full.pdf page 9 and see if you’re a candidate for taking fish oils. If so, there are specific amounts to take based on your condition. When you look at the fish oil bottle, look specifically for how much EPA and DHA it contains. These are the two components you add together to get your correct dosage. If EPA or DHA are not listed, or are very low, then select another brand. As always, check with your physician before taking any new supplements. He or she may also recommend prescription-strength fish oil supplements.
You have to switch to eating turkey bacon
Pick up a package of turkey bacon and a package of center-cut bacon and compare the two. I’ll use Oscar Mayer turkey bacon 50 percent less fat versus Oscar Mayer center-cut pork bacon as an example. The fat content of the turkey bacon is 3 grams versus 3.5 grams in the pork bacon, saturated fat is 1 gram versus 1.5 grams and sodium is 180 milligrams versus 210 milligrams for the same serving size. So yes, the turkey bacon is a half gram better for you in total fat and saturated fat and 30 milligrams better in sodium, but these differences are negligible. If you love pork bacon and dislike the taste and texture of turkey bacon, there’s no need to switch. Limit your portion size and enjoy the center-cut bacon.
Eat butter instead of margarine or eat margarine instead of butter
The life-long battle between butter and margarine continues. There’s one thing I want to get across: don’t use stick margarine. It is loaded with bad-for-you trans fats. Bake with butter instead (since tub margarine contains too much water and typically doesn’t produce an acceptable product). When it comes to what you want to spread on toast, ask yourself how much and how often you use it. If you’re not using much and not very often and really prefer the taste of butter, then go ahead and enjoy butter. Yes, butter contains saturated fat, but again, it’s about how much you use. If you’re using a spread on a daily basis, then you’ll want to use an unsaturated margarine spread. To learn more about fats, visit the American Heart Association’s website.
Julie Holbrook, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist with Centegra Health System. She specializes in cardiac nutrition. Call 877-CENTEGRA for more information.