Four Foods You Should Start Eating Again
The media has a love-hate relationship with some of the foods mentioned below. For any one of a multitude of reasons, these foods have, at one time or other, been vilified as bad for the heart. However, as we learn more about how our bodies process certain foods, the evidence shows that the foods listed below may even benefit our long-term heart health. So, without further ado, let’s explore…
Chocolate, dark chocolate that is, offers a multitude of benefits, many of which help the heart as well. Dark chocolate is full of nutrients and, when consumed in moderation has antioxidant properties that benefit the body. To be sure, milk and white chocolate – the latter of which is not chocolate at all – have more drawbacks than benefits, but dark chocolate is an entirely different beast. Dark chocolate is relatively low in sugar and offers essential nutrients such as iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and more. Further, flavanol compounds in dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, counteracting any increase in blood pressure caused by the slight amount of caffeine.
Shrimp and shellfish in general were once maligned because of their high cholesterol content. It was posited that all cholesterol is bad, however we now know that this is not the case. Naturally occurring cholesterols, such as those in shrimp can actually be very beneficial, while the cholesterols found in prepackaged, processed foods are downright horrible for our health. Shellfish is packed with nutrients and represents a low-fat, low calorie and delicious appetizer or entrée that can be enjoyed by all.
Olive oil, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, has had its fair share of detractors over the years. Granted, olive oil is high in fat, especially saturated fat, which on the surface is problematic. However, once again, we have to distinguish between naturally occurring and healthy fats versus fats that are generated as part of the processing of foods. As with any food on this list, olive oil should be consumed in moderation and fried foods – even when fried in olive oil – are not the best option for someone looking to improve or maintain their heart health. While olive oil offers many health benefits, not all oils are created equal – coconut and palm oils as well as any partially hydrogenated oils are best avoided.
Once again shunned for its cholesterol content, eggs and in particular egg yolkswere, until recently, a controversial topic. This led to the proliferation of egg whites as a substitute. However, while the fat and cholesterol content is relatively high in the egg yolk, it also comes with myriad health benefits. Egg yolks not only offer concentrated nutrients but when consumed in moderation the fat and cholesterol content is negligible in the overall diet.
Ultimately, when discussing diet with our patients, we emphasize portion control, minimally processed foods and keeping an eye on nutritional labels. For the most part, the foods that our parents and grandparents consumed are not the problem. It is the foods that have been highly processed, containing all sorts of strange and newfangled (and often artificial) ingredient that have kept heart disease as a leading killer in the United States. Ultimately, however, even eating the best foods can be detrimental if we don’t control our portions. Therefore, patients who eat a solid and balanced diet in moderation can expect to maintain their heart health for a long time to come.