Joanne here from the Avera Heart Hospital ready to bust another food myth! This is myth #3 in my 5-part series on busting food myths in heart-healthy diets.
Myth #3: All foods fit into a heart healthy diet as long as you control portions.
BUSTED! This myth is false. Not all foods fit into a heart healthy diet. For example, processed carbohydrates and trans fats significantly increase your risk of heart disease, even in controlled portions. The Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee reported that there is very little wiggle room in a healthy diet for splurge foods (also known as “junk food,” which normally means things like potato chips, processed dips, cookies and sodas and the usual culprits like ice cream and Twinkies). The Advisory Counsel advises no more than 10% of total calories being “discretionary” calories, which includes added fats and sugars. To put that into practice for a 2,000 calorie diet, that is equivalent to adding 1 tablespoon of extra salad dressing and drinking one can of regular soda.
What Unhealthy Diets Lack
The idea that you can eat whatever you want in controlled portions may help reduce your calorie intake, but will do little to improve the nutrient density of your diet. In the US, we are overfed in calories but malnourished when it comes to nutrients.
There are many “shortfall” nutrients that most of just don’t get in adequate amounts. These include nutrients such as vitamin E, potassium, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, all of which protect against heart disease. This lack of nutrients over years and decades causes your body to break down and predisposes you to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease.
How Can You Eat Healthier?
Choose nutritious meals and snacks with the help of guides, like my Heart Puzzle Eating Guide. This diet is especially important for those of you with heart health issues.
Another great guide for the whole family to follow is the new My Plate guide, put together by the US Department of Agriculture. The My Plate website has food planning guides and tips for healthy eating on a budget, while pregnant or nursing, and specific guides for various age groups.