If you believe butter is back, think again
The American Heart Association closely follows the vast amount of research related to heart disease and provides authoritative and evidence-based information on dietary patterns that reduce cardiovascular risk. Here is a brief summary of 4 key points from their newly released advisory on Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease (Circulation, June 2017). • Instead of eating toast with butter and/or jelly, switch to heart-healthier toast topped with avocado or peanut butter. Jelly (sugar) offers no health benefits. Butter (saturated fat) raises the bad LDL cholesterol. You want to replace butter with unsaturated fats (i.e., nut butters, avocado).
• Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy foods – and eat more plant-based proteins from lentils, pinto beans, hummus, nuts, nut butters and tofu. Beef, lamb and dairy have naturally occurring trans fats that appear to have the same negative heart-health impact as industrial trans fats (from partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods).
• Rely on salmon (not flax or chia) for omega-3 fats to improve your heart-health. Omega-3 fats (such as ALA from flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts, and omega-3 fortified eggs) may reduce cardiovascular disease but they are not as powerful as the marine-derived omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) in salmon and other oily fish.
• Use olive oil instead of coconut oil. Coconut oil is 82% saturated fat and increases LDL cholesterol (a cause of heart disease). It has no known offsetting favorable effects,
Here’s why the American Heart Association advises against the use of coconut oil:
A carefully controlled experiment compared the effects of coconut oil, butter, and safflower oil (polyunsaturated fat). Both butter and coconut oil raised bad LDL cholesterol compared with safflower oil. Another carefully controlled experiment found that coconut oil significantly increased bad LDL cholesterol compared with olive oil.
A recent systematic review found seven controlled trials, including the two just mentioned, that compared coconut oil with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils. Coconut oil, as well as butter, beef fat, or palm oil, raised bad LDL cholesterol in all 7 of these trials, significantly in 6 of them. Given the research is limited, we need more clinical trials that compare the direct effects of coconut oil and other dietary oils on heart disease.
What to eat?
To reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as many other chronic conditions, you want to enjoy plenty of fish, fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, and olive oil. To reduce the saturated fat in your diet, make these swaps:
• Trade butter for olive oil or canola oil.
• Replace coconut oil with avocado or grapeseed oil.
• Snack on almonds and walnuts instead of full-fat cheese.
• Choose less steak and more salmon.
For more information on how to eat a health-promoting sports diet: Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.