Health

The cardiologist shares 5 foods she almost never eats, from coconut oil to potato chips—and suggests healthy alternatives

It’s not realistic to try to eat a “perfect” diet all the time — but smart swaps can help you keep your heart healthy without taking away from the snacks you enjoy.

That’s according to Dr. Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist at NYU Langone, who said in a TikTok video for Everyday Health that she avoids foods like bacon and chips for the sake of a healthier heart.

It can be difficult to give nutritional advice as a doctor, Reynolds said, because nutrition research often doesn’t provide clear answers about how food affects health.

“We need nutrition science the right way. A lot of the recommendations we make are based on limited evidence, which leaves patients with the impression that we change our minds too often,” she said.

Reynolds said that, based on available evidence, she chooses to avoid certain foods and uses strategies to enjoy less healthy food in moderation.

Margarine and coconut oil are linked to poor heart health

Reynolds said she avoids margarine and vegetable oils, because observational studies have suggested their consumption is associated with higher cardiovascular mortality, though it’s not clear why, as they don’t appear to increase risk factors like cholesterol.

Coconut oil is also a concern, as it consists of saturated fats that are linked to heart health risks.

“I’ve learned to ask patients about this because I’ve seen so many patients whose LDL cholesterol level goes up because they’ve been exposed to foods that contain coconut oil,” Reynolds said.

Butter may be a better substitute when used in moderation.

Research indicates that olive oil is the healthiest choice.

“People should cook with it as much as possible, and if they use other fats, they should use as little as possible,” Reynolds said.

It’s hard to eat potato chips in moderation

Reynolds said she doesn’t eat potato chips or keep them in the house because it’s so easy to eat the whole bag.

“I know myself and I know that no matter the good intentions of chipotle chips, they don’t work that way,” she said.

She said popcorn can be a healthy alternative, or even a fresh veggie if you’re craving a crunchy snack.

For an enticing treat like the chocolate bars, Reynolds said she would buy the candy pre-packaged to make it easier to enjoy in moderation.

She only eats bacon as a special treat

Plenty of evidence shows that processed meat is associated with a higher risk of serious diseases like cancer and heart disease, which are compelling reasons to limit it in your diet, according to Reynolds.

She said “I don’t know what is a safe amount”.

However, it is also a food that you enjoy and eat several times a year for special occasions.

“I think it helps people to know that the people who give the advice are people too. Patients can’t be perfect in dieting,” she said. “It’s important to realize that there are times when you want a treat and it’s not really productive to say I’ll never eat foods that I enjoy. It’s best, I think, to try to eat less and make swaps where possible.”

Replace processed sweets with dark chocolate to reduce unhealthy fats

Reynolds said the last food group she tries to stay away from is processed sweets like packaged cookies and cake, because they’re high in sugar and unhealthy fats, which are linked to health risks like diabetes and heart disease.

Fruit, yogurt, dark chocolate, and nuts can be healthy sweet foods. But again, moderation and self-awareness are key to enjoying food while minimizing potential health risks.

“When I’m at parties and there’s something I know isn’t healthy for me that I want to try, I’ll taste it and pay a lot of attention. If I like it, I’ll allow myself to enjoy it. If it says ‘I don’t like it’, I put it down.”

Smith

Tricare west is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

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