Category Archives: Fats & Oils

Megan Madden, MS, RD quoted on SHAPE.com

Check out Megan’s comments on avocados, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, plant sterols & salmon as featured on Shape.com’s “20 Artery-Cleansing Foods You Should Be Eating”.  Here’s to a healthy heart!

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Heartburn: Turning down the heat

Do you ever experience a burning sensation in your chest, especially when lying down after a meal? You’re not alone! In fact, 7 to 8% of the population experiences this discomfort, which is a symptom of acid reflux disease commonly called heartburn.

Normally, a valve at the junction between your esophagus and your stomach opens to let food pass through and then closes again. But if the valve opens too frequently, or does not create a proper seal upon shutting, the acidic contents of the stomach can flow back into the esophagus. That’s when you feel pain radiating from your upper abdomen toward your throat.

Occasional heartburn may not be cause for alarm, but chronic acid reflux can have serious consequences, like increasing your risk of developing esophageal cancer. Persistent or worsening symptoms should be brought to your doctor’s attention. 

There are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription drugs that may provide relief, including Tums, Zantac, Pepcid and Prevacid. But, if you’re like me, and you want to minimize medication usage, try making these simple dietary and lifestyle modifications…

1. Avoid common trigger foods, like coffee, alcohol, vinegar, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, peppermint & spicy dishes.

2. Skip the Big Mac and fries. Large meals, especially those with a high fat content, take a long time to be digested, which raises your chance of feeling the burn from it later.

3. Fight the flab and start a weight loss program if you’re overweight. Abdominal obesity puts pressure on your stomach, forcing stomach contents back into the esophagus.

4. Quit smoking! Cigarettes may actually increase stomach acid production and weaken the function of the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.

5. Stop eating 3 hours before bedtime.  Remaining upright after meals puts gravity to work and keeps food down in the stomach where it belongs.

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Mustard vs. Mayo

So you’re at the deli counter and ready to order a sandwich. Your stomach’s grumbling for turkey and provolone on whole wheat, with lettuce, tomato and…mayonnaise or mustard?  Let’s explore the two condiments.

Basic mayonnaise is a mixture of egg yolk, oil and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar. Mayo is virtually all fat, with the egg yolk providing artery-clogging saturated fat. One tablespoon of regular mayo packs around 90 calories, mostly coming from 10 grams fat (3.5 g saturated fat). Light mayonnaise totals only about 35 calories per tablespoon, with 3 grams fat (0 g saturated fat).

Whether it’s Dijon, honey or deli style, mustard is prepared from the seeds of a mustard plant, blended with spices and vinegar. Mustard is relatively harmless at less than 30 calories per tablespoon and no saturated fat.

So it seems obvious that mustard is a healthier choice than regular mayo, but why not choose light mayonnaise? Some foodies shy away from reduced fat products because added ingredients make the item more processed and less natural. Maybe it’s best to use the real thing, but sparingly? (I’m undecided.) If it’s between regular, full-fat mayo and mustard, go with the mustard. A teaspoon or two adds strong flavor, but negligible calories to your sandwich.

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Fast Facts on Fats

Q: There are so many types of cooking oil on the market. Which one should I use?

A: The healthiest oils are those with the least amount of saturated fat. Choose canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil. These varieties are higher in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart healthy, because they are able to lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol if used in place of other fats. No matter which oil you pick, however, it’s important to use it sparingly. Each tablespoon of a vegetable-based oil packs 120 calories! Stay away from coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil – these three oils are high in saturated fat, which raises your risk for heart disease.

Here’s how to choose among some of the “healthier” oil options:

Canola oil: Has the least amount of saturated fat (only 7%)! Great for sautéing, stir frying, baking and salad dressings. Canola oil does not give off a strong flavor and can be used over high-heat.

Olive oil: Contains a large amount of good, monounsaturated fat. Use it for dressings, marinades, roasting, grilling and low-heat cooking. Olive oil will start to break down at very high temperatures.

Vegetable oil: This oil is usually made from soybeans. It is an all-purpose oil that can be used for baking, sautéing and pan frying. Since vegetable oil has a relatively high saturated fat content, canola oil is a healthier choice.

Corn oil: With about 13% saturated fat, corn oil is not the best option. It can be used for deep frying, stir-frying, sautéing and baking, because of a very high tolerance to heat.

Peanut oil: While it is often used in yummy Asian-inspired stir fry dishes, peanut oil has a very high saturated fat content (about 18%)! This makes it costly to your cardiovascular health.

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Better than butter?

Q: Is there a difference between butter and margarine?

A: Yes! A quick look at the nutrition facts tells us there is a big difference between butter and margarine! The debate focuses on the types of fat found in these products and stick butter has the most saturated fat per tablespoon (7g), giving it the most unhealthy characteristics.

When it comes to eating a heart healthy diet, you want to minimize intake of artery-clogging trans-fat and saturated fat, both of which can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol level. Keep trans-fat consumption to a minimum and saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories. (That’s 20g saturated fat for a daily 2,000 calorie diet!)

Years ago, hard margarines were made with unhealthy hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenation is the process of taking unsaturated (healthier) fats and adding hydrogen atoms to obtain characteristics of a saturated fat. For example, hydrogenated oils are firmer and easier to spread, but this causes the loss of health benefits associated with unsaturated fats. Trans-fatty acids also form during hydrogenation and pose a double risk to heart health by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Thanks to better technology, soft margarines and spreads can now be made from a blend of unhydrogenated oils, such as soybean and canola oils, which are mostly unsaturated and, therefore, more heart healthy than butter.

While whipped butter has less saturated fat per tablespoon that stick butter (see below), soft margarine and spreads are clearly the way to go to save on calories and saturated fat grams! The bottom line? Check the ingredient list to make sure the product is not made with partially hydrogenated oils and look for spreads that are trans-fat free and low in saturated fat!

Butter, stick (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (7g saturated)

Breakstone’s whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 7g total fat (4.5g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 50 calories, 6g total fat (3.5g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes soft margarine (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (3g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread, soft (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)

Fleischmann’s Original Soft Spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, original soft spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)

*Smart Balance Original Buttery Spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 9g total fat (2.5g saturated)

*Promise buttery spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)


*Made with no hydrogenated oils

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