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Comcast Channel 8 Passion for Health: Heart Health

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed for a Healthy Living segment for Comcast Channel 8 in Putnam County, NY. If you tuned in then you already know all about heart health. If you missed it, I review all of the details here…and we’ll make sure you know when the next one airs!

What comes to mind first when you think about nutrition and heart health?

The message around diet and heart health has remained the same for some time. We want to consume as little saturated fat as possible and no trans fat while aiming for as much monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat as possible. A heart healthy diet also emphasizes raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and limited sodium.

Let’s break that advice down a bit. Can you remind us about the different fats?

Saturated fats, which we want to avoid, can be identified because they are solid at room temperature. This is the fat that solidifies on top of soup or gravy and trimmed from cuts of meat. We want to avoid saturated fat because as it is solid at room temp it can also be “solid” in our arteries and increase our risk or coronary artery disease. Saturated fats are also correlated with elevated cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats, which are found in nuts, avocado and olive oil, reduce risk of heart disease and help you maintain ideal cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are also heart healthy and are found in walnuts, vegetable oils, ground flaxseed and fish. These essential fatty acids, as they are referred to because they are essential for us, need to be consumed through our foods because we cannot make them ourselves. For this reason, the AHA recommends we consume fish at least twice per week.

Can you tell me more about coconut oil? I know that it is very popular these days.

Yes. Coconut oil is very popular and is discussed much in the media which has created a buzz around it. Coconut oil here is solid at room temperature. That is because it is primarily composed of saturated fat. As coconut oil doesn’t come from an animal but rather from a coconut, it is a different fat than the saturated fat I was just discussing. The difference is at the molecular structure in terms of how the fat is composed. That said, at this point the research shows the saturated fat found in coconut may have a negative impact on our cholesterol levels and therefore would NOT be heart healthy. However there is data that supports that it may not be as harmful as saturated fat from an animal. My advice at this point is to be cautious. Maybe cook with it when you feel like it benefits the recipe you are preparing but I wouldn’t make it my primary oil choice until we have more information about it. If you are interested in learning more about different fats and coconut oil in particular, you can view a webinar I did on this topic.

Moving on to discuss sodium intake. How much is too much?

The current recommendation is to limit daily sodium intake to 1800-2000mg. This would be the maximum daily amount for those who are not at risk of heart disease. At risk individuals should lower that number to 1500mg. Your level of risk is depended upon your age, family history, gender and whether you already have elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, are overweight, inactive, smoke and have type 2 diabetes. The good news is that of these factors, only gender, family history and age can’t be modified…the others you can do something about.

Can you discuss a bit the role that supplements can play in heart health?

There are many supplements available from branded, combination supplements to pure fish oil supplements and more. The most important thing to remember is that supplements are not regulated in the US so there is a significant “buyer beware” with them. That said, if you are taking a fish oil supplement please make sure your MD knows as it may have an impact on other medications you are taking. Seek a fish oil supplement composed of very small fish to limit mercury potential.

What are we making today and can you tell me a bit more about what it offers us?

Today we are making a healthy, Waldorf salad. This salad is high in fiber (from the fruits, vegetables, lettuce and walnuts) which aids in lowering cholesterol. Diets high in fiber have been shown to lower cholesterol. While there are many foods that have artificial fiber added to them, it is important to remember that studies supporting the link between fiber and cholesterol have primarily been done using natural fibers (such as those found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains) so those should be emphasized in your diet. Don’t forget, that in order to ensure that the bread or cracker you are choosing is truly whole grain, the first ingredient needs to show it (such as made with 100% whole wheat flour).


Picnic Waldorf Salad

Serves: 4


2 tablespoons Hellmann’s® Low Fat Mayonnaise Dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 tsp. McCormick® Ground Ginger

2 small apples, cubed

1 cup seedless red grapes

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup thinly sliced celery (about 1 stalk)

1 teaspoon McCormick® Poppy Seed

Fresh Express® Sweet Butter™ or Spring Mix



1. Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, and ginger in a medium bowl. Add apples, grapes, and

dried cranberries. Mix well.

2. Add the walnuts, celery, and poppy seeds and mix well. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.

TIP: The salad can be refrigerated up to 2 hours before serving.


Nutritional Information (salad with dressing)

Amount Per Serving: 153 Calories; 6 g Total Fat: 1 g Saturated Fat, 4 g Polyunsaturated Fat, 1 g Monounsaturated Fat;

26 g Carbohydrate: 3 g Dietary Fiber; 2 g Protein

Source: Recipe adapted from