As I’ve long said, sugar—not cholesterol—is the real villain when it comes to heart disease. Naturally, that begs the question about foods you can eat and which foods you should avoid. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive on heart-healthy cooking.
What is the best oil to use in cooking—coconut, olive, or vegetable oil?
First off, let me start with the one oil that you should toss out if you have it in your kitchen right now—vegetable oil. Vegetable oils (canola, corn, and soybean) are mainly comprised of inflammatory omega-6 fats which are oxidized during cooking, so you want to avoid them at all costs. As for olive oil and coconut oil, both are healthy and the oil you cook with depends on what you're making. If you're cooking at high temperatures, coconut oil is an excellent choice because it won't oxidize. Plus, coconut has a number of important health benefits, including helping to raise HDL cholesterol and supporting the immune system.
Now, let's talk about olive oil. This golden, flavorful oil is filled with heart-healthy benefits. It helps to block the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, and helps to raise HDL cholesterol. But with olive oil, you want to choose the right oil for the dish you're making. For cooking I recommend using light olive oil. But avoid cooking with it at high temperatures (over 140o F) because it can oxidize. And for making salads and other cold dishes, I recommend using organic extra virgin olive oil. Here are my top tips for finding the best best-heart healthy olive oil, and how to safely store it.
If saturated fats are heart-healthy, is it okay to eat steak every day?
While saturated fats are heart healthy, it’s still important to eat a balanced diet so I recommend limiting beef to once or twice a week. You just want to make sure you’re choosing grass-fed beef, which is usually raised organically—so it’s not filled with antibiotics, steroids, hormones or inflammatory omega-6 fats.
Are eggs a heart-smart choice?
Eggs are perfectly fine to eat. I eat four to six DHA-fortified, cage-free eggs per week. Eggs contain magnesium and sulfur, plus the egg white is full of protein. But there’s one thing I should mention if you’re eating a lot of conventionally produced eggs. Men who eat more than six eggs a week have a higher rate of prostate problems. So when it comes to eggs, go with the cage-free and DHA-fortified variety.
Which is better, margarine or butter?
Without a doubt, organic butter is better than margarine! Just make sure you scrape off any dark areas that develop as the butter is exposed to air, because it means that portion of the butter has probably oxidized.
Is it ever okay to eat sugar?
Sugar is inflammatory, so you want to avoid it as much as possible. But if you have a sweet tooth, I’ll tell you what I do. I love dark chocolate—70 percent or 85 percent cacao. It satisfies my sweet tooth. Plus, the polyphenols in the dark chocolate can protect your heart. Would I eat chocolate at every meal? Of course not. But having it a small amount a few times a week is perfectly okay.
Now it’s your turn: Did any of these answers surprise you?