Home > Blog

Resolution: Love Life, Love Your Heart

Heart Health Month

February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and has been since 1900. In fact, way back in 1963, in acknowledgement of the importance of the ongoing fight against cardiovascular disease, the Congress, by Joint Resolution approved a statute on December 30, 1963, as amended (77 Stat. 843; 36 U.S.C. 101), requesting that each serving President issue an annual proclamation designating February as “American Heart Month.”

So in celebration of Heart Health Month, here are two indulgent foods that will surely put a smile on your face. No deprivation here, you can truly love your heart and life by adding in these formerly forbidden foods into your heart-healthy day: dark chocolate and red wine!

Dark chocolate: Food for the Heart and Soul — with a high content of nonfat cocoa solids — is now the new guilt-free super food. The scientific evidence is stacking up linking daily consumption of deep, dark chocolate with phenomenal health benefits. When it comes to choosing chocolate for health, the chocolate must be the flavonoid-rich dark variety. This is because dark chocolate has a much higher percentage of cocoa than milk chocolate and it’s the cocoa that contains most of the flavonoids—plant substances which provide your body with a host of health benefits. Flavonoids work as potent antioxidants to protect us from free radical damage, the process which accelerates aging and promotes chronic illnesses such as heart disease.

Be wary of the kind of chocolate you choose as not all chocolate is created equally. For maximum health benefits, consume dark chocolate or naturally unsweetened dark cocoa powder. The key word here is DARK as the darker the chocolate, the higher the percentage of cocoa, and the more flavonoids it will contain. The problem is that a large amount of cocoa can make the bar taste bitter, so try different products to see what appeals to you. Look out for imposters like white chocolate (zero antioxidants) and hot chocolate mixes (negligible antioxidants). Better to make your own hot chocolate with dark unsweetened cocoa powder, fat free milk or light soy milk and a touch of sweetener. Another chocolate caveat, dark chocolate, while very good for health, is not a low calorie diet food. Eat it by the piece and not the pound, for when it comes to dark chocolate, the devil is truly in the details. It is often loaded with calories, fat and sugar, which is why if you choose to eat a chocolate confection, I suggest you make it no more than an ounce or two of at least 70 percent dark chocolate per day.

Red wine: Drink of the Gods — pair your dark chocolate treat with another sinfully delicious food: a glass of red wine and you have a powerful one-two knockout punch against atherosclerosis—the root cause of most heart attacks and stroke. Studies show that people who drink red wine in moderation—defined as one daily 5-ounce glass for women or two for men—are less likely to suffer a heart attack. Red wine stands apart from all other types of alcoholic beverages in its ability to neutralize heart attack risk due to its collection of powerful antioxidant polyphenols. To tap into wine’s huge cache of powerful polyphenols, be sure to pick red over white. Red wine has ten times the polyphenol content of white wine, because red wine is produced by fermentation of grape juice in the presence of the pulp (skins and seeds), where the polyphenols are produced. (White wine is made by quickly pressing the juice away from the grape solids, hence white wine is merely fermented fruit juice.) Two types of wine shown to top the antioxidant charts are pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.

One additional advantage of enjoying a glass of wine with dinner is that it encourages you to slow down, relax and truly savor your meal. There is no greater pleasure than to sit down to a leisurely dinner of deliciously fresh whole food, artfully prepared, tempered with a flavorful glass of pinot noir, and shared with friends and family. That’s what this month of love is all about.

One caveat: When it comes to drinking alcohol, it is clearly a case of a double-edged sword. One fact is certain: moderation is the magic word, meaning a little is good, and a lot is not better. Wine is beneficial for your health only in moderation.

Celebrate life this February by making a point to take care of yourself and your heart. Eat healthy, exercise, enjoy yourself and stay forever young at heart—here’s to life!

Thick and Rich European-Style Hot Chocolate Treat

Sometimes on these cold winter days, nothing (and I mean nothing) quite compares to the pleasure of sipping a sinfully rich cup of sweet, hot cocoa by the fireplace. Now this is loving life!

Makes three servings, ~½ cup each

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups vanilla soy milk
  • ½ cup natural unsweetened dark cocoa powder (or three squares of unsweetened baking chocolate, melted)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or 1/8 cup Splenda® Sugar Blend)
  • 1 ½ tbsp corn starch

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat, pour immediately into three mugs and top with fat-free whipped topping and a dash of cocoa powder, if desired.

Nutrition (Per serving):

Calories: 190, Fat: 4 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 90 mg, Carbohydrate: 31 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugars: 22 g, Protein: 7 g

Note: one serving provides 25% of the DV for calcium, 15% for iron and 8% for vitamin A.

Butter is NOT Back: Heart Health Facts & Tips

Heart Health Tips

Confused about the latest nutrition advice to hit the airwaves: butter is healthy? For years, nutritionists and other heart health professionals have been advising cutting back on our intake of artery-clogging saturated fat, most notably BUTTER. This erroneous and potentially harmful nutrition advice is based on the new meta-analytical research, recently published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” which looked at dozens of studies on fats and heart disease from across the globe. Researchers reviewed all of the results and came to the conclusion that saturated fats had no effect on heart disease risk.

What the media has failed to mention is that this single meta-analysis is fraught with scientific error. (So much so, that a number of distinguished scientists are criticizing the paper and even calling on the authors to retract it.) While the research showed no link between saturated fat and heart disease, one of the study’s numerous flaws was that it did not include what people ate to replace saturated fat in their diet. If people replaced saturated fat with carbohydrates such as white bread and simple sugars, their risk for heart disease did not decrease. If, however, they replaced saturated fat with healthy fats — like olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish —then they would reduce their heart disease risk as all fats are not created equally. To address some of these flaws, the study authors quickly posted a new version of the publication.

Heart Health

Americans are thrilled to hear this news as the trend is to move away from processed foods and back to delicious butter, which is considered more of a natural, “real” food. With all the fear about trans fat (man-made hydrogenated fat), and the misleading remarks about saturated fat not being so bad after all, people are starting to erroneously believe that butter is now heart-healthy. Plus, there is nothing like the taste and texture of real butter and so Americans have simply thrown caution to the wind and really don’t know or care that they are eating that much butter. (In fact, butter consumption is at an all-time high—a dangerous trend that will surely contribute to an increase in American deaths from cardiovascular disease.) Perhaps if the public were reintroduced to the fact that butter is NOT a healthy fat and that it contributes to disease, then they would become concerned with their consumption.

5 Heart Health Facts You Need to Know:

1. 2150 Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each day, an average of 1 death every 40 seconds. Approximately every 34 seconds, 1 American has a coronary event, and approximately every 1 minute 23 seconds, an American will die of one.

2. The total direct and indirect cost of CVD and stroke in the United States for 2010 was estimated to be $315.4 billion.

3. According to the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics–2014 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association, reducing saturated fat intake while at the same time replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils will reduce coronary artery disease.

4. “A heart-healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet (foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars) and foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables) you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy– for life!”

5. Despite what the media has led people to believe, butter is NOT a heart-healthy food. Butter is rich in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, two types of fatty substances that have proven to raise the risk of coronary artery disease. Butter is a major source of saturated fat intake in the U.S.

The fact is that the best way to fight heart disease (the nation’s leading killer) is to consume a Mediterranean diet, low in saturated fat and rich in olive oil (monounsaturated fat) and fish (omega-3 fat).

Case in point, the recent headlines:

“Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease risk by 30%: ‘Landmark’ study provides compelling evidence that it’s the type, not the level of fat that counts for cardio health.”

The take away message is to rely on information disseminated by nutrition professionals and make sure that the conclusions are from findings from groups of studies rather than a single study. Arm yourself with sound nutrition knowledge as knowledge is power. Just be sure to get your information from a registered dietitian/nutritionist, the true expert on food and nutrition topics and the primary source of trusted nutrition information.

Dr. Janet’s Parsley Chive Dressing

Dr. Janet’s Parsley Chive Dressing

  • Delicious served on a salad, or a fillet of Grilled Swordfish
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, stalks removed
  • 3 stalks fresh chives, cut into small pieces

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until ingredients are well combined, scraping down the sides of the container at least once.

Serves 12

NUTRITION IN A BOX

Per 2 tablespoon serving:

  • Calories: 123
  • Fat: 14 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, < 1g ALA)
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 18 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 1 g
  • Dietary Fiber: < 1 g
  • Sugars: < 1 g
  • Protein: < 1 g

Recipe excerpt from Dr. Janet’s Book: Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease

Eat Dark Chocolate

Valentine Dark Chocolates

It’s February, the month of LOVE, and yes romance is in the air! Valentine’s Day is a special day for lovebirds, but one day is far too short a time for all the romance of February.  Why not show your significant other your love and concern for their heart health by giving them (and you) the gift of love: dark chocolate! February is Heart Health Month which calls attention to the fact that heart disease is the #1 killer of women (and men) in the United States. Take care of your heart and tap into the heart-healthy power of eating dark chocolate to garner the healing power of this fabulous powerhouse food. Here’s what you need to know about dark chocolate:

  1. The scientific evidence is stacking up linking daily consumption of deep, dark chocolate with phenomenal health benefits. Flavonoids (the active ingredient in dark chocolate) work as potent antioxidants to protect us from free radical damage, the process which accelerates aging and promotes chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
  2. When it comes to choosing chocolate for health, the chocolate must be the flavonoid-rich dark variety. This is because dark chocolate has a much higher percentage of cocoa than milk chocolate and it’s the cocoa that contains most of the flavonoids—plant substances which provide your body with a host of health benefits.
  3. When concocting your own chocolate goodies, use natural unsweetened dark cocoa powder. If going for a bar, choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. Look at the ingredient list and make sure the first ingredient is cocoa or chocolate and not sugar.
  4. Some tips for getting in your daily dose of chocolate medicine: Order a dark chocolate dessert with a cup of espresso and savor just a few bites; bring your own pre-wrapped squares of dark chocolate and enjoy with a cup of tea (for example, Ghirardelli makes “Intense Dark 86% Cacao Singles).

Chocolates for Health

European-style Thick Soy Cocoa (recipe from Dr. Janet’s book: Blood Pressure Down)

Thick and rich, this soy cocoa is good morning, noon, or night.

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups vanilla soy milk

In a saucepan mix cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Whisk in 1 cup soy milk to make a thick paste and to dissolve the dry ingredients. This will look like thick chocolate frosting. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup soy milk until smooth. Place over low heat and stir until steaming and thick. Do not boil. Serve hot.

Yield 2 cups

Serves 4

Nutrition per 1/2 cup serving

  • Calories: 137 kcal
  • Sodium: 71 mg
  • Potassium: 330 mg
  • Magnesium: 85 mg
  • Calcium: 37 mg
  • Fat: 4 g (EPA 0g, DHA 0g, ALA 0g)
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 24 g
  • Dietary fiber: 5 g
  • Sugars: 6 g
  • Protein: 8 g

This February, do all things with love and love yourself (and your significant other) by eating a little daily dose of dark chocolate!

Wishing you best of health,

Dr. Janet

Love Your Heart and Lose the Weight!

Weight Lose Tips

February is the month of love. Many of us choose this time of year to make a point to show our devotion to our loved ones. This second month of the year also brings our focus to the heart, the vital organ which if diseased, is the leading cause of death among American men and women. Being overweight or obese isn’t a cosmetic problem. These conditions greatly increase your risk of heart disease. So if you are overweight, how about making a pledge to love yourself more this month and devote yourself to eating and exercising daily? The simple tasks below will help you attain a healthy body weight, thereby improving your heart health. Try these 4 simple daily tasks and you will surely love your heart!

Health Tips Valentines Special

  1. Weigh yourself—daily—and have another person write the number down. Thousands of successful weight losers can’t be wrong! In a study of 3,500 individuals in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) who have maintained 60 or more pounds of weight loss for at least a year, researchers found that 44 percent weighed themselves daily.
  2. You bite it, you write it. Many weight loss experts agree that the simple act of keeping a food diary can encourage you to eat fewer calories — and thus lose weight. Several studies have shown that people who keep food journals are more likely to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off. This is most likely because the simple act of writing down what goes in your mouth instantly increases your awareness of what, how much, and why you are eating. This helps you cut down on mindless munching.
  3. Get those sneakers on—everyday. Exercise is your heart’s best medicine. No marathons required. Simply daily walking has been proven to boost “good” HDL cholesterol as well as help you to shed those pounds. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) study also showed that exercise is the best tool for keeping the weight off. Everyone knows that losing the weight isn’t the hard part, its keeping that lost weight off that most people struggle with. So get those sneaks on today!
  4. Sleep more—weigh less. Studies have proven that leaner people have better sleep habits. The reason is that people who are sleep-deprived feel more fatigued, exercise less and eat more calorie and fat-laden foods. Aim for a good night’s sleep so you feel more refreshed, energetic and ready to do what it takes to choose healthier lighter fare, exercise daily and get leaner.

Make this month, the month of love, the time that you focus on what truly matters in life…your own well-being—and remain unwaveringly devoted to YOU and your loved ones. As a loving soul, you need to take care of yourself first, so that you will be around to express your love and devotion to others for many more February’s to come. If you are overweight, start today to love YOU and your heart and lose those excess pounds. You CAN do it!

Best of health,

Dr. Janet

Heart Healthy Eating: 5 Myths Demystified

Heart Healthy Food

The old saying “you are what you eat” couldn’t be more true, particularly when it comes to heart health. It is truly unfortunate that so many Americans fail to make the connection between what is on their dinner plate and keeping their ticker in shape. Here are some of the most common misconceptions:

Myth #1: It’s OK to eat eggs ad libitum because the cholesterol in eggs is good for you.

The powerful egg board had been very successful in perpetuating this myth. The fact is that the cholesterol content in egg yolks is more than the American Heart Association recommended 200 milligrams per day dietary maximum for people with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Since heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in this country, it would behoove you to be judicious with your egg yolk intake (one egg yolk averages a whooping 212 mg of dietary cholesterol).

Myth #2:  Butter is better than margarine.

Both spreads have gotten bad press over the past few decades and rightfully so. Butter contains two “bad” cholesterol, LDL-raising substances: saturated fat and dietary cholesterol rendering butter an artery-clogging food. Margarine, especially hard stick margarine, is notorious for its content of trans fat—the double edged sword when it comes to harming the heart (it raises LDL and lowers HDL, the “good” cholesterol). Your best bet for a healthier spread is to eat the light tub margarine that is trans fat free. Better yet, eat the light margarine with added plant sterols or nix the spreads all together and savor the superbly heart healthy fat: extra virgin olive oil!

Myth #3: I can eat cheesecake and a slab of prime rib as long as I take my statin.

Statins are the miracle drug of the new millenium. That said, many people mistakenly believe that they can eat whatever they want and still prevent heart disease as long as they pop their daily statin med. This myth is most likely perpetuated by the powerful cholesterol-lowering nature of statin drugs. What people need to understand is that a low LDL cholesterol level will not necessarily prevent a heart attack if you have several other risk factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, overweight/obesity, smoking, strong family history, and/or a poor diet. Heart attacks are most effectively prevented in individuals who combine a cocktail of healthy lifestyle factors into their daily routine (addressing ALL those risk factors and not just LDL cholesterol).

Myth #4: I have a strong family history of high cholesterol, it’s in my genes, so there is not much I can do about it.

Lifestyle trumps genes any day of the week. Research has proven that even in those individuals with genetic cholesterol disorders predisposing them to heart disease, controlling the modifiable risk factors (and getting their LDL down) can and will prevent a heart attack.

Myth #5: Eating healthy means eating bland foods. Eating for heart health certainly does NOT mean eating blandly. A Mediterranean diet is full of wonderfully delicious, taste-filled dishes and meals. It is a plant-based diet emphasizing fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, fish and oh so flavorful herbs and spices. Combine this way of eating with an active lifestyle (and your physician prescribed medication—if need be) and you will be doing what it takes to prevent heart disease and keep your ticker ticking for a long, long time.

To your health,

Dr. Janet