Heart Disease

Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Eat Like a Cardiologist: A Few of My Favorite Things

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My patients often fret that eating a heart smart diet will be too expensive, too time consuming, too complicated, too confusing, or too dull. The truth is that eating a healthy diet, like almost everything else, can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. As a cardiologist, I know firsthand the harmful effects of a fast food lifestyle. I see it every day in the office and live it nearly every night that I get called in to the hospital for a heart attack or heart failure. I believe it is my responsibility and my mission to teach my patients that choosing a heart healthy diet can improve the quality and length of your life.

I eat fish and some dairy, but no poultry or red meat. If I eat eggs at all, they are from free range, farm raised birds. The reasons for my choices are complex, and mainly relate to my deep concerns about animal welfare and our environment. However, it turns out that the diet that I have chosen for more than 20 years is a version of the Mediterranean diet, which is the smartest choice that you can make for your heart. In fact, the Mediterranean diet also lowers your risk for cancer, dementia, and stroke.

To get you started, here are a few of my favorite foods for breakfast and lunch:

Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is fine, but it’s best to avoid the sugar loaded, artificially flavored varieties. If you add your own sweetener, you’re much less likely to overdo it. Top your oatmeal with a sliced banana or a handful of berries for extra flavor.

Soy milk

Soy mild is a terrific, low-fat, heart smart choice that is much tastier than most people realize. Silk and Whole Foods house brand are two of my favorites.

Peanut Butter

If you choose natural peanut butter (I love Smucker’s brand), you get all the goodness of nuts without the added saturated fat of tropical oils. Since peanuts may help reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes, a peanut butter sandwich is a terrific choice for lunch.

Whole grain bread

Most of us get less than one serving of whole grains daily, but for optimal health, two and a half servings are required. If wheat is not your thing, there are plenty of gluten-free options.

Apples

Cheap, portable, and delicious, it’s hard to find anything bad to say about apples. Buy a bagful of fresh apples at the grocery store, and they’ll keep in your fridge for a few weeks.

Greek yogurt

I love yogurt, but am especially excited about low-fat Greek yogurt. It tastes incredibly rich, and is packed with protein. Many brands have far too much sugar, so instead of buying the sweetened varieties, mix a little bit of your favorite jam into plain yogurt. If that’s not convenient, Fage has a neat little compartment that keeps the sweetened fruit separate from the yogurt, so you can choose how much to add.

Lowfat string cheese

Throw a pre-wrapped stick of string cheese into your lunch bag, pair it with some whole grain crackers, and you’ve got a heart smart snack in about one tenth of the time than it would take to ring up a candy bar at the convenience store down the street.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. I’d love to hear from you about your own heart-smart breakfast and lunch solutions.

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About the Author


MD, FACC

Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.

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