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Heart-Healthy Ingredient Substitutions

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  • Foods for the Heart

    Foods for the Heart

    Whether you're recovering from or trying to prevent a heart attack, a healthy diet is going to be part of the plan. As you start building your healthy eating strategy, it's important to know which foods to avoid and which foods to target. To help you, this slideshow highlights several heart-healthy substitutions and suggests tips on making them taste great. With a few simple swaps, you can keep your ticker in top shape and still enjoy delicious food.

  • Mayonnaise


    Low-fat and light mayonnaise are better than the real thing for a heart-healthy diet, but which is better? The answer depends on what you’re going to use it for.

    The lower the fat content, the sweeter the mayonnaise tends to be, which may be most noticeable on sandwiches. You may want to stick with light mayo (4.5 fat grams/tablespoon) for that next turkey sandwich. Reduced-fat mayonnaise (2 fat grams/tablespoon) is best in dips, salads, or baked recipes.

    Taste Tip: Stirring in chopped chipotle peppers adds a nice kick to potato or pasta salads while reducing the sweetness of reduced-fat mayo.

  • Cheese


    Low-fat and fat-free cheese offer great-tasting alternatives to the full-fat versions. Although fat-free cheese may seem like the better option, most brands tend to be very gummy and don’t melt well. Instead, try reduced-fat cheese, which has the same great flavor and melting qualities as the original but with significantly less fat.  

    Expert's Tip: Buy blocks of reduced-fat cheese and grate it yourself.  It’s not only cheaper, but it also melts better.

  • Salt


    Most doctors, along with the American Heart Association (AHA), recommend a diet containing less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. That’s less than one teaspoon.

    Instead of reaching for the saltshaker, add a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon to your food. Using herbs and spices is a great way to give a familiar dish a new twist. Try creating your own salt-free spice blends to have on hand when you need a boost of flavor. 

    Taste Tip: The flavor of fresh herbs fades quickly when cooked, so add them just before serving.

  • Eggs


    Eggs are an excellent source of protein and essential nutrients, but they’re also high in cholesterol.

    Instead of cutting eggs out completely, simply remove the yolks, which contain all the cholesterol. Use ¼ cup of commercial egg substitute or two large egg whites for every whole egg in baked goods. 

    Expert's Tip: To make your own egg substitute, whisk together six egg whites, ¼ cup of nonfat dry milk, one tablespoon of canola oil, and four drops of yellow food coloring.

  • Ground Beef

    Ground Beef

    When you’re craving a juicy burger or a thick slice of meatloaf, mix equal parts lean ground turkey breast and grass-fed, lean ground beef. The ground turkey adds moisture and makes cooked burgers less crumbly. For recipes like chili, pasta sauce, or casseroles that call for ground beef, you can substitute with ground turkey without noticing much of a difference.

    Expert's Tip: Most supermarkets offer a variety of great-tasting low-fat sausages made from ground turkey.

  • Chocolate


    Chocolate does have a place in heart-healthy diets, but you should forgo white chocolate and milk chocolate varieties. Eaten in moderate amounts, dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa or higher) may reduce blood pressure and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, according to the International Journal of Molecular Science.

    For baked goods like cookies and cakes, finely chop the dark chocolate and reduce the amount called for by half.

    Taste Tip: Want more chocolate flavor? In appropriate recipes, substitute ¼ cup cocoa powder for 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.

  • Sour Cream

    Sour Cream

    Like many other dairy products, sour cream is an ingredient incorporated into a wide variety of recipes. Get the same tangy flavor without all the fat by pureeing equal amounts of low-fat cottage cheese and nonfat yogurt in a blender and using it in place of the sour cream. In baking, you can substitute an equal amount of low-fat or nonfat yogurt in many recipes. 

    Expert's Tip: Try Greek yogurt, which is considerably thicker and creamier than regular yogurt because a lot of the whey has been strained.

  • Steak


    Steak often gets a bad reputation as being unhealthy. However, there are a number of cuts that meet the USDA’s guidelines for lean meat. Your best bets are:

    • eye of round
    • sirloin tip side
    • top round
    • top sirloin

    Portion size is key. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3-ounce serving of these cuts has 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol. 

    Taste Tip: For a cut of beef with an intense, beefy flavor, ask your local butcher about dry-aged beef.

  • Whole Grains

    Whole Grains

    Diets rich in whole grains have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and the risk of strokes, states the AHA. You can substitute up to half the amount of all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour in almost all your favorite baking recipes. For added texture, try using ¼ cup of rolled oats in place of all-purpose flour.

    Expert Tip: Don’t like the flavor or texture of whole wheat?  Look for white whole-wheat flour. It’s milder in flavor, but still has all the nutrition.

  • Sugar


    New heart-healthy guidelines from the AHA urge people to consume no more than 100 to 150 calories from added sugars—sugars not naturally occurring in food—a day. You can substitute artificial sweeteners for up to half of the sugar in most baked goods without any difference in texture or flavor. Try using 100 percent natural fruit juices to sweeten sauces and beverages. 

    Expert's Tip: High quantities of sugar can be found in items like ketchup, salad dressings, and sauces, so read the labels carefully.

  • More Heart-Health Information

    More Heart-Health Information

    A healthy diet is only one step on the path to a healthy heart. Check out these helpful articles for other great tips for your ticker: