Tag Archives: margarine

Omega-Enhanced Margarines a Heart-Saver? Or Not?

They taste like butter and offer a boost of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but these omega-enhanced margarines may NOT actually help your heart, according to new research from the Netherlands. Now, before you read the details, this study examined only older patients (age 60 – 80) living in the Netherlands and thus may not be applicable to the general United States population or to younger people as our diets, lifestyles, and risk factors differ. That said, this new study of almost 5,000 patients who had previously had a heart attack, eating a daily serving of omega-3 charged margarine had NO effect on the likelihood of a second heart attack. In other words, it didn’t help or hurt. So, what should you do? Here are the details from ABC News:

Margarines containing different types of omega-3 fatty acids were tested, one with EPA-DHA, one with ALA and another with both, were tested against a placebo, omega-free margarine.

Patients ranged from age 60 to 80 and were already on medicine to control their blood pressure and cholesterol. After more than three years on this margarine meal-plan, researchers saw no association between eating omega-supplemented margarine and a reduced risk of second cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke.

Previous research shows that giving an EPA-DHA supplement to patients with cardiovascular disease reduces their chance of dying from the disease by as much as 20 percent, authors note in the study, but supplementing with margarine didn’t seem to cut it.

This doesn’t mean that those at cardiovascular risk should give up on getting extra Omega-3 fatty acids or pass on margarine, experts say. It’s just about getting the right amount of good fats from the right places.

Omega Enhancement – Myths Busted

Peanut butter, margarine, cheese, baby food, even eggs – you name it and manufacturers are pumping omega-3 supplements into it. But is eating these omega enhanced items actually healthy for your heart?

This study would suggest no, but experts say that it’s not where you get your EPA-DHA omega 3’s, it’s how much you get and how it fits into your diet.

One of the reasons that the Netherlands study may not have seen a benefit was that the dose of omega-3 fatty acid was too low. Researchers were shooting for a daily intake of 400 mg of EPA-DHA and 2 g of ALA, but past research suggests that a therapeutic dose is closer to 850 mg of combined EPA-DHA per day.

Don’t Pass on Omega-3s

“I recommend that all of my cardiac patients [with] significant coronary artery disease&take EPA/DHA at a dose of 800-1000 per day. To get this dose, most require a supplement, either one, two or three capsules of an over the counter supplement depending on the concentration,” says Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute.

Similarly, Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute at University of California, San Francisco, recommends a fish oil supplement that contains one gram of combined EPA-DHA per day.

On the other hand, the dose given by the study’s EPA-DHA margarine was roughly similar to that provided by two servings of fish a week, the current recommended amount for heart health, so the dose received by subjects was not insignificant, says Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University.

Another potential reason that the margarine seemed to have no effect is that the patients had been heart attack-free for a couple to several years, which means they were already at relatively low risk of another heart attack, says Lavie. Given the lower risk, it might be hard to gauge the effects.

What’s more, these results can only speak to the effects of a modest supplementation of omega-3s for patients who, like the subjects, have had a previous heart attack and are now being rigorously treated for heart disease, experts point out.

“These results don’t say anything about what omega-3 fatty acids could do for prevention [of a heart attack] or for someone whose heart disease is not as well managed,” says Lichtenstein.

Fish Still Best Bet and Margarine Over Butter

Research on the heart-protective benefits of omega-3 supplements remains inconsistent, though some studies show benefit and these supplements are often suggested to patients with heart disease.

Research on the consumption of fish on the other hand, has shown a strong connection between a diet rich in fish and a decreased risk of heart disease and cardiovascular complications such as heart attack or stroke, experts say.

“Every time we try to isolate a nutrient and supplement it we get disappointed,” says Lichtenstein, “but we consistently see results with those who eat fish on a regular basis.”

One shouldn’t “make a conclusion that fish aren’t important. In general, those who consume fish versus [those who don’t] seem to have less coronary heart disease,” agrees Dr. Robert Eckel, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

That said, if eating fish a few times a week is hard for you to do, supplements are still advised, Lavie adds, because “very few people eat enough fish.”

Similarly, when choosing something to spread on your bread, margarine is still a better choice than butter, doctors say, as long as it is low in saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Though Ornish says if you can trade the margarine for olive or canola oil, even better.

Soybean and canola oil contain ALA and have lower saturated fats than other oils, even olive oil, notes Lichtenstein, so these are a good fat to have in moderation.

10 Easy Food Swaps Cut Cholesterol, Not Taste

Holiday weekends are not necessarily the easiest time to cut unhealthy and saturated fats. But, according to this practical article from Health.com, it couldn’t be easier to cut cholesterol without cutting taste. Many of my patients are afraid that any meals that are “good for my cholesterol” are meals that are joyless (and tasteless). However, a low-cholesterol diet doesn’t have to be all oat bran and tofu. If you want to know more, here are some simple substitutions that you can make to the food you already eat to help fight cholesterol painlessly.

1) Sprinkle walnuts, skip croutons

Carbohydrates can cause high levels of a type of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. For a healthier salad, replace your carbo-laden croutons with walnuts, which are high in polyunsaturated fat—a good fat that can lower LDL while boosting HDL (aka good cholesterol).

2) Yes to edamame and nuts, no to cheese and crackers

For a predinner snack, skip the crackers and cheese, which are sky-high in saturated fat—one of the prime culprits behind high cholesterol. Instead, put out some almonds, which have been shown to lower LDL, and edamame, the boiled baby soybeans that are a common appetite whetter in Japanese restaurants. Edamame is low in saturated fat and one cup contains about 25 grams of soy protein, which is thought to actively lower LDL (although the evidence is conflicting). Buy them frozen, dump them into boiling water, and drain after 5 minutes: That’s all there is to it.

3) Vinegar and lemon juice beats salad dressing

As everyone knows by now, drenching a salad in high-fat salad dressing is like smoking cigarettes while jogging: It totally defeats the purpose. A low-fat alternative—such as our shallot and grapefruit dressing—is a step in the right direction, but the best option for lower cholesterol is drizzling your salad with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.

4) Ditch the butter for margarine spread

One tablespoon of butter contains more than 7 grams of saturated fat—that’s more than a third of the recommended daily value. It also contains 10% of your daily value for dietary cholesterol, which, though it isn’t as harmful as was once thought, is one of the main sources of high cholesterol (and atherosclerosis). Switch the butter with a vegetable-oil-based spread such as Smart Balance or Olivio (which also contains olive oil); you’ll be replacing a bad fat with a good fat. And instead of using butter to grease the pan while cooking, try olive oil or white wine vinegar.

5) Use ground turkey, not ground beef

Red meat is a source of both saturated fat and dietary cholesterol—two of the main sources of blood cholesterol. Ground turkey contains half the saturated fat of 85% lean ground beef, and it can be substituted easily for beef in most recipes.

6) Quinoa is a tasty alternative to rice

“I’m keen, you’re keen, we’re all keen on quinoa!” People with high cholesterol will be singing this tune once they realize the benefits of quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”), a South American seed that serves as a tasty and healthful stand-in for rice or couscous. One cup of cooked quinoa has 15% fewer carbohydrates and 60% more protein than a comparable amount of brown rice; it also has 25% more fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol.

7) Chicken is OK, fish is better

While they have less saturated fat than red meat, turkey and chicken aren’t entirely without cholesterol. One of the best strategies for reducing cholesterol through diet is eating more fish, which is very low in fat and contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

8) Munch on popcorn, not tortilla chips

Tortilla chips are often considered a healthy alternative to potato chips. They are certainly healthier, but an even better snack is homemade air-popped popcorn, which has 80% less saturated fat than tortilla chips and more than twice the fiber.

9) Skip the fatty sour cream, choose fat-free Greek yogurt

Whether it’s used as a garnish or in a sauce, sour cream adds a shot of saturated fat to otherwise heart-healthy meals. To cut out that excess fat without sacrificing taste or texture, swap the sour cream with no-fat Greek yogurt—one of the world’s healthiest foods. Just about any recipe that calls for sour cream can be made with Greek yogurt instead.

10) Sip red wine, not cocktails

Research suggests that moderate alcohol intake can produce a slight rise in HDL cholesterol (a so-called good cholesterol). But that won’t do you much good if you’re tossing back margaritas or mixed drinks with fruit juice, which contain carbohydrates. Switch to red wine; it has about a tenth of the carbohydrates of a margarita, and you’ll also get antioxidants such as flavonoids that are believed to lower LDL and boost HDL. Given the risks of alcohol, however, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your daily intake to two glasses (for men) or one glass (for women).

So, here’s to some tasty swaps that are also highly healthy.