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Blog author, Solai Buchanan is an experienced Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with an MS from Columbia Teachers College. She specializes in treating heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome,and other chronic diseases. She is a provider at a full-service cardiology practice accepting most insurance and staffed with a primary care MD, pediatrician, and cardiologist. Call: 718.894.7907. NYCC is lead by Interventional Cardiologist Sanjeev Palta, MD, FSCAI, FACC. He trained at Cornell-Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the State University Hospital of Brooklyn. He currently is an Attending Cardiologist at New York Methodist Hospital and Maimonides Medical Center. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Having performed over 2000 invasive cardiac procedures Dr. Palta’s patients know they are in trusted hands.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Another study has found that eating chocolate promotes heart health.  These findings were drawn from 21,000 adults ages 45+ taking part in a 12-year study tracking the impact of diet on long-term health.  At the study's outset participants completed questionnaires that asked about how frequently they eat different foods and then researchers tracked their heart health over the next 12 years. The analysis found that people who ate the most chocolate -- up to 3.5 ounces of dark or milk chocolate per day (more than two regular Hershey bars) -- had a 14% lower risk of heart disease and a 23% lower risk of stroke than those who ate no chocolate.  Most previous research has shown benefits only from dark chocolate, but this latest study included both milk and dark chocolate and most participants consumed primarily milk chocolate.  When the researchers combined their data with that of 137,000 individuals from nine other observational studies examining the relationship between chocolate consumption and heart disease, they found people who ate the most chocolate had a 29% reduced risk of heart disease and a 21% reduced risk of stroke, compared with those who ate the least. Individuals were also 45% less likely to die from heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

The heart health benefits of chocolate have been attributed to its high concentration of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients called flavonoids.  In experimental studies large intake of ~200mg of flavonoids is associated with improved vascular function and decreased blood pressure.  Additionally chocolate contains certain fatty acids that might be beneficial to heart health.  Another health bonus is may come from the fact that chocolate often contains nuts and nuts are also rich in flavonoids and other phenolic compounds, vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats.  Both experimental and observational studies have found nut intake is consistently linked to better heart health. 

Researchers cautioned that this is an observational study.  Unlike experimental trials, observational studies cannot prove a direct cause-and-effect link between chocolate and heart health. In the study, people who ate more chocolate tended to be younger, more active, and less likely to have excess weight or diabetes.  Although the statistical analyses controlled for these and other attributes known to impact heart health, it is possible that people who like to eat chocolate do something else that offers heart protection that the researchers did not take into account. For example, it is possible people in worse health tend to avoid sugary treats such as  chocolate because they are more focused on controlling their weight and chronic diseases. The findings also relied on people's own reports of their eating habits, which can be inaccurate, especially if persons believe that their intake of a food is not socially endorsed as is often the case when it comes to sweets consumption among  overweight/obese persons. 

What to do:  At this point, the research on the heart health benefits of chocolate is not conclusive, so do  not rely on chocolate to lower your risk of heart disease or stroke. But, if you enjoy chocolate, incorporate moderate amounts of at least 70% cocoa dark chocolate into a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains/beans, lean proteins, and healthy plant-based fat sources.  An even better option is to skip the sugar in chocolate bars and candy and add baking chocolate or unsweetened pure cocoa powder into your coffee, warm milk, oatmeal, or yogurt.  Heart healthy flavonoids are also found in tea, red wine, red grapes, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries, and nuts.  For more detailed information on this topic, see my post on from February 1, 2014 titled, "The Truth about Chocolate & Heart Health." 

Kwok CS, Boekholdt SM, Lentjes MAH, et al.  Cardiac risk factors and prevention: Habitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and women.  Heart; published online first: 15 June 2015DOI:10.1136/heartjnl-2014-307050

Adapted from articles available at:

Saturday, June 20, 2015


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that food manufacturers have three years to remove artificial trans fats from the nation's food supply.  The trans fats in foods come from partially hydrogenated oils that are created by adding hydrogen atoms to the unsaturated fats found in vegetable oil.  Partially hydrogenated oils are used to improve the texture, shelf life and long-term flavor of processed foods.

Consuming trans fats simultaneously increases "bad" LDL cholesterol and drives down "good" HDL cholesterol in a person's bloodstream. Trans fat intake contributes to the buildup of arterial plaques that lead to heart attacks. The FDA has estimated that removing partially hydrogenated oils from food could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease every year.

Since 2006 when trans fats started being listed on the Nutrition Facts food labels, manufacturers have been cutting down on the trans fats in the food supply.  New York City has banned them from use in fast food restaurants.  Foods that often still contain trans fats include baked goods like cakes, cookies and pies, non-dairy creamers, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, margarine and other spreads, vegetable shortenings, ready-to-use frosting and cream cookie filling and refrigerated dough products like biscuits and cinnamon rolls.

What to do:  Until June of 2018 continue to scan ingredients lists and completely avoid all foods containing "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" and "partially hydrogenated oil".  It is important to look at the ingredients list because under current rules, products that have less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving are labeled as having 0 grams on the label.  These relatively small amounts can still add up, especially as the listed serving sizes on many products are much smaller than typical portions. 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration; June 16, 2015, news release. Available at:  http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm451237.htm

Adapted from articles available at:



It is widely accepted that eating nuts as part of a healthy diet is good for your heart.  A new review of existing studies also links nut consumption with reduced rates of cancer overall.  Nut consumption appears to be especially helpful in preventing  colon, endometrial, and pancreatic cancer.  For the study, researchers at the Mayo clinic analyzed pooled data from 36 observational studies which included a total of 30,708 individuals.

Why are nuts so healthy?  They are great sources of plant proteins (including the particularly blood vessel-friendly protein building block l-arginine) and  healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  Walnuts are standouts as they include essential omega-3 fatty acids.   They are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.   These include fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols, phenolic compounds,  and healthy minerals including calcium (almonds are best), magnesium, selenium (just Brazil nuts), and potassium.  Seeds were not included in this study but also have been shown to be heart-healthy and anti-carcinogenic.  Seeds are generally higher in fiber than nuts.  Good options include flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and chia seeds.

Even though nuts are 80% fat and high in calories, their frequent intake in observational studies has not translated into the weight gain one would expect.  It is hypothesized that this is due to nuts being very filling.  In experimental studies nut intake also appears to decrease the desire for carbohydrates including sweets and starches. 

What to do:  Go nuts!  They are a great, easy to carry snack and a great addition to a variety of dishes from salads to stir-fries.  Opt for nuts instead of other less healthy foods, especially sweets and refined flour products.    It is recommended that we get 4 servings of nuts or seeds each week.  A serving, 1.5 oz., is approximately a small handful or 1/3 cup of whole nuts or 1/4 cup of seeds.  Go for a variety but avoid those coated in sugar or salt.  Nut butters without additives are also healthy but appear to be less satiating and more likely to cause weight gain.  Raw nuts are likely the best nutritionally but dry-roasted and roasted are also good options.  Store nuts in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve their quality.

Adapted from articles available at:

Wu L, Wang Z , Zhu J , Murad AL, Prokop LJ , & Murad MH.  Nut consumption and risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis.  Nutrition  Reviews.  2015; 73 (7): 409-425 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuv006 . First published online: 16 June 2015.