Blending cardiology with cooking

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

If heart healthy jambalaya sounds too good to be true, think again. Careful selection of ingredients can make any food heart healthy, without affecting the flavor, says Dr Richard Collins, MD, the Cooking Cardiologist.

The IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo opens its doors this weekend, and health and wellness will certainly feature heavily around the show floor. And with heart disease the number one killer in Europe and the US, ingredients suppliers and food manufacturers are continuing to react to consumers concerns. Indeed, according to a recent Business Insights report, sales for heart health food and drinks are set to reach a total value of $7.7bn in Europe and the US by 2010. Formulating foods with heart healthy ingredients like plant sterols and omega-3 fatty acids can easily be done, with care taken to avoid trans-fatty acids and saturated fats. "My message is diet by deprivation doesn't work. Don't give up what you like to eat, just change the recipe,"​ said Dr Collins in an exclusive interview Dr Collins, a fellow in the American College of Cardiology and director of wellness at the South Denver Heart Center, said products fortified with plant sterols include olive oil, yoghurt, buttery spreads, and cheeses, and that it is easy to combine these in order to achieve the two grams per day supported by the US National Cholesterol Education Program. Plant sterols are one of the few ingredients to have an FDA unqualified health claim. Numerous clinical trials carried out in controlled settings led researchers to report that daily consumption of 1.5 to 3 grams of phytosterols/-stanols can reduce total cholesterol levels by eight to 17 per cent, representing a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cooking demonstration​ Attendees at the IFT annual meeting and food expo will be treated to a demonstration by Dr Collins at the Cognis Nutrition & Health booth on Monday showing just how heart healthy ingredients can be incorporated into foods without compromising on taste. Although the majority of his demonstrations and classes are for consumers, manufacturers do take an interest in his recipes and ideology. "Manufacturers like to know what I do, and there are people in the food industry looking at it,"​ he said. His recipes, many of which are featured in a new cookbook, show how foods can be formulated to contain a range of heart healthy ingredients. "These recipes are intriguing because manufacturers need to understand what happens in the kitchen,"​ he said. In addition to jambalaya, a super-smoothie containing several ingredients with cardiovascular benefits like fiber, protein, fish oil, and calcium, and a sweet potato pie made with Splenda instead of sugar, will also be on the menu. "In the future I think you are going to see more combinations of ingredients,"​ he said. "And they will work synergistically. Plant sterols in conjunction with fish oil have an additive effect."​ Plant sterols can be taken in combination with statins, he added. "This combination can boost the effectiveness by eight to 15 per cent,"​ he said. Treatment versus prevention​ Dr Collins' transformation into the cooking cardiologist started in 1993, when he was based in Nebraska - a state at the heart of the US beef industry. He was confronted with heart patients who no longer wanted surgery to correct their problems but preferred to reverse heart disease by diet. "This is not an easy thing to do in the beef capital of the US,"​ he said. Reacting to his patients' needs, he decided to move away from interventional medicine and embrace preventive medicine. "I am no longer a fire fighter,"​ he says. "I'm more of a forest ranger now."

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