- Cardiologist Harmony Reynolds says she almost never eats foods like potato chips and snack cakes.
- He chooses healthy swaps like popcorn or fruit and indulges in less healthy treats like bacon in moderation.
- Research suggests processed foods increase the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease.
It’s unrealistic to try to follow the “perfect” diet all the time — but smart swaps can help you keep your heart healthy without cutting back on the snacks you enjoy.
That according to Dr. Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist at NYU Langone, who said in a TikTok video for Everyday Health that she avoids foods like bacon and potato chips for a healthier heart.
Reynolds told Insider it can be difficult to give dietary advice as a doctor because nutrition research often doesn’t provide clear answers about how food can affect health.
“We need more properly conducted nutritional science. Many of the recommendations we make are based on limited evidence, which leaves patients with the impression we often change our minds,” he said.
Reynolds said based on the available evidence, he chooses to avoid certain foods and uses strategies to enjoy less healthy foods in moderation.
Margarine and coconut oil are linked to worse heart health
Reynolds said he avoids margarine, and vegetable oils, because observational studies have suggested eating them is associated with higher cardiovascular deaths, although it’s not clear why, since they don’t seem to raise risk factors like cholesterol.
Coconut oil is also of concern, as it consists of saturated fat, linked to heart health risks.
“I learned to ask patients about this because I saw many patients whose LDL cholesterol increased because they were introduced to foods that contained coconut oil,” says Reynolds.
Butter may be a better alternative when used in moderation.
But olive oil is the healthiest option, studies suggest.
“People should cook with it wherever possible and if they use other fats, use as little as possible,” says Reynolds.
Potato chips are hard to eat in moderation
Reynolds said he doesn’t eat potato chips or keep them at home because it’s too easy to eat the whole bag.
“I know myself and know that with the best of intentions to have two potato chips and put them away, it doesn’t work that way,” he said.
She says popcorn can be a healthier alternative, or fresh vegetables if you’re craving a crunchy snack.
Reynolds said that for a similar treat like a chocolate bar, he would buy a portioned package to make it easier to enjoy in moderation.
He only eats bacon as a special treat
Extensive evidence shows that processed meats are associated with a higher risk of serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease, which is a compelling reason to limit them in your diet, according to Reynolds.
“I don’t know how many are safe,” he said.
However, it is also a food that he enjoys and eats several times a year for special occasions.
“I think it helps people to know that the person giving advice is human too. Patients can’t be perfect in following a diet,” he said. “It’s important to realize that there are times when you want a treat and it’s not very productive to say I’m not going to eat the food I like. Better, I think, to try to eat less and make changes where you can.”
Swap processed desserts for dark chocolate to reduce unhealthy fats
Reynold said the last food group she tries to avoid is processed desserts like packaged cookies and donuts, because they’re high in sugar and unhealthy fats, which are linked to health risks like diabetes and heart disease.
Fruits, yogurt, dark chocolate and nuts can be healthier sweet treats. But again, moderation and self-awareness are key to enjoying food while minimizing potential health risks.
“When I’m at a party and there’s something I know isn’t healthy for me and I want to try it, I’ll take a taste and pay a lot of attention. If I like it, I let myself enjoy it. If I don’t like it, I put it aside,” he said.