"Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Health" FAQs

Adapted from a Public and Patient Education Program presentation at HSS


Sotiria Tzakas, MS, RD
Food and Nutrition Department, Hospital for Special Surgery

Meat and eggs are the only high protein foods that provide all the amino acids needed in the body. Is consuming soy beans and tofu enough to substitute meat and eggs?

You can get sufficient amounts of protein and essential amino acids from non-meat foods. Soy protein found in tofu and soy beans are a good source of protein for vegetarian diets.

Is it true that a high consumption of soy is harmful to people with thyroid problems?

Consuming soy or soy products does not increase risk of thyroid problems. However, eating soy (and certain other foods/nutrients) can interfere with medications used to treat thyroid disease. Therefore, it is strongly encouraged that you take the pill for thyroid hormones two hours before consuming soy products or three hours after eating soy products.

Should I be eating nuts, and which kinds?

All nuts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. I also recommend eating moderate portions of pistachios and almonds because they are slightly lower in fat and calories than other types of nuts. If you are watching your weight, you should monitor the portions of nuts you consume because they are a significant source of calories.

Is there a multi-vitamin that provides the same nutrition as fruits and vegetables?

The nutrients from food are your best source of vitamins. A general multi-vitamin is fine to be taken as a supplement once a day or every other day. People with bone density problems who require extra intake for calcium and Vitamin D should speak with their healthcare provider to discuss other options. Also, vitamins for fish oils are generally recommended to ensure the regular intake for Omega-3 in case people find it difficult to eat fish twice a week.

What can a person with high cholesterol do if they also need to increase their weight?

To increase weight and keep cholesterol steady, some nutritionists may recommend eating foods with a high fat content, to increase the calorie intake. A healthy way of doing this can be through consuming Boost or Ensure nutritional supplements and eating peanut butter, olive oil, and avocadoes. These foods are rich in Omega-3 so they are still healthy, even while richer in calories. Before you start any kind of diet, please make sure to speak with your physician.

How can I start a Heart Healthy Diet and make it a normal part of my lifestyle without abandoning it halfway through the effort?

It is always better to take small steps rather than big leaps in accomplishing your goals for a better diet with proper nutrition. Start by changing one meal in your day by increasing fiber intake or substituting dessert with sugars and fat with fruits. In addition, keep a food diary so that you are aware of every meal, snack, or drink you are consuming. With a food diary you will realize what needs to be added to your diet and what should be eliminated. It is also recommended to enlist the help of your family and friends to change the way you eat.

Adapted by the Education Division at HSS

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