5 Tips for Heart Healthy Eating from Celebrity Chef Donatella Arpaia & Dr. Allan Stewart
Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate & Author
Food & Medical Experts: Chef Donatella Arpaia, Iron Chef Judge & Restauranteur, and Dr. Allan Stewart, Chief of Cardiac Surgery, Mercy Heart Institute
Published: December 9, 2021
Proper nutrition and heart health is often misunderstood by people diagnosed with heart disease.
For that reason, I just interviewed Chef Donatella Arpaia, Iron Chef Judge (The Food Network) and Restauranteur, and Dr. Allan Stewart, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Mercy Heart Institute in Miami, Florida. In this special video, you will learn “5 Important Tips” to help you eat healthy for your heart.
Key Learnings to Eat Healthy for Your Heart from Chef Donatella & Dr. Stewart
- As an endurance athlete who competes in triathlons with his patients, Dr. Stewart was not knowledgable about the joy of eating tasty food. However, after meeting and marrying Chef Donatella Arpaia, the two developed a collective passion for health and proper nutrition. As Dr. Stewart states, “Health and proper nutrition are not mutually exclusive. You can actually eat a balanced diet and also enjoy the food you’re eating.”
- Specific to eating healthy for your heart, Chef Donatella and Dr. Stewart have developed several tips to help people enjoy food while living well.
- Eating Healthy Tip #1 – Get The White Out: From a medical perspective, Dr. Stewart recommends that people reduce their consumption of salt, processed sugar, flour and dairy. Salt, for example, can cause high blood pressure and fluid retention in patients who suffer from heart valve disease. According to Chef Donatella, “When we talk about getting salt out of your life, eliminate processed food. That’s half the battle. Then, you can enhance flavors with herbs, with heat, and with good quality salt, like sea salt, but as a condiment and as a garnish.”
- Eating Healthy Tip #2 – Protein Fortification: – For patients recovering from heart surgery, protein is a powerful source of energy needed to help the body heal. Without protein replenishment, Dr. Stewart suggests that patients may feel weaker and recovery can take longer. For people who eat red meat as a source of protein, Chef Donatella recommends hormone free and humanely raised animals that are grass fed. For vegetarians and vegans, Chef Donatella states, “If you’re vegetarian or vegan, there’s plant protein from beans and from peas. There are many rich sources of protein in plant-based foods.”
- Eating Healthy Tip #3 – Omega 3 Fatty Acids: As Dr. Stewart states, “Diets rich in omega 3s reduce the bad things associated with atherosclerosis, particularly LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and total body inflammation that you see in the gut of people which causes insulin resistance. Omega 3 fatty acids help your heart beat stronger. Chef Donatella recommends natural sources of Omega 3s including salmon, walnuts, pistachios and seeds.”
- Eating Healthy Tip #4 – Portion Distortion: Chef Donatella suggests that people need to rethink food portions. Chef Donatella states, “Everything we know about portions is way wrong. We definitely need to subtract at least 50 to 60% off the portions we eat.” Chef Donatella recommends using your hand as a guide for the size and types of food we eat during a meal. Chef Donatella states, “The palm of your hand should be about three ounces of protein. A fist, wholegrain carbs. The tip of your thumb is butter or oil. It’s just a tablespoon.”
- Eating Healthy Tip #5 – Eat A Rainbow: Consuming natural foods of varying colors can have many benefits for people who are interested in heart health. Dr. Stewart states, “For folks who are about to undergo heart surgery… Green leafy vegetables are full of vitamin K. That’s going to help patient clot after surgery. Spices like turmeric are important for anti-inflammatory properties.” Chef Donatella suggests that “Eating A Rainbow” is impactful, visual and beautiful. Chef Donatella states, “The more colors you bring into your diet, the healthier your body’s going to be. I think it’s a wonderful thing that I can pass on to my children. Once you get back to whole food, you realize there’s true pleasure in natural food and beauty and health.”
Thanks to Chef Donatella & Dr. Stewart
Many, many, many thanks to Chef Donatella Arpaia and Dr. Allan Stewart for sharing their culinary experiences and medical research with our community. We really appreciate their time and their tips for eating healthy for heart health!!!
- A “Day In The Life of a Heart Valve Surgeon” with Dr. Allan Stewart
- See 50 Patient Testimonials for Dr. Allan Stewart
- Get Chef Donatella’s Latest Recipes & Posts on Facebook or Instagram
Keep on tickin!
Dr. Stewart: Donatella and I met at the New York City Triathlon of all places about 11 years ago. I was competing in the triathlon, and she was the celebrity starter.
Donatella: My first impression of Allan was when I met him at the triathlon, and he definitely is a heart surgeon because he knew what he wanted, and he went after me. I remember his beautiful, piercing blue eyes, and he made a reservation for dinner, and he didn’t really know who I was.
Dr. Stewart: At the time I was eating gels and seeds and just things to sustain me, knew nothing about the food world.
Donatella: He really knew nothing about food or flavor.
Dr. Stewart: My only spices on my kitchen table growing up were salt and pepper. I got introduced to this world of the Food Network and Michelin stars, and I knew nothing about this world, but what I came to learn from her and she me was that we had a shared passion for health and proper nutrition, and the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. You can actually eat a balanced diet and also enjoy the food you’re eating.
When you look at your table, getting the white out of your life is something that Donatella and I talk about. What I mean by white is salt, processed sugar, the flour, dairy. All of those things are really horrible for our diet. Salt in particular is bad for heart disease, both for increasing blood pressure and also have excess fluid accumulation, which when you have a leaky heart valve can be the difference between being in a hospital and needing an emergent operation versus having an elective surgery that’s well planned.
Donatella: When we talk about getting salt out of your life, eliminate processed food, and that’s already half the battle. Then you can enhance flavors with herbs, with heat, and with good quality salt, like sea salt, but as a condiment at the end and as a garnish.
Dr. Stewart: What’s so important about protein fortification in the context of heart surgery is that after a major trauma to your system, your body sends out a distress call. It needs energy. If you’re not replacing your body’s protein with an external source, your body will eat it up, and then you’ll find that you’re weaker and recovery takes longer than it would be if you supplied plenty of protein in the first few weeks after an operation.
Donatella: If you’re going to go for red meat, make sure that it’s hormone free, humanely raised, grass fed, and use it maybe once or twice a month. You want fish two or three times a week, lean, stay away from farmed as much as possible, and also, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, there’s plant protein from beans, from peas. There are so many sources with plant-based foods that are rich in protein.
Dr. Stewart: If we’re talking about eating right for your heart, let’s talk a little about omega 3s. Diets rich in omega 3s reduce the bad things associated with atherosclerosis, particularly LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and that total body inflammation that you see in the gut of people, that active inflammation that causes insulin resistance. It’s going to help your heart beat stronger, and it’s going to give it a better blood supply by reducing atherosclerosis.
Donatella: Salmon is an obvious choice, but also people think about walnuts, pistachios, seeds, but just remember, a little goes a long way.
Dr. Stewart: When it comes to heart health, portion distortion is a key component of living a healthy lifestyle.
Donatella: Everything you know about portions is way wrong, and you definitely need to subtract at least 50 to 60% off and use your hand. It’s very visual. The palm of your hand, which is about three ounces is protein. A fist, wholegrain carbs. The tip of your thumb is butter or oil. It’s just a tablespoon. That’s all you need.
Dr. Stewart: When thinking about eating a rainbow, it has many benefits for heart health. Folks who are about to undergo heart surgery, green leafy vegetables are full of vitamin K, and that’s going to help you clot after surgery. Spices like turmeric are important for anti-inflammatory properties, which are great for recovery from heart surgery. We constantly find naturopathic cures and treatments for diseases in the foods that we eat.
Donatella: When it comes to eating like a rainbow, I think it’s really impactful and visual and beautiful because food in its natural state is beautiful. Think of an orange, a banana, tomatoes, multicolored. The purer the food is, the more colors you bring into your diet, the healthier your body’s going to be, and I think it’s a wonderful thing that I can pass on to my children. Once you get back to whole food, you realize there’s true pleasure in natural food and beauty and health.
Adam: Hi, everybody, it’s Adam. I hope you enjoyed that video, and don’t forget, you can always subscribe to our YouTube channel. Watch the next two educational videos coming up on your screen, or click the blue button to visit heartvalvesurgery.com.