While your doctor still isn't going to write an Rx for a Quarter-Pounder with cheese anytime soon, there are some healthy, delicious options at various popular fast food chains that can work in your favor for cardiovascular health.
Here, cardiologists recommend some heart healthy fast food picks, showing that you don't have to sacrifice your health to enjoy fat food. Keep reading to see their list.
- Joel Kahn, MD, Joel Kahn, MD, is a holistic cardiologist and plant-based eating advocate. He is also a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
- Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, attending cardiologist and the director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City
5 healthy fast foods that are good for your heart
Women's heart health specialist Suzanne Steinbaum, MD is all about a hearty, protein-loaded burrito bowl from Chipotle. "If you're building your bowl with heart health in mind, I recommend including rice, beans, lettuce, and tomato," she says. "That's not a bad choice at all!"
Beans are one of the most heart-healthy proteins across the board (and it apparently is great for longevity, too). Full of soluble fiber, eating them regularly is linked to lowering LDL cholesterol. They're also a good source of antioxidants and can decrease the risk of certain types of cancer. Tomatoes are also good for heart health because they help to lower inflammation because, like beans, they too are full of antioxidants.
Looking for other healthy finds at Chipotle? Here's what a dietitian always orders:
Baked potatoes are one of Wendy's core menu items, and they get the seal of approval from cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD. (Yes, potatoes are healthy—don't let the carb haters tell you otherwise.) Ordering one from Wendy's comes with seven grams of fiber and 1,560 milligrams of potassium—a full half of what's recommended for the entire day. Potassium plays a key role in regulating blood pressure, which is exactly what makes this meal so heart healthy.
While Dr. Kahn says he recommends eschewing the topping options, which include sour cream, cheese, bacon, and butter, you can round out your meal by pairing it with a side of chili. It's a way to, once again, reap the benefits of those heart-healthy beans.
By now, you're probably noticing a theme: Cardiologists love beans. "Beans are good for the heart is more than just a catchy tune, it's the truth!" Dr. Kahn says. He adds that to make this fast food pick even more heart-friendly, he recommends nixing the cheese (which contains saturated fat). There's also an option to add tomatoes, which would up the nutritional value even more.
One Taco Bell bean burrito has a full 11 grams of fiber, which is half of what's recommended for the entire day. It also has 20 percent of the iron you need for the day, which is important because getting enough iron protects against cardiovascular disease.
While he doesn't recommend eating a burger (beef or alt-beef) every day, Dr. Kahn says this is a good option for when you really just want a fast food burger. This plant-based burger is primarily made with soy, which is healthy, but because the sodium and saturated fat levels in the burger are quite high, it should still be treated like a burger and not a health food. He recommends nixing the cheese and mayo toppings and adding lettuce and tomato for their antioxidant powers.
Watch the video below for more intel on if the Impossible Whopper is healthy or not:
This is another fast food item that Dr. Kahn says is more of a better-for-you option than a verified health food. (In other words: great to enjoy once in a while, but not a good idea to have every day.) "It's definitely a better option than the bacon sandwiches, especially if you have it without the cheese," he says.
The Beyond Sausage is primarily made with pea protein, which is high in lysine (an animo acid that helps turn fatty acids into energy) and arginine (which can decrease blood pressure). Good for your health? Absolutely. But some of the other ingredients in the sausage (like coconut oil) make the saturated fat content work against it in terms of heart health. But in terms of breakfast sandwiches, to Dr. Kahn's point, it does beat bacon or meat sausage.
Because of their convenience and price, fast food is always going to play a role in how we eat. Armed with this list, you know exactly where to go and what to order in terms of keeping your dinner (or breakfast) healthy. And that makes for a truly happy meal.
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