While knowing what nutrients (and the foods containing them) that directly benefit the heart is important, it is only half the battle—actually eating them is what really matters. To help make that easier for people, especially when eating on the go, Dr. Klodas created an entire food line of heart-healthy foods, Step One Foods.
"As a cardiologist, I approached this differently than a typical food company would," Dr. Klodas says. "First, we identified the four nutrients that are critical to heart health that almost none of us get enough of. Then we found the whole food ingredients that are especially rich sources of those nutrients and constructed our products out of them."
Curious as to what those crucial four nutrients are and how Dr. Klodas and her team packaged them in a way that is both accessible and delicious? Keep reading to learn more about how she developed Step One Foods and the ingredients that take center stage.
The 4 heart-healthy nutrients many are missing out on
As Dr. Klodas mentioned, there are four major heart-healthy nutrients she often sees people not getting enough of. Can you guess what they are? Whole food fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and plant sterols (natural plant components that interfere with cholesterol absorption in the gut). "These nutrients are critical to achieving healthy cholesterol levels," Dr. Klodas says.
She crafted the food line to ensure that every product had the Big Four. "We combined ingredients such as chia, oat bran, walnuts, and berries to ensure that every serving of every product delivered precise levels of each of these four 'building blocks of heart health' in clinically meaningful amounts," she says.
To prove that the foods could literally help with lowering cholesterol, Dr. Klodas and her team conducted a clinical trial featuring the foods in the line. "We went on to prove that our approach works by subjecting our foods to a randomized controlled clinical trial, the highest level of scientific scrutiny typically reserved for pharmaceuticals," she says. "We were not only choosy as to which ingredients we included, we also validated that the combinations and amounts of ingredients we chose yielded measurable, positive cholesterol outcomes." This means the food line is literally scientifically-proven to support heart health.
The hero ingredients in this heart-healthy food line
So, what foods are exactly in the line? The products were made with convenience in mind, so there is an entire selection of snack bars to choose from. There are also smoothie mixes, oatmeals, and pancake mixes. As Dr. Klodas mentioned, oat bran, nuts, and berries are all ingredients that pop up a lot throughout the line. Berries are high in antioxidants, while oat bran is a good source of fiber. "Fiber also improves digestion and keeps you feeling fuller for longer," Dr. Klodas says.
"Nuts are present in each and every one of our products because they have so many health benefits," Dr. Klodas says. "Nuts are packed with protein, healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols, and L-arginine [a type of amino acid]." She explains that unsaturated fats help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol while upping "good" HDL cholesterol. "They also help prevent irregular heart rhythms, have mild blood-thinning properties, and are anti-inflammatory," she adds.
Another ingredient that's used throughout the line: chocolate. While Dr. Klodas says milk chocolate isn't exactly ideal for heart health, dark chocolate is. "Chocolate flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease, help lower blood pressure, and improve vascular function," she says. "Chocolate has also been shown to reduce the risks of developing diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks."
It's not just the ingredients being used that Dr. Klodas and her team were mindful of when creating the line; she says they also knew what ingredients they wanted to avoid, too. "I picked up some of the top-selling 'healthy' snack bars recently and looked at the ingredient panels. One bar listed five different kinds of sugar separately on the label," Dr. Klodas says. She says avoiding high amounts of sugar and chemical ingredients was something that was important when creating every product. "We add no binders or fillers. There are no counterproductive additives," she says.
You certainly don't need to stick to a cardiologist-created food brand to eat with heart health in mind. Fruits, nuts, fish, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and yogurt are all heart-healthy foods you can eat in their whole form. But if you're looking for something you can stash in your purse or snack drawer, that's where this food line comes in. You can rest assured that each product was taken to, well, heart.
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