“Heart disease is still the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.,” says Deborah Krivitsky, MS, RD, LDN, director of nutrition at the MGH Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center. “Nutrition can play a key role in the prevention and management of heart problems and registered dietitians can help.” But the tricky part comes for many people when navigating the grocery store.

“One question people frequently ask me is whether they should be drinking milk,” says Krivitsky. As part of Hotline’s Heart Month coverage, here she clears up some of the cholesterol confusion found in the milk aisle.

Cow’s milk
There are a lot of important health benefits tied to cow’s milk, including its ability to boost the immune system, reduce the risk of hypertension, protect the heart and aid in weight loss. It’s also an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Make sure to avoid whole milk, which can have too much saturated fat and lead to a spike in your LDL (or bad) cholesterol.

Soy milk
Soy milk is plant based, so it’s great alternative for people who can’t digest lactose or are vegan.An average serving is low in saturated fat and has zero cholesterol. Still, it’s important to read the label and watch for added sugar, which is considered damaging to the heart and can raise blood pressure.And make sure it’s fortified with calcium.

Almond milk
This may come as a surprise to some people, but almond milk is mostly water.As a registered dietitian I don’t think it’s a good substitute for cow’s milk as it provides hardly any protein. A cup of almond milk typically only has about 1 gram of protein. It is a fine low-calorie beverage for people who enjoy the taste, are vegan or have allergies.

Rice milk
This is milled rice and water and because of that, it’s the least allergenic of the milks. It doesn’t have any saturated fat, which is good, but if you’re watching your waistline, be aware that rice milk can also be higher in carbohydrates. It also needs to be fortified with protein, calcium and vitamin D.

Coconut milk
If you’ve ever added coconut milk to your coffee, you know it’s sweet. The added sugar can be a concern. Small amounts are OK, but be sure to also check out the saturated fat content.

Goat’s milk
When you compare it to cow’s milk, goat’s milk supplies more vitamin A, and it does so in the vitamin form, rather than as beta carotene. It also has substantially more niacin and B6 and is lower in folic acid and B12. We know a nutrient-dense diet is beneficial to the heart and the entire body.

“In my role at the MGH, I meet with people from all backgrounds,” says Krivitsky. “I think the most important thing is to listen, form a partnership and map out keys to heart health success.”

For more information about the MGH Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center visit www.massgeneral.org/heartcenter.

February is Heart Month

Mark your calendars: February is Heart Month. Here at the MGH there are a number of events happening hospital wide.

Friday, Feb. 3 – Go Red for Women

Don’t forget to wear red to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Snap a selfie and share it on social media. Be sure to tag #GoRedWearRed, #BostonGoesRed and#MassGeneral.

Thursday, Feb. 9 – Heart health tips in the White Lobby

Come between 11 am-1 pm to the White Lobby for a spin of the Heart Disease Risk Factor Wheel, along with fun giveaways from the Heart Center.

Thursday, Feb. 9 – Prevention focus in the Blum Center

Nandita Scott, MD, of Cardiology, will discuss the differences between men’s and women’s hearts in the Blum Center from noon-1 pm, with a focus on prevention of heart disease.

Friday, Feb. 24 – Shared decision making on heart disease

Rory Weiner, MD, MGH cardiologist, will answer questions about heart disease from noon-1 pm in the Blum Center.

Read more articles from the 02/10/17 Hotline issue.