Improving your diet lowers your risk for heart disease in so many ways, including lowering blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as preventing obesity and improving the function of your blood vessels and heart.
If you want a healthier heart, the below foods should not make it onto your meal plan very often. In fact, if you can remove them from your diet, your heart will be healthier for it.
Avoid These 7 Foods for a Healthier Heart:
1. Added Sugars
Let’s face it: Americans consume too much sugar. We consume 355 calories, or 22 teaspoons—of added sugars per day, according to a recent study.
Added sugars are those added to food by manufacturers or consumers. “Reducing added sugars will reduce cardiovascular disease risk,” according to Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the American Heart Association (AHA) writing group for the AHA scientific statement on cardiovascular disease and sugars and EatingWell nutrition advisor. “High intakes of added sugars are associated with increased risks for high triglyceride levels and high blood pressure, risk factors for heart disease.”
The AHA recommends that women should limit their added sugars to no more than 100 calories daily, or about 6 teaspoons, and men should eat less than 150 calories, approximately 9 teaspoons. (A 12-ounce can of cola contains about 8 teaspoons.)
These recommendations apply only to added sugars, which supply calories but minus the nutritional value, and not to sugars that occur naturally in healthful foods (lactose in dairy and fructose in fruit).
It’s very easy to keep track of sugars that you add yourself. While the added sugars in processed foods are more difficult to track. “Sugars” found on Nutrition Facts panels include added and natural sugars.
Check the ingredient list for sugar and all its aliases: corn syrup or sweetener, molasses, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, invert sugar, malt sugar and syrup and sugar molecules ending in “ose” (fructose, dextrose, lactose, glucose, maltose, sucrose).
2. Red Meat
Eating too much lamb, beef, and pork may raise your odds for diabetes and heart disease. It may be because these foods are high in saturated fat, which can boost cholesterol.
More current studies point to how gut bacteria process a part of the meat called L-carnitine. Therefore, kimit your portions. Also, look for lean cuts such as sirloin, round, and extra-lean ground beef.
3. White Rice, Pasta, Bread
Rice, pasta, bread, and snacks made from white flour are missing their vitamins, minerals and healthy fiber. Refined grains quickly convert to sugar, which your body stores as fat.
A diet high in refined grains can cause belly fat, which studies link to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Try to get at least half your grains from whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat and oats. When you shop, look for the words “100% whole grain.”
4. Processed Meats
Sausage, hot dogs, salami, and lunch meat are the worst types of meats for your heart. They contain high amounts of salt, and most are high in saturated fat.
When it comes to deli meats, turkey is better for you as compare to salami because it does not have the saturated fat. But, it still has a fair amount of sodium, therefore, it is not as heart-healthy as fresh sliced turkey breast.
5. Saturated Fat
Sour cream, butter and Mayo. These foods, as well as fatty cuts of meats—are high in the saturated fats that elevate “bad” LDL cholesterol, leading to plaque buildup in your arteries.
Limit saturated fats to 5% or less of your total calories (you can divide your weight by 12 to get the daily total limit in grams). For example, you can try replacing butter with vegetable-based oils, particularly canola and olive oil, both of which contain good amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and by swapping in fish, lean poultry, and beans for higher-fat meats.
Americans on average consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily. That’s a third more than the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg or about 1 teaspoon salt, and more than double the 1,500 mg suggestion for adults who are age 51 and olde,r and for anyone who is salt-sensitive (e.g., those with high diabetes, blood pressure, or chronic kidney disease and people who are African-American), about half the U.S. population.
Reducing your sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure, and also reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your salt intake is to not add it if you cannot taste it. In other words, do not add salt to boiling water for potatoes or pasta, but add it to a dish when its impact will be strongest, which is usually at the end of cooking. A little salt goes a longer way if it is sprinkled on a food just before serving; you will taste it in every bite.
Another way to reduce your sodium intake is to replace sodium-laden processed foods with fresh foods. Other tricks: look for “no-salt-added” or “low sodium” labels and rinse canned beans.
7. Trans Fat
One of the easiest to avoid or limit in your diet, and it’s quite harmful to your heart health, trans fat. So, why are trans fats so harmful?
Like saturated fat, trans fat raises your “bad” LDL cholesterol, possibly even more than saturated fats, as per research. Trans fat also lowers your “good” HDL cholesterol.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fat you eat daily to less than 1% of your total calories. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, that translates to about 2 (or fewer) grams.
How can you eliminate or limit trans fat from your diet? The easiest way to avoid trans fat is by skipping foods that contain “partially hydrogenated oil” or “hydrogenated oil” in their ingredient lists. Big culprits include crackers, packaged snacks, bakery goods and some margarines.
Also, trans fats are found naturally, albeit in small amounts in animal products, such as pork, beef, lamb and the butterfat in milk and butter. Limiting how much pork, beef, lamb and butter you eat and swapping full-fat dairy products, such as cheese and milk, for low- or nonfat versions will help too.
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