For a healthy heart, avoid the following foods.
Improving your diet lowers your risk for heart disease in many ways, including helping to lower high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as preventing obesity and improving the function of your heart and blood vessels.
If you are watching your heart health, the following foods should not make it onto your meal plan very often. In fact, if you can cut them out of your diet, your heart will be healthier for it.
- Processed meats
Processed meats are preserved with salts, nitrites and other preservatives. They include hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami, ham, turkey, bologna, and chicken. Studies have found that the worst types of meats for the heart are those that are processed.
The high levels of salt and preservatives found in processed meats are part of the problem.
- Highly refined and processed grains and carbohydrates
Whole grain intake, in place of starches (like potatoes) and refined carbohydrates (like white bread, white rice, and low-fiber breakfast cereals) give a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Whole grains are also linked to lower weight gain over time. This makes sense, considering that whole grains lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and may improve blood vessel function and reduce hunger.
Refined or processed foods include white bread, white rice, low-fiber breakfast cereals, sweets and sugars, and other refined or processed carbohydrates.
The high levels of processing them remove many of the healthy components in whole grains, such as dietary fiber, minerals, phytochemicals, and fatty acids.
The high levels of processing destroy the food’s natural structure. For example, eating a finely milled oats or grains produces higher spikes in blood sugar than less-processed types.
Again processing often adds many ingredients that are less healthy, particularly trans fats, sodium, and sugars.
Some research shows that fructose is metabolized differently than other sugars, in a way that increases the liver’s production of new fat. Fructose represents about half of the sugar in sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose (found in cane sugar and beet sugar). That’s not to suggest that you never eat a slice of pie or white bread — just make them an occasional treat rather than a regular part of your diet.
- Soft drinks and other sugary drinks
A lot of people are drinking more and more of their calories instead of eating them. Most of the increase is from sugary drinks, especially sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and sports drinks. A 12-ounce can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of table sugar. Diet sodas are sugar-free or low in calories, but have no nutrients.
Sugary drinks have all the same ill effects on the heart as highly refined and processed carbohydrates. Research also shows that your body does not compute the calories you ingest in liquid form in the same way as it does the calories you take in from solid foods. So if you add a soda to your meal, you are likely to eat about the same amount of calories from the rest of your food as if you drank water instead. The soda calories are just “added on.”
In addition to the other harms of highly refined and processed carbohydrates, sugary drinks also increase your chances of weight gain.