10 Foods That Are Worst For Your Heart
By: Kratika Thu, 29 Oct 2020 1:01 PM
"A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease,” states the American Heart Association (AHA) on their website. The message seems pretty straightforward, and research supports the claim, pointing out that a heart-friendly diet can lower the risk of heart disease by 31% according to the Harvard School of Public Health. But what does it really mean to maintain a heart-healthy diet?
Prioritizing whole foods, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as poultry and fish are the general recommendations you’ll find, which is simple enough, but when it comes to the foods we should avoid, things often get too vague. We are told to stay away from processed foods, trans fats, and consume less sodium, for example.
# Sweet Drinks
You likely know that sugary drinks are bad for your teeth and should be avoided by those at risk of diabetes. But the truth is that most of us should limit how much juice, sweet tea or coffee, or soda we have because these concentrated beverages can rapidly increase the level of triglycerides in the blood.
Are you customarily adding bottled dressing to your salad? Doctors say that making a simple homemade vinaigrette from 3 parts oil and 1 part vinegar or lemon juice is a much healthier choice. This is because most of the bottled condiments, sweet or savory, are packed with both excess sugar and salt. Just 1 tablespoon of ketchup, for example, can contain 3.7 g sugar and 154.2 mg sodium.
# Fried foods
Frying can turn even the most healthy foods, such as zucchini, broccoli, or shrimps into a meal oversaturated in fat and salt. There's plenty of scientific studies that show how eating fried foods can contribute to hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes - all major risk factors of heart disease.
# Candy and sweetened dried fruit
Candy is yet another way excess sugar can sneak into your body. Even if you think that you're eating a healthy snack like candied strawberries or craisins, you may actually be harming your heart and arteries. This is because many dried fruit are soaked in a sugar syrup to make them sweeter, so make sure you're eating unsweetened dried fruit if you like them as a snack.
Any type of alcohol can be bad for you, even red wine, which is often confusingly recommended for people with cardiovascular issues. When it comes to alcohol, moderation is key, which is why the AHA recommends limiting one's daily drinking dose to 1 drink for women and 2 for men. This doesn't pertain to people with a high triglyceride count or hypertension, though, as they should abstain from alcohol completely.
# Baked goods
There are a few reasons why you should lay off the baked goods if you want to keep your heart healthy, and one of the main reasons is the inclusion of trans fats. Trans fats are artificially created fats that are usually present in some shortenings or margarine. It's common knowledge that we ought to avoid trans fats completely and in 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proclaimed trans fats unsafe, as they mess with the cholesterol balance and lead to cardiovascular issues. Still, many margarine varieties, especially the cheap ones still contain it.
# Canned fruit and vegetables
Not all canned or prepared food is bad for you, and we're definitely not urging you to abandon the convenience of using these foods in your meals. Instead, simply be wary of the kind of canned foods you buy and eat. This is because the main issue with canned foods is not in the foods themselves, but rather in the brine they're preserved in. In fact, much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods, such as soups, baked goods, and frozen dinners.
# Refined grains
Refined grains have been stripped of their healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals in order to make them quicker to cook, and let's face it - tastier. The problem with these grains is that they're converted into sugar by our body way too quickly, which leads to insulin spikes and fat acquisition in the body. A bigger body weight, in turn, can lead to both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. According to a study from the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, for example, a high intake of refined grains alone increased the risk of heart disease by 9.4%.
# Ice cream and full-fat sweetened yogurt
These two foods deserve their own category, since we often don't think of them as an actual part of a meal, but a quick snack or dessert that "doesn't count". Except it does, as both can be a significant source of fat and sugar. Flavored yogurts, for example, are packed with added sugar, with just 100g of yogurt containing as much as 13g of sugar. Therefore, it's better to opt for plain low-fat yogurt instead - you can add in your own fruit and other toppings, after all.
# Cured and fatty meat
Let's unpack this one step by step and start with the excessive saturated fat certain meats contain - as we've mentioned previously, it's important to keep your intake of saturated fats low, so dietitians recommend opting for meat that has less than 10% fat in it. This means that bacon, marbled steak, hamburgers, and pork chops should be a holiday special, and the majority of your protein intake should come from lean red meat, or even better - poultry or fish.