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Health and Fitness News

Taking Mealtime to Heart

What are the worst diet choices for your heart health?

Across the globe, heart disease is the leading cause of death. It’s been that way for years. However, you don’t have to fall victim to heart disease. Because despite its deadly reputation, it’s highly preventable. You’ve just got to make the right choices. Along with regular exercise, not smoking, and managing stress, one of the biggest choices that affects your risk for heart disease is what you put on your plate every day.

You hear a lot about what foods you should be eating for heart health: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and lean protein. You may not hear as much about the foods you should avoid. So what foods should you skip out on to keep your heart in good shape? Here are five of the biggest offenders.

1: Processed Meats

Processed meats are high on the list of foods that are bad for your heart. This includes bacon, deli meat, hot dogs, salami, and sausage. Do your best to limit or avoid these meats since they contain high amounts of preservatives, nitrites, saturated fat, and sodium.

Sodium nitrate, a preservative found in many processed meats, may damage your blood vessels. Over time, this leads to hardened, narrowed arteries.
Saturated fats increase your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. This is the bad stuff you don’t want. When it reaches unhealthy levels, it puts you at risk for heart attack or stroke.

Sodium, a main ingredient in salt, raises your blood pressure. In case you don’t know, high blood pressure makes your heart work overtime. This increases your chances of stroke, heart failure, and heart disease.

2: Red Meat

Red meats, such as beef, pork, veal, and lamb should also be limited or avoided for optimal heart health. Generally, red meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. The bad news doesn’t stop there. It also contains carnitine and choline. When digested by gut bacteria, these produce an organic compound that may harden your arteries and lead to heart attack and stroke.

3: Refined Grains

Refined grains are so processed that any fiber and nutrients have been cut out of them. Without fiber, the food is quickly digested, converted into sugar, and stored as fat.

Refined grains also lead to blood sugar fluctuations and unwanted inflammation. As if that’s not bad enough, foods made from white flour lead to weight gain, often around your middle. And this isn’t just an aesthetic problem. Belly fat is closely connected to an increased risk of heart disease.

4: Fried Foods

You’re doing your heart no favors when you eat French fries, hash browns, onion rings, and fried chicken. High in fat, calories, and sodium, fried foods put you on the fast track to heart disease. This is likely caused by the unhealthy fats that fried food is fried in. Fried foods may also increase inflammation.

5: Sugar

It tastes so good, but it’s doing your health no good. Sugar is hard to avoid, but cutting back may be one of the best ways you can protect your heart from disease. A high-sugar diet is clearly linked to obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, inflammation, and heart disease.

Sugar-filled drinks like soda, sweet tea, lemonade, juice, and sport drinks are especially high in sugar. One can of soda contains more sugar than you should consume in a day. Sugar is found in countless processed foods. From cookies, muffins, candy, and cakes to yogurt, ketchup, crackers, and spaghetti sauce, it’s everywhere your tastebuds want to be. Check ingredient labels for added sugar and take steps today to cut back.


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