The month of February has been declared as heart month. Its primary aim is to raise awareness on maintaining a healthy heart.
Maintaining a healthy heart is not that difficult. What we need is proper education on nutrition. So, we know that foods are damaging to heart health and that we can avoid these foods. Of course, we should also prioritize educating ourselves on what to eat and do for a better heart health.
But, first… let’s take a look at the top 10 foods you should avoid if you want a healthy heart. Next time you see these foods, make sure you keep them out of your supermarket’s shopping cart. Of course, you want to exclude it in your typical daily diet.
Don’t worry if you feel deprived taking away these popular unhealthy foods for your heart. Of course, foods swaps or replacement are available. You don’t want to take away something without putting in healthy swaps.
10 Foods To Avoid For A Healthy Heart
The heart is a vital organ. It circulates blood to the entire body. One of the early signs of vascular problems is erectile dysfunction. This is why health experts say that a man’s penis is a dipstick for health.
Educate and learn which foods to avoid for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list, but at least these are the major food perils for heart health.
1. Bottled and Sweetened Drinks
The majority of the Americans, bottled and sweetened beverages are the primary source of sugar. Unfortunately, the sugar added in these bottled drinks are way too high. One can easily surpass the recommended daily sugar intake.
A CDC report between 2011 and 2014, the highest consumer of added sugars are children comprising over 60% followed by adult men at 54% and 45% by adult women. In 2016, the WHO put out its recommendation on cutting back sugar consumption.
Another bad news, the type of sugar added on these types of drinks are high fructose corn syrup. The body absorbs this sweetener in a different way resulting to many unhealthy consequences including obesity1.
Of course, we need sugar but it should come from whole foods like fruits. Whole fruits, although they’re sweet just like HFCS, the body absorbs in naturally and in a healthy way. This is why many studies recommend eating more fruits and veggies as part of a healthy diet.
Here’s another report by CNN health correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on HFCS leads to fatty liver. And, guess what, studies confirmed that fatty liver disease is linked to high prevalence of heart disease2 3 4.
Note that there are two types of fatty livers namely; fatty liver due to alcohol consumption and the other one is due to over consumption of HFCS.
2. Candies and Sweets
For decades, we’ve been entrenched that fat is the top dietary cause of heart disease. Then, it resulted in the emergence of low-fat diets. But is fat really the villain and causes heart disease?
Certainly, not! Of course, there are two primary types of fats namely; healthy fats and bad fats we’re talking here. However, it’s not just fat alone causing heart disease, but sugar, too.
For years, the sugar industry denied the allegations about the unhealthy consequences of sugar. However, in November 2016, a shocking news coming from one analysis study published in the JAMA of Internal Medicine5.
This study reveals the previous studies funded by the sugar industry. Prior to the publication of the study, there are already many health experts like Dr. Hyman, Dr. Mercola and among many other of doctors who believed sugar is unhealthy.
Furthermore, health experts agree that a diet including a high amount of added sugar is bad. This is a contributing factor to increasing the bad cholesterol, diabetes, inflammation and obesity. All these are risk factors for developing heart-related diseases.
3. Diet Sodas
Diet soda has been marketed as a zero calorie drink. On the other side, it has its dark side.
People who think and drink diet sodas are healthy. In reality, they’re not. There are no “sugar” in diet sodas, but they contained artificial sweeteners. One of the widely used artificial sweeteners is aspartame.
The artificial sweetener asparatame is controversial. The FDA shouldn’t have approved it. One of the critics of aspartame is Dr. Joseph Mercola. You’ll find a lot information about aspartame especially its dark side on Mercola.com.
Additionally, studies6 find that diet soda is linked with vascular risk factors and an increased risk of vascular events.
It’s an unfortunate truth that unhealthy sweeteners are everywhere. It’s one of the very common ingredients in food products in supermarkets. The best way to avoid them is to read food labels and educate yourself of the many names of sugar.
Food manufacturers have been using alternative names for sugar. As a matter of fact, many boxed foods with a “No Sugar” label. In fact, there is no sugar included in the list of ingredients, but the other sugar names are there.
4. Cookies and Pastries
The majority of baked goods sold commercially include added sugars and oils. For most of the time, the oils have trans fats and saturated fats. Now, not all saturated fats are bad. Saturated fats coming from plants like coconut oil and grass-fed meats are good.
Additionally, one study7 finds that there is not enough evidence linking dietary saturated fats to heart disease.
Trans fats, on the other hand, has been found unhealthy and causes heart disease.
Hence, if you want to maintain a healthy heart, avoid trans fats. In fact, any food products such as baked goods should be avoided.
The American Heart Association recognizes the unhealthy consequences of trans fats. The recommendation is to limit, but in reality, it should be avoided.
But there’s another thing to watch out. You may start noticing that trans fats are not a part of many food products. However, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are used, instead. Know that it is trans fats.
Yes, the other name for trans fats is partially hydrogenated oil(s). If you see it on food labels, put it down and avoid it. It’s trans fats.
Margarine is also a widely available fat with many uses including baking, cooking and even spread for bread. Unfortunately, margarine contains trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil.
So, it’s good to avoid them before its unhealthy consequences make your healthy heart unhealthy. Instead, use healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
6. Cereals Loaded with Sugars
Many of us think cereals are good for breakfast. TV commercials are recommending it as part of a balanced and healthy breakfast. But are cereals really healthy to eat?
Cereals seem an innocent and healthy breakfast. But, unfortunately, a box of cereals contains added sugars. Therefore, before buying a box or boxes of cereals, make sure the don’t have a high amount of sugar.
Read the labels. Additionally, to learn more about cereals and its sugar contents, read this report from the EWG(Environmental Working Group).
A year ago, CBS Minnesota with fitness expert Ali Holman looked several brands of cereals and its sugar contents.
7. Fried Foods
Studies8 find that frequent consumption of fried foods is linked to heart failure, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
Conventional frying methods by fast foods and even in most homes produce trans fats. Most cooking oils available for cooking and frying are made from vegetable oils.
These vegetable oils are not stable and become rancid easily especially in hot temperatures. When it becomes rancid, the level of Omega-6 increases, which is a type of fat with opposite health effects to Omega-3.
Omega-6 is inflammatory, while Omega-3 fat is anti-inflammatory. So, keep that in mind and choose the right type of oil for frying purposes.
Instead, when you’re frying, use coconut oil. If you’re stir-frying use either coconut oil or olive oil. One study finds9 that using olive oil for frying does not cause an increase in coronary heart disease.
If you’re thinking vegetable oils are appropriate for maintaining a healthy heart, well they’re not.
8. Fast-Food Burgers
There is an ongoing debate on whether saturated fat is linked to heart disease. But what’s clear is it depends on the quality of meat.
Most fast foods are using factory farmed meat. On the other hand, those burgers and steak houses that are using organic grass-fed animals can be a good source.
9. Cured and Highly Processed Meats
The WHO recommends people to have moderate consumption of preserved meats to reduce risk of cancer.
These meats include sausages, ham, hot dogs, and bacon. In WHO’s Q&A format article, processed meats are classified as Group 1, which means carcinogenic to humans.
Dr. Jonathan Schoenfeld says that a slice of bacon may not be as harmful. But today, whose eating slice of bacon, or half a hot dog?
Most people are eating way beyond that amount and eating it several times a day possibly. Occasional consumption may not be as harmful especially when eating it along with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
In other words, minimize it. If you can’t, better not eat it and look for healthy options. You are much better not eating them, and don’t like to eat them if you know you have much better and healthier options in preserving a healthy heart.
10. Meat-Lovers Pizza
Pizzas are second in the AHA’s list of six salty foods. Now you might ask, is salt bad for heart health?
Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a holistic and integrative medicine practitioner says salt has a sweet spot. Consuming high amount of salt is not good especially if you’re striving to have a healthy heart.
On the other hand, consuming too little of salt is also unhealthy. He says that we should instead watch out for hidden salts in foods.
This is the same as the sugar story. You’ll find a lot hidden sugars in most food products. The same thing with salt. It’s in most foods including pizzas. You may not be aware you’re already consuming beyond the daily intake recommendation.
There you have it. The most common 10 foods you should avoid for a healthy heart. In reality, avoiding these foods is not only beneficial for heart health, but for the entire body’s health and wellness.
Instead of focusing on these foods and thinking you have no options, switch your focus to whole foods. The simplest way to a healthy heart is eating organic whole foods.
There are studies10 with proof that eating a plant-based diet prevents heart-related diseases.
So, is it just a plant-based diet for a healthy heart? Not really. As long as you consume more fruits and vegetables than meat, you’re good. I haven’t seen any studies on this, but this is entirely based on personal life experience.
We eat about 20% or less meat and the major portion of our diet includes organic fruits and vegetables.
Physical activities also matter. Therefore, in aiming to have a healthy heart, there are two components namely; good nutrition and movements.
What About Supplementations?
For sure taking heart-friendly supplements such as CoQ10 and fish oils help. However, you should make it as part of healthy lifestyle practices encompassing both good nutrition and regular physical activities.
Don’t depend entirely on supplements to maintain a healthy heart.