Diet has been identified as the greatest lifestyle-related contributor to heart problems, but you can do something about this. Knowing which foods are heart-healthy is part of the solution, but knowing which foods are less than ideal for heart health is just as important. Making the right food choices and knowing which foods to limit will have you well on your way to heart-healthy living.
The phrase “you are what you eat” is very true because the foods you consume have a powerful impact on your health and heart. Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a plant-forward diet is ideal. However, there are some foods that will work against your goals of long-term heart health.
1. Saturated Fats
Saturated fat is a type of dietary fat that is solid at room temperature. The majority of saturated fats come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products, but are also found in coconut and products made from coconuts, like coconut oil. Eating foods that contain saturated fats can throw off healthy cholesterol levels. Avoiding or limiting these is a positive step towards promoting healthy arterial and heart function.
What to eat instead: Beans, lentils, and tofu are excellent sources of both protein and fiber. Oils with more unsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil are better choices than solid fats like butter, shortening, lard, or coconut and palm oil.
2. Refined Grains
The processing of whole grains to remove the germ and the bran portion of the grain also removes many of the most healthful components in whole grains. Also, eating refined grains can alter the healthy levels of blood sugar more than unrefined grains can.
With whole grains, it is important to read labels carefully. Certain phrases such as “multigrain,” “wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “stone-ground” may sound like healthful choices, but they may actually be mostly or entirely refined grains. To make sure you choose a heart-healthy food, look for a “whole” grain as the first ingredient on the label.
What to eat instead: Whole grain bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth.
Sodium, referred to colloquially as salt, is a necessary mineral that plays a role in the healthy function of nerves and muscles and helps keep body fluid levels in proper balance. This fluid balance is delicate, and too much sodium can cause fluid retention, which can increase blood pressure, lead to ankle and leg swelling, and work against your efforts to support your heart.
It’s also recommended to minimize restaurant food, which almost universally is very high in salt, no matter what you order, as well as heavy sauces and foods in cans and boxes, which tend to be higher in salt.
What to eat instead: Choose whole unprocessed and minimally processed foods. Minimize the amount of salt in your cooking, and use herbs and spices to season foods.
It is important to differentiate between natural sugar found in fruits and added sugars. Consuming fruit has many health benefits. However, it is the sugars that are added to processed and packaged foods that can have a harmful impact on health. Consuming too many added sugars can disrupt healthy blood sugar levels, blood pressure levels and contribute to weight gain, which can affect heart health.
What to eat instead: Reach for some fruit if you’re looking for something sweet to eat, and save the cookies, candies, and cake for special occasions.
5. Fried Foods
Fried foods contain trans-fatty acids from the hydrogenated vegetable oils often used to cook them. These fatty acids can increase LDL cholesterol, interfering with proper blood circulation in the arteries. Frying also increases the production of chemical byproducts. Additionally, fried foods are often also high in sodium as well as saturated fats.
What to eat instead: Bake, sautée or broil your food.
Making healthy food choices can better support heart function and overall health. In addition to a nutrient-rich diet and limiting or removing foods that are not ideal for heart health, you can support heart function with clinically-formulated supplements like GlucoseMD® and CholestMD®.
GlucoseMD® includes patented Cinsulin®, a purified, water-soluble cinnamon bark extract packed with polyphenols to promote proper sugar metabolism. Berberine bark, chromium picolinate, and Gymnema Sylvestre provide further heart support by promoting proper glucose absorption and utilization.
CholestMD® combines powerful ingredients, including patented Bergavit® and niacin, to provide comprehensive support for healthy blood lipid levels and a healthy circulatory system. The addition of olive leaf and garlic bulb extracts helps support arterial health and aids arterial blood flow.
Healthy eating is an important part of promoting heart function and overall health. This involves choosing not to eat certain foods. By limiting consumption or avoiding these five foods, you can keep blood sugar and lipid levels in check to better support heart health. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins, and the targeted benefits of 1MD Nutrition’s heart health supplements for optimal heart health and longevity.
Dr. Heather Shenkman
Dr. Heather Shenkman is a board certified interventional cardiologist. She completed a six year program at Albany Medical College, graduating at the age of 23. She completed her residency at Henry Ford Hospital, cardiology fellowship at the University of Rochester, and interventional cardiology fellowship at the esteemed Tufts Medical Center in Boston.