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Foods that are bad for your heart

Foods that are bad for your heart Illustrative photo (Freepik)
Author: Maria Kholina

The products high in sugar, salt, and fat content cause the most damage to your heart. A high intake of salt, sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to WebMD.

Doctors advise against fixating on any specific harmful food and suggest focusing on your overall diet. You can consume sweet, salty, or fatty foods in moderation if your diet mainly consists of heart-healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.

Red meat

Consuming excessive amounts of beef, lamb, and pork can elevate the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, possibly due to the high content of saturated fats that raise cholesterol levels. Recent studies also point to how gut bacteria process a component of meat called L-carnitine. Limit your portions and opt for lean cuts such as round steak and very lean ground beef.

Carbonated drinks

A small amount of added sugar is not harmful, but a can of soda contains more sugar than experts recommend for an entire day. Soda enthusiasts tend to gain more weight, often suffer from obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.

While the science on diet sodas is still unclear, some studies associate them with weight gain and strokes. It's better to opt for plain or lightly flavored water.

Baked goods

Cookies, cakes, and muffins should be occasional treats as they usually contain added sugar leading to weight gain. They are also linked to higher triglyceride levels, which can contribute to heart diseases. Their main ingredient is typically white flour, which can spike blood sugar and make you feel hungrier. Make healthier treats by using whole-grain flour, reducing sugar, and using liquid plant oils instead of butter or shortening.

Processed meat

Hot dogs, sausages, salami, and deli meats are the worst types of meat for your heart. They are high in salt, and most of them contain a significant amount of saturated fats. When it comes to deli meats, turkey is a healthier option as it lacks saturated fats. However, it still contains enough sodium, making freshly sliced turkey breast a better choice for the heart.

White rice, bread, and pasta

White rice, bread, pasta, and snacks made from refined flour lack healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Refined grains quickly turn into sugar, which the body stores as fat. A diet high in refined grains may lead to abdominal fat, linked to heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. Aim for at least half of your grains to come from whole grains like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat. When shopping, look for the label "100% whole grain."

Alcohol

Moderate alcohol consumption won't harm your heart unless you have high blood pressure or high triglyceride levels, a type of fat in the blood that can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, excessive alcohol intake can lead to increased blood pressure, heart failure, strokes, and weight gain.

Flavored, fatty yogurt

Yogurt can be a great source of nutrition, protecting against high blood pressure with regular consumption. However, be mindful of what you buy. Flavored yogurts are filled with added sugar linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, inflammation, and heart diseases. If you prefer the healthiest option, choose plain non-fat yogurt and add fresh fruits, cinnamon, or vanilla for flavor.

French fries

Deep-fried restaurant and fast-food french fries are high in fat and salt, which is detrimental to your heart. One study showed that people who ate french fries or potato chips 2-3 times a week had a higher mortality rate. If you do decide to treat yourself to it, opt for a minimal portion or share an order. Even better, bake your fries with heart-healthy olive oil. Sweet potatoes would be an even healthier choice.

Fried chicken

Fried chicken adds calories, fat, and sodium to a healthy food. Research has linked fried food to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, all of which increase the likelihood of heart failure. For a crispy yet healthier option, coat skinless chicken breasts in whole-grain flour and bake instead of frying.

Ice cream

Ice cream is rich in sugar, calories, and saturated fats, so reserve it for special treats. Consumption of high-fat and high-sugar products leads to weight gain and can raise triglyceride levels, potentially causing a heart attack. Reduce calorie and fat intake by choosing sherbet, fat-free frozen yogurt, or frozen fruit bars. Check the label for the lowest amount of sugar and saturated fats.

Chips

Potato chips are one of the major contributors to weight gain. They are not only high in saturated fats but are also coated in salt, which is associated with heart diseases. Opt for low-sodium or low-fat potato chips. They may leave you feeling less satisfied, so consider combining healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, such as whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese or homemade popcorn with olive oil.