Written by Heather Shenkman, MD, for 1MD
Your diet is one of the greatest lifestyle-related contributors to an increased risk of heart disease but you can do something about this. Some foods are heart-healthy but this is only part of living heart-healthy. Knowing which foods are bad 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 a healthy heart.
There is a lot of truth to the phrase, “you are what you eat”. The foods you consume have a powerful impact on your health and your heart. Making sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a plant-forward diet is ideal. There are also some foods that will work against your goals of long-term heart health.
1. Saturated Fats
Saturated fat is a type of dietary fat, the majority of which comes from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. These fats can also be found in coconut and coconut oil. Eating foods that contain saturated fats can raise unhealthy cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
What to eat instead: Beans, lentils, and tofu are excellent sources of both protein and fiber. Oils that have more unsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil are better choices than solid fats and coconut oil.
2. Refined Grains
When whole grains are processed, the germ and the bran portion of the grain, along with the most healthful components, are removed. Eating refined grains also increases blood sugar levels. Take care when reading labels. Certain phrases such as “multigrain”, “wheat”, or “seven grain” may sound like healthful choices, but they may actually be mostly refined grains. To make sure you get 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 supports healthy nerves and muscle function. Sodium also 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 and work against your heart health.
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. Limit restaurant food, which almost always is very high in salt, no matter what you order.
When it comes to dietary sugar, it is important to differentiate between natural sugar found in fruits and added sugars. Consuming fruit has many health benefits, but the sugars that are added to processed foods can have a harmful impact on health. Too much added sugar can increase blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and increase the risk of diabetes and obesity, all of which can negatively affect heart health.
What to eat instead: if you are looking for something sweet, reach for some fruit 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 have been linked to elevated LDL cholesterol levels which can clog arteries and restrict circulation. Frying also increases the production of chemical byproducts and are also typically high in sodium as well as saturated fats.
What to eat instead: Bake, sauté, or broil your food.
Making healthy food choices can better support heart function. Going beyond a nutrient-rich diet is one step, and the second is to limit or remove the foods that are potentially harmful to your heart. You can also support heart function with doctor-recommended 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 your overall well-being, and this includes removing certain foods from your plate. By limiting consumption or avoiding these five foods, you can help maintain healthy blood sugar, blood lipid, and blood pressure levels. For optimal heart health and longevity, choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins, and the targeted benefits of 1MD’s heart health supplements.