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What Are The Worst Foods For My Heart? What Can I Have Instead?

When it comes to improving heart health, focusing just on what you should be adding into your diet isn’t enough. That's because heart disease is the most common cause of death for people with diabetes. Some foods—expecially the three listed here—even in small amounts, can have a significantly negative impact on the heart. Managing blood sugar levels can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. But working to avoid heart disease doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods, it simply takes being aware of the worst foods for your heart and finding healthy alternatives.

#1. Soda

soda has too much sugar and is bad for your heart

You may think that the only nutrient shown to impact heart disease is dietary fat, but the link between added sugars and heart disease is so strong the American Heart Association developed their own guidelines for sugar intake recommending that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sweetener per day, while men are encouraged to consume no more than 9 teaspoons1. The latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans also stresses the importance of cutting added sugar by recommending it make up no more than 10% of one’s total daily calories. Added sugar, like the kind you would find in soda and other sweetened drinks, may increase insulin resistance, raise triglyceride levels and even lower protective HDL cholesterol 2,3.

If you drink soda on a regular basis, not only can this spike blood glucose levels, but it can also have a negative impact on your cardiac health. Try decreasing your intake while sipping on no-sugar added beverages such as seltzer flavored with a splash of 100% fruit juice, unsweetened ice tea, or club soda.

If you aren’t ready to go cold turkey, slowly reduce your intake of soda by mixing one part seltzer to one part soda. Over time, dilute the soda further by mixing two parts seltzer to one part soda. Before you know it, you will be enjoying the flavor of the seltzer alone without the need for the added sugars.

#2. Pie Crust

pie crust is bad for your heartIf your biggest concern about indulging in a slice of pie was the filling, you may want to think twice. The pie crust may actually be the most damaging ingredient to your heart. That light and flaky crust that you love is actually loaded with trans fats, the most detrimental fat to cardiovascular health. Even in small amounts, this fat can spell double trouble since it not only raises unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, but also lowers the protective HDL cholesterol 4. Most ready-made, store-bought pies contain a source of trans fats. And even if you make your own pie, most premade dough is packed full of these fats as well. 

In order to avoid trans fats, you need to be a savvy label reader. If a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving, it can list 0 grams of trans fats on the label. However, if you eat multiple servings, you can be consuming a significant amount of trans fats without even knowing it. Since the American Heart Association recommends you limit these fats to less than 1% of your total daily calories, even foods with less than half a gram per serving should be limited or avoided 5.. To know if a food contains trans fats, you need to look at the ingredient list. If you see the words ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ anywhere in the ingredient list, the food contains a source of trans fats. So what should you do instead? If possible, try making your own without using shortening or hydrogenated oils.   

#3. Lunchmeat

lunch meat is bad for your heartLove sandwiches? They may not love you back. Lunchmeat is typically highly processed and rich in added sodium, saturated fat, and even added sugars. Choices such as bologna and liverwurst contain approximately 3 grams of saturated fat per ounce. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat be limited to no more than 7% of total calories (and only 5 - 6% of total calories for individuals who need to reduce LDL cholesterol levels)7. If you are following a 2,000 calorie diet, a sandwich made with a few ounces of bologna can exceed your daily saturated fat goals. Instead, choose lean protein options such as turkey breast or chicken breast when selecting sandwich meat. Look for low sodium options and whenever possible, choose varieties that are nitrate free to help reduce your intake of cancer causing carcinogens.

 

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