The Best And Worst Foods For Heart Health, According To Doctors

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Despite a recent move toward body positivity and neutrality, when we talk about “good” and “bad” foods as a society, we still tend to focus on whether they will let us down. gain weight or will help us lose weight. But there’s a lot more to the conversation than how many calories a specific food has, and when it comes to heart health, one thing is very clear: Not all foods are created equal.

Some foods are really good for your heart, some aren’t great (but not terrible either), and others are just downright bad. So, which foods should you eat for better heart health, and which should you avoid? We talked to cardiologists and nutritionists – here’s what to keep in mind.

The Best Foods for Heart Health

Let’s focus on the positive first – the foods you need to eat if you want to improve our heart health. They contain:

We know, we know: The idea that you should eat green leafy vegetables isn’t new or exciting. But most of us can’t get enough of them, and they’re crucial for heart health.

“Leaf green vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, kale, bok choy, and collard greens are an important part of a healthy diet, and something most of us can’t get enough of,” explains Dr. Sanjeev Aggarwal, a former chef from. of cardiac surgery who currently serves as a medical advisor to Hello Heart. “Several studies have shown a reduced incidence of heart disease with an increased intake of green vegetables. Foods such as spinach are heart-healthy superfoods because they are high in potassium, folate and magnesium.”

Folic acid is an important vitamin for a healthy heart, he notes. “It helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid in our blood that can lead to a higher risk of heart disease.”

Salmon is also an excellent food for heart health. “Salmon is a popular source of omega-3 fatty acids,” said dr. Marianela Areces, cardiologist at the Pritikin Longevity Center. “Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects, reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease and have a positive effect in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

Beans, cauliflower and lentils

Foods rich in double fiber, such as beans, cauliflower, and lentils, can benefit the heart. “These foods have been shown to lower cholesterol,” Areces said.

These foods also contain plant sterols and stanols, which are naturally occurring compounds similar to cholesterol that studies have shown can lower cholesterol. Plant sterols and stanols can also be found in fruits such as blueberries and apples.

Whole grains such as quinoa, whole wheat, oats and barley are healthy carbohydrates that lower the risk of heart disease, Aggarwal said. “Quinoa is an excellent heart-healthy food option and is a great substitute for white rice. It’s not only high in protein, but also high in potassium and fiber — both of which help people maintain healthy blood pressure and lower cholesterol.”

It’s very good news for avocado fans.

Another reason to eat avocados? Yes please! “Avocados contain monounsaturated fats that can improve cholesterol and reduce inflammation,” Aggarwal said. “Several studies have shown the positive effects of avocados in lowering the bad form of cholesterol (LDL) that leads to the formation of plaque in the arteries and an increased risk of heart disease. Like quinoa, because of their high amounts of fiber and potassium are effective in controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Looking for something super specific that will benefit the heart? Load up walnuts. “Studies have shown that regular consumption of walnuts can lower our LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol,” explains the Registered Dietitian-nutritionist. Kylene Bogden.

The Worst Foods for Heart Health

Unfortunately, with good comes bad — and unfortunately, there are some really delicious foods that aren’t good for your heart. They contain:

Processed meats can be very tasty (who doesn’t love a hot dog?) but they aren’t very good for your heart. “Consuming even small amounts can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease,” Aggarwal said. “Processed meat often contains a lot of unhealthy saturated fats. Even low-fat options are often high in sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure.”

Sorry, but all that sugar isn’t good for heart health. “These items are loaded with sugars, as well as saturated and trans fats,” Areces said. “A diet high in sugar is harmful to our health in many different ways, including raising triglycerides and insulin levels and contributing to being overweight or obese, which in turn can lead to pre-diabetes or diabetes. These are all known risk factors for the development of heart disease.”

You may want to limit these treats on the cautious side of moderation. “Frying food adds unhealthy trans fats and salt,” Aggarwal said. “Trans fats worsen a person’s cholesterol profile by increasing the bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering the good cholesterol (HDL). Study participants who consumed higher amounts of fried foods had a higher risk of death from coronary artery disease, as reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Foods labeled as low-fat or fat-free

Sounds counterintuitive, right? But according to Aggarwal, these types of foods are not good for heart health. “Foods labeled as low-fat or low-fat give the illusion of being healthy, but it can be just the opposite,” he said. “To maintain the taste, because fat is being taken out, more sugar is pumped in. Read food labels to see how many grams of sugar may have been added as a fat substitute. Many types of natural fats are healthy, so fat-free is not necessarily healthier! Refined sugars and carbohydrates increase the risk of heart disease.”

Think twice before you think diet soda is better for your heart than regular soda.

Mario Tama via Getty Images

Think twice before you think diet soda is better for your heart than regular soda.

If you think diet soda is the answer to your health problems, think again — these drinks may be calorie-free, but they aren’t doing great things for your heart. “While many turn to diet soda to improve their health, the opposite may be true with chronic consumption,” Bogden said. “Not only are artificial sweeteners sweeter than table sugar, causing you to crave more sugar and take in more sugar, which can lead to chronic inflammation, but studies are beginning to emerge suggesting that artificial sweeteners may harm our gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation. promoted and our risk of disease.”

Be careful if you eat a lot of super salty foods. “A diet rich in sodium has deleterious effects on blood pressure, kidney function, and physiological fluid regulation,” explainsd dr. Vicken Zeitjian, a cardiologist. “Most processed foods and commercialized foods are high in sodium, so limited consumption is advised to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

A word about moderation

As the saying goes, “everything in moderation”. But does this also apply to foods that are downright bad for heart health? “A healthy diet is all about moderation, and maintaining your heart health goes beyond your diet,” Aggarwal said. “People need to evaluate their lifestyle choices, exercise habits, stress levels, and more to properly manage their heart health. As far as your diet is concerned, you can definitely enjoy ‘bad’ foods every now and then, if it’s in moderation and balanced with other healthy lifestyle choices Make indulgence the rare exception, not the rule.”

So there you have it: you can enjoy hot dogs and cookies this summer, just don’t be silly. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to load up on the salmon and green leafy vegetables!


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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