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Heart Healthy Diet – Which Foods Should Be Avoided For A Healthy Heart?

We all agree that a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, but which should also be balanced and balanced, is the basis for our health and, among other things, for well-functioning organs. But every organ needs different nutrients and today we want to focus specifically on the heart. What is good for the heart and cardiovascular system and which products should you avoid for a heart-healthy diet? You can find out here!

Heart-healthy nutrition – healthy foods for the heart

Heart Healthy Diet - Which foods and ingredients are harmful to the heart

Over time, the recommendations for an ideal diet that is good for our body change again and again. In addition, there are various diets that promise a great figure. All of this causes confusion: what can and should be eaten, what should be avoided and which foods are good for the heart and the cardiovascular system?

In principle, as long as you trust vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy products, you can’t go wrong. For a heart-healthy diet, you should therefore avoid foods that contain a lot of sodium, i.e. salt, additional sugar and saturated fatty acids, as well as heavily processed products that are fried or even deep-fried.

We explain below why such foods are harmful to heart health and why they are not suitable for a heart-healthy diet.

Sodium (salt) in moderation for a healthy heart

For a heart-healthy diet, reduce salt (sodium)

Too much salt increases blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart attacks, kidney failure and even vision loss over time, according to the American Heart Association. This is because it makes the body hold more water and that makes it harder for the heart to function properly, as explained a 2019 article on sodium.

The ideal blood pressure, which of course can vary individually, is 120/80 or a little below. If it is 140/90 or even higher, it is considered too high. What is worrying is that as much as 33% of Americans suffer from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Avoid:

  • processed meat (preserved in cans or jars, dried meat)
  • Fast food 
  • salty snacks like chips, cookies and crackers or pretzels
  • frozen ready-made food
  • processed cheese

Bad for the heart – foods with added sugar

Heart-healthy diet without added sugar - which foods to avoid

It is nothing new that foods with added sugar are not good for your health. However, they also have a negative effect specifically on the heart. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people whose caloric intake consisted of 17-21% of added sugar were 38% more likely to die from heart disease. In comparison, those participants in the study who only consumed 8% of their calories from added sugar were much less at risk.

But what does that have to do with the heart? Scientists are not entirely sure about this, but they suspect that the sugar not only leads to weight gain, but also increases blood pressure and aggravates inflammation in the body, all of which in turn lead to heart disease.

Why sugar and sugary foods and drinks are bad for the heart

Experts therefore recommend that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 100 calories) of additional sugar and men not more than 9 teaspoons (about 150 calories), which is a total of about 5 to 7% of their daily requirement, for a heart-healthy diet Calories matter.

If you want to eat healthy for the heart, avoid:

  • sweetened beverages, including all kinds of lemonade (e.g. cola), sweetened tea and coffee
  • Sweets
  • Desserts
  • Seasoned sauces, such as ketchup or barbecue sauces
  • processed foods, such as soups, granola and granola bars, and frozen convenience foods

Fried food and fast food

Fried foods and fast foods are not suitable for a heart-healthy diet

There is generally nothing positive to say about fried food. But fried chicken and fish stand out, according to a 2019 study published in the "The BMJ" published, particularly in connection with an increased risk of death from heart disease. The reason for this is the oil used. Since you mostly eat fried food outside of the home, you never know what kind of oil is used for the preparation. Some of them, including the controversial palm oil, form carcinogenic substances due to the heat.

Furthermore, it’s no secret that the oil is usually used multiple times. A 2016 study published in "Toxicology Reports" was published, however, states that the frequent and permanent heating of oil releases the aggressive free radicals, which, among other things, destroy the blood vessels. In addition, fried foods contain salt, which is harmful to the heart, as we have already explained.

Therefore, reduce the consumption of:

  • fried meats, such as chicken nuggets and fish
  • fried finger foods such as french fries, onion rings, cheese
  • fried potato chips and tortillas
  • fried baked goods such as donuts, donuts, spritz cake, etc..

Heart-healthy diet without saturated fat

Polyunsaturated fats should be substituted for saturated fat

Saturated fat is not directly harmful to the heart, but it does promote the development of diabetes as it increases bad cholesterol (LDL). This cholesterol accumulates on the walls of the arteries and can permanently block them. It is therefore advisable to reduce consumption and replace it with polyunsaturated fatty acids for a heart-healthy diet. These can be found in avocados, fish and flaxseed, and according to Harvard Health Publishing, they even reduce the risk of heart disease.

Products that are high in saturated fat and should be reduced are:

  • Palm oil and coconut oil
  • butter
  • cheese
  • fried food
  • animal fat, such as lard, beef fat or fat in chicken skin

Heavily processed and refined grain

White flour products are low in fiber and should be replaced with whole grains

September 2019 was in the "Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality, and Outcomes" publishes that refined grains increase the risk of heart disease. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that they contain little fiber, which experts say not only regulate the glycosis balance in the body, but also lower cholesterol. So fiber is good for the heart. On the other hand, refined grains often contain added sugar, which, as already mentioned, is not a good food for the heart.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to do without the grain completely. Just cut down on the amount and consume heart-strengthening foods with whole grains instead. Fifty-fifty is the keyword here, so to speak. So you can keep snacking on rice if you are a fan of his. Just reduce the amount and replace it with brown rice every now and then, for example. Quinoa can also be used to prepare good food for the heart and is therefore a great substitute for refined grains.

This type of cereal is contained in:

  • White bread
  • white rice
  • Biscuits and crackers
  • Pastries made with white flour

A healthy heart through proper nutrition and diet

Sources and study articles:

Possible Consequences of high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association; items from 2019 about sodium (Salt); High blood pressure figures in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The study from the Journal of the American Medical Association on added sugar can be found here; Study from the BMJ; Study for frequent heating of vegetable oil; Harvard Health Publishing about good and bad fat; Article of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality, and Outcomes