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Three Foods to Avoid for Heart Health

by Cindy Gray

Recent data from the American Heart Association reveals that one person dies every 39 seconds from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death in the United States.  In addition to other healthy lifestyle strategies, diet can play a big role when it comes to heart health.  Knowing what to eat and what not to eat can help ensure the healthiest heart possible.  According to experts at Harvard University, foods to avoid for heart health include processed meats, refined grains and other processed carbohydrates, and sugary beverages. 

Because they contain nitrates, salts, and other preservatives, processed meats are one of the foods to avoid for hearth health.

1.  Processed Meats

Products like bacon, hot dogs, salami, sausage, and many sandwich meats are processed with nitrates, salts, and other preservatives.  A recent review study from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that daily consumption of 50 grams of processed meats raised risks for heart attack by 42%.  Because eating unprocessed red meat showed no higher risk for heart attack, researchers attributed the higher risks for consumption of processed meats to nitrates, sodium, and preservatives rather than saturated fat and cholesterol.

2.  Refined Grains and Other Processed Carbohydrates

Many studies link the consumption of whole grains like stone ground bread and steel-cut oats to lower risks for heart disease and stroke.  Refining removes fiber, minerals, and fatty acids from grain, thereby taking away much of the nutrition.  Bread, pasta, and baked goods made from white flour are examples of refined products, as are white rice, and pearl barley.  Processing adds ingredients that harm the health like dyes, sugar, sodium, and trans fats.  Examples of processed carbohydrates include packaged baked goods, snack products, and sugary breakfast cereals.  

Related:  Antioxidants and Heart Health

3.  Sugary Beverages

According to the American Heart Association, people who get 17 to 21 percent of their daily calories from sugar raise risks for dying from cardiovascular disease by 38%, as compared to people who get 8% or less of their daily calories from sugar.

One easy way to cut back on sugar is to eliminate sugary beverages from the diet.  These include sodas, sports drinks, and even fruit juices.  While sugar-free sodas seem like a viable option, they contain chemicals that may be harmful to the health.  The best beverage choices include water, naturally-flavored water, or tea and coffee sweetened with all-natural stevia.

Diet makes a big difference when it comes to a healthy heart and overall health.  Knowing what foods to avoid for heart health helps ensure this life-giving organ pumps strong.   To ensure the healthiest heart possible, keep processed meats, refined grains, and sugary drinks out of the shopping cart, the refrigerator, and your body!

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