From a nutrition standpoint, heart disease often starts out innocently enough: a few bad choices, followed by a few more. After a number of months or years, those choices create a circulatory system wrought with inflammation and plaque, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Eating to prevent heart disease may seem like a simple proposition, but it’s what that we fail with in shockingly high numbers: heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
The overwhelming rates of overweight and obesity, which come as a consequence of poor nutrition and exercise habits, play a large role in the development of heart disease.
Eating fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats seems like a relatively simple proposition.
But what about what you shouldn’t be eating?
We’ve compiled a list of the top five offenders to phase out of your regular routine to keep your arteries clear and your heart healthy.
Saturated fats increase inflammation and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Steer clear of butter, coconut oil, fatty cuts of meat, whole fat dairy, and baked goods in favor of plant-based oils (olive, canola), nuts and seeds, lean meats, fatty fish, and low-fat dairy.
Trans fat (look for partially or fully hydrogenated oils on product packaging) increase risk for heart disease by increasing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and reducing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Trans fats often hide in restaurant foods, peanut butter, snack foods and cereals, and baked goods.
High Sodium Foods
Sodium increases blood pressure, which can – over time – lead to narrowing of the arteries and even higher blood pressure. Restaurant foods and packaged foods are big offenders: most contain far more salt than what you may identify on your palate. Always skip the salt shaker and make it a goal to eliminate as many packaged foods as possible.
High Sugar Foods
Sugar taxes the cardiovascular system by increasing inflammation and damaging the arterial wall. Over time, this can cause excessive plaque buildup and arterial narrowing.
The average American consumes more than three times the upper limit for added and refined sugars: always skip high-calorie beverages and make a habit of reading product packaging, scanning for sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or other forms of added or refined sugar.