As a cardiologist who has treated thousands of patients, I am often asked what foods to eat for a healthy heart.
Of course, you don’t need to be a nutritionist to know that you won’t benefit from a consistent diet of cheeseburgers, donuts, and French fries. But there are a number of popular options that aren’t actually good for your heart.
Here are five foods I always try to avoid — and what to choose instead:
A lot of people are surprised to find out Bread and baked goods It is one of the biggest contributors to sodium in our diets. High consumption of sodium can raise blood pressure, which is A major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
For example, regular bread can contain 500 milligrams of sodium, which is one-third of what it contains American Heart Association Recommended daily for most adults.
The refined flour in bread can also spike your blood sugar. And remember, just because it’s brown, that doesn’t make it any better.
As for fiber content, I try to look for grains and seeds visible in each slice, and I aim for at least three grams of fiber per 100 calories.
Too much butter isn’t healthy for your heart, but alternatives like margarine aren’t always better.
There was more trans fat – that raises “bad” cholesterol And lowers “good” cholesterol – in margarine before FDA implementation Ban partially hydrogenated oils In 2015. But just because trans fatty acids are gone, that doesn’t automatically make margarine good for us.
Much of the market is made from palm oil, which contains large amounts of saturated fats that can raise blood cholesterol.
Margarine made from olive or linseed oil is the best option. Olive oil contains only low levels of saturated fat and no trans fats. Another great alternative to butter that I love is mashed avocado.
Milk and dairy products that contain milk fat are the main sources of saturated fatty acids. And while skim milk may be the better option, I still encourage people to switch it up and try alternatives.
Almond, cashew, and macadamia milks are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as are soy, hemp, and flax milks.
If you drink milk because a Good source of calciumKnow that calcium can be found in many different foods. Almonds, broccoli, kale, oranges, beans, edamame, figs, and canned salmon are all heart-healthy options that can add more calcium to your diet.
It may not contain any sugar, but diet soda can mess with your biochemistry. Recent Studies She revealed that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can affect the production of important proteins in our gut that protect against obesity and diabetes.
For the refreshing drink options, I love to have tea filled with drinks Heart healthy compounds That helps fight inflammation and cell damage. It was black and green tea associated with less risk of heart attack and stroke.
Another great option is a glass of sparkling water with some fresh fruit and mint leaves.
Although they may sound healthy, most granola bars contain a lot more than just the oats, nuts, and fruit typically featured on the front of the pack.
Many also come preloaded with Added sugarsAnd artificial sweeteners and other ingredients that are counterproductive, such as palm oil.
I prefer raw nuts as a satisfying snack on their own. When I eat oats, I usually go for breakfast with oatmeal, using dried or fresh fruit as a sweetener.
Dr. Elizabeth Claudas He is a cardiologist and founder The first step to food. Claudas, who trained at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, has published dozens of scientific articles throughout her career, and has written a patient book, “Slaughtering the Giant: The Power of Prevention in Defeating Heart Disease″ and served as the founding editor-in-chief of Cardiosmart.org.
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