The number of people diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases increases with each year. There are numerous reasons for that, with unhealthy diet being one of the main factors. Some foods consumed regularly can do real damage to the heart and blood vessels.
1. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Beverages and not foods are the biggest sources of sugar for many Americans. Government reports state that over 45% of women, 54% of men and 60% of children consumed at least one sugar-sweetened drink or soda per day in 2011-2014. The thing is that all these beverages (energy drinks and sodas) are packed with added sugar and empty calories. Thus, a 12-oz soda can contains about 10 teaspoons of added sugar per serving, whereas it’s recommended to take not more than 9 teaspoons for men per day and 6 for women to prevent obesity, which is a heart disease risk factor. Recent studies suggest that there is a link between sweetened beverages and increased risks of dementia and stroke and even diet soda is believed to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events.
2. Processed Meat
Many of us think that a good old-fashioned ham sandwich is a pretty healthy choice, but it turns out that it’s not that healthy after all. Processed meats like bacon, ham, salami, sausage, deli meats (even lean ones) and hot dogs are extremely high in salt and preservatives like nitrites and nitrates – about 50% more nitrates and 400% more sodium per gram than in unprocessed meat – which makes them a major no-no for the heart. Recent studies show that 50 g daily serving of processed meat is associated with 19% higher diabetes risk and 42% higher coronary heart disease risk, whereas unprocessed meat consumption is not associated with such risks.
3. White Bread and Pizza
Foods like pizza, white rice and white bread are rich in carbohydrates which are rapidly absorbed and have a high glycemic index (GI), resulting in a spike in blood sugar levels. An Italian study has shown that those who consume a lot of high-GI foods have an overall increased risk of coronary heart disease. However, researchers say that this affects only women and not men, perhaps that is due to sex-related differences in glucose and lipoprotein metabolism.
4. Canned Soup
While a tasty soup can be a good way to get some calories and curb your hunger, not all soups are as healthy as you might think; actually, certain canned soups can be harmful to your heart. Canned soups have the highest sodium density among all packaged foods, which means they are extremely unhealthy and should be especially avoided by people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Campbell’s regular tomato soup contains around 400 mg of sodium/serving, whereas it’s recommended by the American Heart Association to consume less than 140 mg of sodium/serving. Lower sodium consumption can reduce coronary heart disease risk and also risk of stroke.
Another issue with canned soups is that its plastic lining contains a toxin called BPA (Bisphenol A), which can leach into food. It’s believed that exposure to BPA is linked to an increased risk of various cardiovascular diseases.
It was once believed that margarine is a healthier choice since it’s manufactured from vegetable oils. But those days are long gone – many brands of margarine are even worse than butter. It’s because they contain trans fatty acids which are known to have negative consequences for the health of the heart – they are associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease, and also diabetes type 2.
6. Packaged Juices
Many of the “all-natural” packaged juices are filled with additives and artificial food colorings. Moreover, packaged fruit juices are loaded with enormous amounts of sugar, whereas vegetable juices often have too much sodium added. Increased consumption of sugar contributes to obesity and higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, as for high sodium intake, it’s associated with increased risk of hypertension and stoke.