Bad Foods for Your Heart

Oct 6, 2021

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Whether it is high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or treating a heart not beating properly we use medication, and for good reason. Although you cannot feel these medications working, they are a must. These medications have been studied extensively for decades and they save a lot of lives. There is also an argument we have become too reliant on these medications to magically fix the problems and make us feel better. There is more you can do than take pills every day. Living a healthy lifestyle is something you absolutely must attempt to strive for. Not only can this improve your lifespan, but it can also improve your quality of life. Stopping smoking, regular exercise and limiting alcohol is important, however one of the hardest changes to make long-term might be diet.

Processed meats, including cold cuts, bacon, and hot dogs, are some of the worst meats you can put in your body because of their high amount of saturated fats, high salt content and unhealthy additives. Saturated fat intake raises your LDL or bad cholesterol and can lead to plaques and artery buildup. Processed meats have been said to increase your risk of heart disease by up to 40%. While red meat often gets a bad name, if you love a steak go for it in moderation. It's the processed sausages, processed burgers and sliced meats that are what you need to avoid. Also, you will get much more nutritional content and heart healthy omega-3 by choosing a wild fish or bone in grass fed steak. Plus, you are supporting your local farmer or fisherman. If you are having smokies and burgers go with naturally smoked or and nitrate free.

Refined grains cause sharp increases in your insulin or blood sugar levels. Refined grains including white flour and rice, are found in the bread section with long expiry dates, and in packaged foods such as cakes, desserts, cracker snacks and cereals. If a sugar spike is not bad enough, its followed by a sharp decline, leaving you hungrier than ever.

Foods from the deep frier are common in North American diets, and we need to do better. Aside from likely being processed, they are cooked in a seed oil which has been heated and cooled multiple times. Eating deep fried foods only 4 times a week are associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Aside from raising your blood sugar levels with a refined sugar, sodas and sugary drinks also raise triglyceride levels. This increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. These drinks contain a tonne of extra calories which will also lead to weight gain. Sorry Halloween fans, candy is no better. Long term observational studies published in JAMA found you were twice as likely to die from heart disease if you consume 25% or more of your calories from sugar than someone who is under 10%. Although "diet" drinks are a better option, more evidence is emerging artificial sweeteners like aspartame work like sugar and increase your food cravings.

Usually, if its an easy and quick food to prepare with a long shelf life, its not going to be the best for you. Canned soups are often prepared with high sodium as a preservative and to make them taste better. Hypertension Canada says we need to aim for around 2000mg of sodium per day if possible. The tough part is keeping your sodium near this guideline. A can of soup can contain more sodium than this. Ideally for someone with high blood pressure, sodium should be limited to 1500mg per day. Sounds easy but it is not. Give it a try for a week by tracking your sodium intake. Not all canned foods are bad. Many are available in low sodium and will help you get in those daily servings of veggies.

Again, the common theme is processed foods containing poor ingredients. Trans Fats are thought as one of the worst things you can put into your body if you are trying to be heart healthy. These fats provide no nutritional value and work to lower your good cholesterol and raise your bad cholesterol. In fact, these foods have been determined to be so bad the FDA has banned them, forcing food companies remove trans fats from their products. The bad news is processed food products can still have them if in small amounts below a certain threshold. On your food label if you see "partially hydrogenated oil" it likely contains some trans fat. Most nutritional experts would tell you to throw it out.

As dairy free, vegan and meat free are now popular keep your eye out for bad ingredients when making food selections. Unfortunately, because these products must be made to look like the real thing and taste like the real thing, they require multiple additives. The best food for your cardiovascular system is the stuff grown at home, from the land, cooked in your kitchen and made from the heart.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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