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The 3 worst foods and drinks for your heart

With American obesity on the rise and food manufacturers continuing to find ways to sabotage healthy diets, our hearts are in need of some major TLC.  One way to start caring for your heart is by watching what you eat. Improving your diet lowers your risk for heart disease in many ways. It helps lower high cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin levels. It also prevents obesity.

When Jennifer Teems, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, talks to heart patients, she always recommends a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber, which helps decrease cholesterol,” she says.

The next time you go to the grocery store, think heart-healthy, and try to avoid buying these foods that may be damaging your heart:

1. Processed meat

Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami and all deli meats have added preservatives. Studies have found that the worst types of meats for the heart are those that are processed with high salt content and other added nitrates. Ultimately these should be eliminated from your diet all together. But at the very least, limit processed meats to two 2- to 3-ounce servings per week.

2. Refined and processed grains and carbohydrates

Extensive processing of any food removes many of the healthy nutrients. When whole grains are processed they are stripped of healthy dietary fiber and minerals. This heavy processing destroys the food’s natural structure, which then produces much higher spikes in blood sugar. Processed foods also typically include added ingredients like trans fats, sodium, and sugars.

3. Soft drinks and other sugary drinks

A 12-oz can of soda contains a shocking 10 teaspoons of sugar. Sodas, fruit juices and energy drinks are high in sugar and empty calories, and they increase your chances of gaining weight. The carbohydrates in these drinks also only offer short bursts of energy rather than long-term benefits. Again, stay away from sugary drinks if possible. But if you're going to splurge, keep it to no more than seven 8-oz servings per week.

For patients who seem resistant to change, Teems recommends starting with small goals like meatless Mondays. Extreme diet changes aren’t lasting. Moderation is your best bet for success.

For patients who are receptive to change, Teems recommends a vegan diet.

"Vegan diets are incredibly healthy. You don't have to go extreme vegan, but studies have shown a link between limiting animal products and reduced chronic illnesses, including heart disease."

Click here to learn what you should eat for a healthier heart. 

For more ways to make your everyday life healthier, visit Living Better Health & Wellness.

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