Food

Common Habits that are Damaging to the Heart

14. You Probably Need More Fiber. There are many benefits to eating fiber, yet far too many people do not get nearly enough. Fiber is like… Trista - October 14, 2021
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14. You Probably Need More Fiber.

There are many benefits to eating fiber, yet far too many people do not get nearly enough. Fiber is like a broom for your insides to sweep out all the toxins that can build up, and getting rid of those toxins is necessary to keep your heart healthy. Plus, fiber slows down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream — something pretty crucial if you want to prevent getting type-two diabetes. Plus, foods that are higher in fiber tend to be less artificial and much healthier. After all, if you compare the fiber content in a bag of chips to the fiber content in an apple or orange, the fruit comes out way on top. 

According to Eat This, Not That!, fiber acts like a detox agent critical to heart health. Plus, it works as a prebiotic that helps improve your microbiome, which is vital to overall health. If you want to increase your fiber intake, adding more fresh produce to your diet is the best way. Swap out sugar-laden cereal bars and granola bars and instead have a banana, pear, or mango. Get a salad instead of a sandwich, and when you get a sandwich, use whole-wheat or multigrain bread instead of white bread. When you go for a pasta dish, make sure that it has vegetables added to it. Likewise, if you get a pizza, get vegetable toppings instead of triple meat. 

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13. Restrict Your Alcohol Intake.

Being a light drinker is not necessarily a problem, and light drinking generally means that you have one drink or less per week. Having a glass of red wine can provide heart-healthy benefits — but no more than one glass. According to WebMD, though, alcohol consumption is associated with higher triglycerides. Triglycerides are the fats in your bloodstream, which can significantly increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and other forms of heart disease. Excessive drinking, or drinking to get drunk, is a risk factor for heart disease, as well as weight gain. Keep in mind that even though alcohol is not very sweet, it has very high sugar content. 

Nowadays, there are quite a few drinks on the market that work as great alcohol alternatives. Plan with a bubbly, alcohol-free alternative if you intend to enjoy a night with friends and anticipate that drinking will be involved. You may be concerned that your friends will think you are a buzzkill, but many people will — at least secretly — applaud your efforts to reduce your alcohol consumption to promote your health. And who knows? You may find that you enjoy an alternative better than alcohol. If you are not yet a drinker, WebMD advises that you not begin.

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12. Reduce Your Consumption of Red Meat.

Many people mistakenly believe that because red meat is high in protein and iron, it is healthy. However, according to WebMD, red meat is very high in saturated fat, which raises your levels of bad cholesterol, which is terrible for your heart. Remember that red meat is not limited to beef; it includes lamb and pork (even though advertisers try to market pork as white meat). You may think that lamb is healthy because it is high in some nutrients, but altogether, it is red meat and not suitable for your heart. Its adverse effects on your health are much more than any benefit, and then there is the horrendous environmental impact of raising the animals to produce red meat. 

Limit your consumption of red meat and look for other sources of protein instead. Opt for fish, turkey, and chicken instead of a hamburger or steak. If you really want to do your heart a favor, start looking at plant-based protein sources, such as tofu, lentils, and beans. These plant-based proteins are not only extremely low in saturated fat, but they are also high in heart-healthy fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. Instead of making beef chili, look for recipes that use ground turkey or even beans instead of meat. You may start noticing immediately that you feel a lot healthier because you have less inflammation in your body and improved circulation from reduced saturated fat.

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11. Swap Out Butter For Something Healthier.

Nothing completes a plate of pancakes like a dab of real butter smothered on, but according to WebMD, butter is high in saturated fats and can raise your triglyceride levels over time. WebMD recommends that you replace butter with something that has beneficial fats, such as olive oil-based spreads. However, be wary of margarine and other butter alternatives without doing your research first. Like sugar alternatives that can actually be worse than eating plain sugar, butter alternatives can be even more harmful than butter itself. Look for spreads that are high in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Spreads made with olive oil, and do not have other oils as fillers, will probably be better for your heart than butter or margarine.

Another fix is to reduce the amount of butter that you are using. Try peanut butter on your toast (or even pancakes and waffles!) for heart-healthy fats and some extra protein. If you like to sauté your vegetables in butter, try steaming them instead to eliminate the fat content and reduce the calories overall. The exception is if you are on keto — but make sure that you do your research first. The worst mistake you can make on keto is replacing carbs with bad fats, especially saturated fats and trans fats. Make sure that you are eating good fats, such as olive oil and avocados. 

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10. Be Mindful About Your Eating.

According to Eat This, Not That!, many people are mindless about eating. Like many people, you are probably guilty of sitting down with some food and munching while binging on Netflix or Disney Plus. Next thing you know, the whole bag of potato chips or the entire tub of ice cream has been demolished, and you hardly even remember eating it. This kind of mindless eating is terrible for your health, in no small part because the foods that people tend to binge on are loaded with artificial fats, preservatives, sugar, and salt. Because mindless eating happens while watching television, a sedentary activity, there is a double whammy for weight gain.

There are things you can do to mitigate the harmful effects of mindless eating. One is to make a habit of not eating while watching television; instead, try to eat with other people and have an enjoyable conversation as part of your meal. Set some reasonable limits whenever you need to take some time to de-stress by eating and binging on your favorite series. Set a timer so that you do not watch for longer than two hours at a time, and then get up and move around. Instead of sitting down with a bag of chips and a soda, or a tub of ice cream, make a fruit salad out of your favorite fruits and maybe some chopped nuts. Alternatively, try chips made from beans instead of flour to get more fiber instead of straight carbs and hydrogenated oils.

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9. Sweetened Yogurt Can Be Similar To Ice Cream.

Companies tend to market yogurt as a healthy product, and sometimes, it is. Plain, unsweetened yogurt with live cultures is full of helpful bacteria that benefit your gut. These beneficial bacteria feed your microbiome, leading to better colon health and, consequently, a healthier heart! According to WebMD, eating this kind of yogurt can lower your blood pressure, reduce inflammation throughout your body, and decrease your risk of heart disease. Look especially for low-fat varieties. Low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt, in particular, has been filtered to contain high levels of protein to help you stay full, energized, and focused.

Don’t fool yourself into believing that eating yogurt is always a healthy option! The problem is that many varieties of yogurt are loaded with sugar, so much sugar that you might as well be eating ice cream. Pre-packaged yogurt that has been sweetened usually does not have the live cultures that benefit your gut and heart. Opt for the plain version, which generally comes in larger containers, or learn to make your own. If you have an Instant Pot, you can make yogurt for much cheaper than buying it. Flavor it yourself with fresh fruit, vanilla, cinnamon, and a little bit of honey or sugar to make your snack a healthy one for your heart.

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8. Ditch The Fried Chicken.

Chicken on its own can be a healthy source of lean protein. It is much more beneficial than red meat, which tends to be loaded with antibiotics and causes inflammation that raises your risk of heart disease. Plus, red meat is full of saturated fat, unlike chicken and other forms of poultry. But according to WebMD, you can negate all of the health benefits of chicken by deep-frying it. Frying chicken adds unnecessary fats and not good heart-healthy fats, either. One effect is elevated triglycerides, which harm your heart health. The added calories can quickly lead to weight gain, increasing your risk of heart disease, especially when that extra fat is in your abdominal area.

Suppose you want your chicken to be crispy. Try breading it and then baking it. Alternatively, you can start trying baked chicken, which can get a nice, crispy skin and be used in many different recipes. Many restaurants now offer grilled or roasted chicken strips instead of fried ones if you are going out to eat. If your kids (or you!) enjoy eating chicken nuggets or chicken strips, make sure you bake them in the oven instead of frying them. You will enjoy eating crispy chicken, but with the lean protein your heart needs and without the adverse health effects of deep-frying. 

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7. Canned Soup Is Less Healthy Than It Sounds.

Opening a vegetable soup can may seem like a quick and easy way to get some extra vegetables, especially at the end of a long day when you need some extra vitamins and minerals. However, according to WebMD, canned soup tends to be very high in sodium, which wreaks havoc on your cardiovascular system. Your worst option is cream of something soup, be it a healthy-sounding cream of mushroom or cream of celery, or cream of chicken. Creamed soups are exceptionally high in heart-unhealthy saturated fat, in addition to sodium. Many people use creamed soups to make casseroles, such as green bean casserole and tuna casserole, adding in these health-busting ingredients.

Instead, look at recipes for making your own soup. Homemade soup can be exceptionally healthy, especially when full of vegetables, herbs, and spices. Preparing is not nearly as difficult as you may think, especially if you have a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Many recipes allow you to add all of the ingredients into a slow cooker before you leave for the day, so you have smooth and healthy soup whenever you get home in the evening. Other recipes take 30 minutes or less in the Instant Pot. If you have a hectic schedule that makes preparing soup sound like way too much of a time investment, take a few hours a week to do some meal prep

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6. Soda Wreaks Havoc On Your Heart.

If you are a soda drinker and want to improve your heart health, you need to eliminate the soda from your diet immediately. Soda is incredibly high in sugar, which damages every single aspect of your health, including your heart health. According to WebMD, one can of soda has more sugar than you should consume in an entire day! Moreover, because that sugar is all in liquid calories, you will not feel full at all no matter how much you drink. Not only can doctors link soda to higher rates of obesity and type-two diabetes, but they connect it to heart disease and stroke. Soda is bad news all around. 

Juice is better than soda, but not much. Juice is still very high in sugar, and the process of juicing eliminates the fiber that is in the whole fruit. A much better option is vegetable juice that may have some fruit added for flavor because vegetable juice has far less sugar and is much richer in nutrients (as long as it has not been overly processed; cold-pressed is best). If you are craving fizziness, add some carbonated water to juice. You could also try drinking kombucha, which has the fizziness of a soda but also has many health benefits that soda could never even dream of providing. Another great option is smoothies, but be careful not to order smoothies from restaurants, which tend to be loaded with sugar and lack fresh fruit. Make your own smoothies at home, and do not add any sugar.

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5. You Probably Need More Protective Foods.

Most people need to eat fewer harmful foods that are absolute bombs to wreck not only heart health but every other aspect of health. Fewer chips, less ice cream, less soda. However, what about foods that are actually beneficial for your heart? According to Eat This, Not That!, there are plenty of foods that help to protect your heart. These foods are rich in antioxidants, which neutralize the free radicals wreaking havoc throughout your body. They are full of heart-healthy fats, like omega-3 and replete with heart-healthy fiber. And best of all, if you prepare them well, they are delicious!

Things like salmon, avocados, berries, and nuts are great for protecting your heart. Nevertheless, are you too busy to incorporate these heart-healthy foods into your regular diet? Have some bean chips with guacamole for a high dose of fiber and the healthy fats in avocados. Grill some salmon instead of throwing a beefsteak on the grill and filling your body with inflammatory-producing red meat. Make a smoothie with berries and almond milk and pair it with a slice of high-fiber toast (not from white bread), topped with peanut butter instead of butter or sugar-rich Nutella. Get a brown rice bowl with lots of veggies instead of a panini if you order lunch at work. And on your day off, take an hour to prepare a grocery list that includes these heart-healthy foods and then another hour to do some meal prep with them.

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4. Baked Goods Can Be Heart-Health Nightmares.

Cakes, cookies, pastries, and other baked goods can be the ultimate comfort foods, but they can absolutely devastate your heart health. According to WebMD, they tend to be high in saturated fats and sugar, and their primary ingredient is often white flour. White flour is basically processed by your body much the same way as sugar, leading to energy spikes and then crashes; plus, you feel hungry very soon afterward. Going to a bakery on a Saturday morning can be tempting, but if you want to improve your heart health, you may want to swap that habit out for healthier ones.

A better option than going to the bakery or buying a box of baked goods from the grocery store is to make them yourself. You will be able to see every ingredient that goes into your treats to get a good idea of how healthy or harmful the final product will be. The best part is looking for recipes that use healthy ingredients, such as ground flaxseed or oatmeal instead of flour. Muffins tend to be awful when you buy them from the store, but baking muffins is a great way to add in many superfoods! Plus, your whole house will smell like a bakery with all the freshly baked goods you prepare! Make sure that you do not over-indulge by eating too many in one sitting.

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3. Ranch Dressing Is Full Of Fat, Sugar, And Salt.

Many people think ranch dressing is an innocuous way to eat more vegetables because it makes such a great dip. But according to WebMD, the reality is that ranch dressing is made with lots of buttermilk — which is very high in saturated fat — sugar, and salt. All of these ingredients can devastate your heart health, especially when consumed in large quantities over a long period. In other words, eating your vegetables with ranch regularly can harm your health rather than help it. Moreover, many people don’t only eat ranch with vegetables. They also use it to dip French fries, bread, even pizza! These food combinations are a heart-health nightmare that is bound to increase your risk of heart disease. 

Some people may think that low-fat ranch dressing is a better option, but low-fat options tend to have even higher amounts of fat and sugar to compensate. A much better option is to look for recipes for making your own ranch dressing using low-fat sour cream or cottage cheese and fresh herbs. Herbs such as parsley, dill, chives, and cilantro will work to protect your heart; eating homemade ranch dip with your favorite vegetables will undoubtedly make a much healthier snack. Furthermore, instead of slathering sandwiches with ranch, try heart-healthy options such as smashed avocado (or even guacamole!) or hummus. 

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2. Ice Cream Should Be An Occasional Treat.

Few things are more refreshing than a nice bowl or cone of ice cream, but few things can cause as many problems for your heart. According to WebMD, ice cream is loaded with sugar and saturated fat. As a result, you have elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, leading to high blood pressure. In turn, you are increasing your risk of heart disease. Plus, a serving of ice cream is just one-half of a cup, but many people indulge by eating an entire pint or more in just one sitting. By the time you add in the toppings, you are looking at an absolute health nightmare. 

There are alternatives to eating ice cream, such as sorbet, which is basically a fruit that has been frozen to have a creamy consistency. Frozen fruit bars can be a healthy option. However, check the label to see if there is extra sugar, and to make sure it has real, whole fruit. A cheaper (and tastier!) alternative would be to make your own. You can also swap out ice cream for frozen yogurt, which has much less fat. Instead of topping it with sugary toppings, top it with fresh fruit. The fiber will help slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream so that you will not have a spike and then crash.

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1. You Might Be Eating Too Many Calories.

The nutrition information on pretty much all food labels is based on 2000 calories a day. However, the fact is, most people do not need nearly that many calories. Many foods that people consume are very high in calories. You can quickly go to a restaurant and put down 2000 calories in just one meal! The problem is that those extra calories have to go somewhere. So, you end up storing them as fat. That excess fat leads to elevated triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar, all of which are horrible for your heart. Plus, when the fat is stored in your abdomen, your heart has to work extra hard to do its job. You probably need to reduce the amount of junk food you eat, which has very little nutrition for the high amount of calories. And you probably need also to reduce the meals you eat at restaurants, even the so-called “healthy” meals, such as grilled sandwiches. They are super high in calories.

But according to Eat This, Not That!, you can overeat on healthy foods, such as salmon, quinoa, and fruit. How? By eating more calories than you are burning, causing those extra calories to turn into body fat, triglycerides, and excessive blood sugar. Stick with a standard serving size and make sure you eat plenty of fiber to help you feel full. You may want to take one week to count your calories to know just how many you are consuming. What may surprise you is how many calories are in the things that you add, such as the dressing you use to marinate salmon or the sauce that you use on your favorite sandwich. 

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