A healthy diet is the cornerstone of a healthy life, but the focus shouldn’t solely lie on the things you need to include in your dietary regimen. A cardiologist has revealed popular foods that could spell bad news for your cardiovascular health and should be avoided.
From crips to bacon, food staples found in many fridges across the country could be laying harmful groundwork for heart problems. In the UK, around 48,000 people under the age of 75 die from heart and circulatory diseases each year.
Fortunately, smart dietary choices could help reduce your risk of developing these problems. Dr G. Sunthar Kanaganayagam, Consultant Cardiologist at The Lister Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, shared his advice with Express.co.uk.
What foods would you never eat as a cardiologist?
Dr Kanaganayagam: As a cardiologist, I tend to avoid foods that are high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars. This includes processed foods such as fast food, processed meats (e.g. bacon, chorizo), and packaged snacks, as well as sugary drinks.
I am vegetarian but if not, I would steer clear of excessive consumption of red meat and full-fat dairy products, as they are high in saturated fat and trans fats. A diet high in saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.
Of course, we are all human, so the one-off treat is ok but it should be a rare treat rather than part of the daily routine.
Why are these foods harmful to the cardiovascular system?
Dr Kanaganayagam said: These foods can be harmful to the cardiovascular system for several reasons.
Foods high in unhealthy fats, such as trans fats and saturated fats, can raise your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lower your good cholesterol levels (HDL). This can lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. The medical term for this is atherosclerosis.
Foods high in salt can contribute to high blood pressure, a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease. And foods with added sugars can lead to weight gain and increased heart disease risk and diabetes which has an impact on so many different things in the body, including kidneys, eyes and heart.
Are there any swaps that you would recommend instead?
Dr Kanaganayagam said Instead of processed foods, opt for whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (such as avocados, fish, and seeds).
Instead of sugary drinks, try water, unsweetened tea, or infused water with fruits. You can swap red meat for leaner proteins like chicken and fish or increase the number of vegetarian meals you have.
Instead of butter or margarine, try using olive oil or avocado oil instead. Olive oil has recently been shown to be very protective for heart health as well as the risk of cancer (in one study shown to reduce the risk of cancer by 30 percent).
It’s also beneficial to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your diet, such as legumes and tofu.
The key is to focus on balance and moderation. It’s not about eliminating certain foods or food groups, but about making healthier choices most of the time.
If you are concerned about your cardiovascular health, the cardiologist recommended speaking to a medical professional.