February is Healthy Heart month! Avoiding foods that elevate your blood pressure, bad cholesterol (LDL Levels), impair and elevate your blood sugar, and increase your waist size is a great goal to work on for this month. Become a heart-healthy warrior and remove these foods from your daily menu.
- Bad (LDL) Cholesterol Pumpers: Certain healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, ghee, and avocado oil can help raise your HDL (Healthy Cholesterol Levels), while others such as trans fats increase your LDL (Bad Cholesterol Levels). But what is a trans fat? Trans fats are formed artificially during food processing. This is known as partial hydrogenation – a hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to make it solid. This extends shelf life and adds stability to the processing of food. The intake of trans fatty acids and saturated fatty acids increases low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL – the bad cholesterol) in your blood, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Although the FDA is on a mission to entirely eliminate trans fats, they are still present in many processed foods and baked goods. Even if a product is labeled as having 0 trans fats, there can still be a permissibly low level in the item. No amount is safe and the effect is cumulative if you consume a lot of these products. Avoid these foods as they contribute to increasing your bad cholesterol, thus damaging your blood vessels:
- Non-dairy coffee creamers
- Baked goods likes cakes, cookies, boxed crackers, and pastries
- Ice cream
- Fried foods
- Some margarines
- Fast food
- Frozen pizza dough
- Sodium: Ditch the salt, especially if your blood pressure is elevated. When sodium levels in your blood rise, so does your blood pressure. Uncontrolled blood pressure damages your cardiovascular system which causes your arteries to get stiff and hard and also increases your risk of heart disease. If you are an overweight male and have a high salt intake, studies show that you are 61% more likely to die of heart disease. The difficult thing abut salt is that it is often hidden. Become your own best detective and look for hidden sodium in the following places:
- Anything that is canned – Vegetables, beans, meats, fish, and soups all contain tons of sodium. Check labels and look for low sodium options. Better yet, buy fresh vegetables and meats, fish, and poultry.
- Cold cuts or smoked/processed meats of any kind – This includes bacon, hot dogs, and sausage products.
- Tomato sauce and salsa – In a jar or in a can, tomato sauces and salsas can pack a wallop of sodium. Check labels and purchase low sodium options. Fresh is best here as well! Chop some tomatoes and sauté with some garlic for a tasty homemade version.
- Frozen meals, boxed breads, rolls with salted tops, quick breads, self-rising flour, biscuits, pancake and waffle mixes, frozen pizza, croutons, crackers, processed mixes for potatoes, rice, pastas and stuffing
- Vegetable juices and tomato juices
- Bottled salad dressings and condiments like ketchup and soy sauce
- Sugar and Blood Sugar Deregulators: Keeping your blood sugar in check can help your heart. If you have an impaired glucose tolerance, your risk for diabetes increases and therefore so does your risk for heart disease. Sugar goes by many different names in foods, so sometimes we don’t even recognize them. Be sure to read the label, because the sugars will always be listed here too.
The best sugars for you are the ones that occur naturally in fruits and foods, and nature always lends a beneficial amount of fiber inside these foods as well. Fiber helps to slow down the release of the sugar into your bloodstream and therefore has a lesser effect.
It’s important to remember that sugar doesn’t always look like sugar. Here are some surprising foods that will elevate your blood sugar:
- White rice, white pasta, white breads
- Blended coffee concoctions at fancy coffee shops
- Chinese take-out food
- Bacon, sausage, and cold cuts: The nitrates in these foods are known to impair glucose metabolism.
- Big Belly Boosters: Avoid “big belly boosters!” These items are of special concern because they increase waist circumference and boost belly fat, which is linked to cardiovascular disease.
- MSG: Found in many processed foods, bottled dressings, marinades, and restaurant foods. It is often disguised under many different names and your best way to avoid it is to avoid processed foods altogether and simply cook your own food.
- Potato chips
- Diet soda – Recent studies link diet soda to higher waist circumference and impaired glucose metabolism.
- French fries
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Fruit juices
Track your food each day with the Rolling Strong app. Our app can help you find low-salt and low-fat options on the road by entering your food preferences in the Nutrition tab and using the “Predict a Meal” function to find health menu items in food service places around your location. It’s a known fact that when you write something down, you are more accountable for it. Enter your meals every day and become a heart healthy warrior to make the necessary changes to limit salt, saturated and trans fats, sugar, and those dreaded big belly boosters! Ask your Rolling Strong Coach or find a Coach to work with in the App under the Coach section. Stay accountable and watch the positive results happen!
By: Cindy Luisi WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach