A standard Western diet is full of soft drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, condiments, ready-to-eat meals, deep-fried foods, and various other processed foods. These days added sugar can be found even in the least expected foods, such as cured meats, soups, or bread.
Excess sugar consumption may lead to various conditions and diseases, including the increased risk of heart disease. Consuming a high amount of sugar daily in the long term can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation. These pathways eventually lead to heart disease.
According to American Heart Association recommendations, women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar. Meanwhile, men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Avoid highly processed foods and sweets, substituting them with fresh fruits and berries, thus not only reducing the daily intake of added sugar but also increasing various vitamins and minerals intake.
High LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is usually listed as one of the five main risk factors for heart disease. LDL cholesterol can potentially clog blood vessels leading to various heart conditions such as stroke, coronary heart disease, and atherosclerosis.
As with added sugar, most highly processed, deep-fried foods contain a high amount of bad cholesterol. Also, high intakes of red meat, baked goods, and full-fat dairy can increase the accumulation of LDL cholesterol in the blood vessels. In order to avoid high intakes of non-beneficial cholesterol, include more lean meat, fish, fresh vegetables, and whole grains, as well as healthy fat sources – nuts, seeds, and plant oils as these fat sources contain healthy high-density lipoprotein, also known as good cholesterol, which helps to remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream.
When maintaining heart health and reducing LDL cholesterol, saturated fatty acids need to be taken into consideration. The highly increased amount of saturated fatty acids in the long term can raise the LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, and full-fat dairy products. Saturated fats are also found in tropical oils and egg yolks in smaller amounts.
In order to limit the intake of saturated fats, choose low-fat dairy products and plant-based as well as lean animal protein sources, such as poultry, soy products, beans, and lentils.
The most important thing to remember is the overall picture and dietary pattern each day. Balance calorie intake with needs: choose less processed and more fresh foods, plant-based products, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and berries. Meanwhile, reduce salt, sugar, and animal fat in the diet in order to maintain heart health.