3 Types of Foods to Avoid for Cardiovascular Health

3 Types of Foods to Avoid for Cardiovascular Health


Certain foods and hidden ingredients prevalent in our diets may contribute to heart disease—avoiding them can add up to much more than an ounce of prevention.

Recently, Li Keqiang, the former Chinese Premier, unexpectedly passed away due to cardiovascular disease, sparking public concern about cardiovascular health. What precisely constitutes cardiovascular diseases? How do they develop? How can we prevent their onset through our diet? In this article, we will delve into these questions in detail.

Types and Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases stand as the leading cause of death globally, claiming approximately 18 million lives each year—nearly twice the toll of cancer. Cardiovascular diseases typically fall into two major categories: those manifesting in the heart, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), and those affecting the brain, like ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes.

There are several risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. All of these factors are closely linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases.

The fundamental cause of cardiovascular diseases is the damage to blood vessel walls. When these walls are compromised, various components in the blood, including clotting factors, cholesterol, and platelets, can accumulate. This buildup contributes to the stiffening of blood vessels, potentially leading to blockages that can cause thrombosis, infarctions, or vessel rupture.

How to Effectively Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

If we can avoid causing damage to the blood vessel walls, we can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In my opinion, there are at least three factors contributing to blood vessel wall damage: high blood pressure, chronic inflammatory response, and oxidative stress.

We do not have control over genetic and environmental factors, and preventing sudden traumas can be challenging. However, we have full control over our diet. Experts unanimously agree on the critical role of diet in preventing cardiovascular diseases.

So which foods contribute to high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and oxidative stress in our bodies? Avoiding them could potentially prevent damage to blood vessel walls and significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

  1. Avoid Foods That Increase Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can gradually lead to the deterioration of the elastic fibers in blood vessel walls, causing damage. Foods that contribute to high blood pressure include:

  • Salt: Be mindful of your daily salt intake. Avoid overly salty foods, such as canned goods, smoked fish, cheese, and pickled products.
  • Caffeine: While coffee offers various health benefits, excessive consumption can elevate blood pressure. I strongly advise against coffee and strong tea consumption for individuals with high blood pressure.
  • Sodium salt: MSG is a type of sodium salt. While harmless in moderation, excessive intake may increase the desire for more salty foods. Processed foods like canned goods and chips often have high sodium salt content.
  • Sugary drinks: Consuming sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas can lead to elevated blood pressure. Excessive sugar intake can result in conditions such as obesity and insulin resistance, indirectly contributing to an increase in blood pressure.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol not only increases blood pressure but also contributes to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to fatty liver, reducing the body’s insulin sensitivity and causing hypertension.
  1. Avoid Foods That Trigger Chronic Inflammatory Responses

Inflammatory responses can damage the endothelial cells of blood vessels, leading to chronic inflammation and, consequently, causing harm to the blood vessel walls. Four types of foods can cause chronic inflammatory responses:

  • Sugar: Sugar is the primary cause of inflammation in blood vessel wall cells. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (composed of about 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose) are widely used in Western diets. While some may claim they don’t consume much sugar, the reality is that many people unknowingly incorporate substantial amounts of high-carbohydrate foods such as rice, bread, corn, and fruits into their diets. These foods metabolize into sugar in the body, resulting in adverse effects similar to consuming added sugar.

If your diet is well-balanced, occasionally having such foods is not an issue. However, for those with insulin sensitivity, these foods may exacerbate the problem.

study published in the journal Food & Function indicated that mice fed with diets rich in sucrose or fructose exhibited similar adverse effects in terms of carbohydrate metabolism, antioxidant imbalance, inflammatory profile, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  • Refined carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates, including white rice, bread, and baked goods, can also trigger inflammation in the body. These foods have lost most of their nutrients and fiber, essentially equating to sugar. Some individuals may even be allergic to gluten, leading to further inflammatory responses.
  • Non-organic meat: Many people tend to excessively emphasize the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases from eating animal proteins or meat. However, the real issue lies not in animal proteins or fats themselves but in how the animals are raised. Animals fed with natural grass can be eaten in moderation without issue—natural animal protein is beneficial to our health. However, if animals are raised using antibiotics, hormones, and various feeds, eating such meat can be detrimental to the body.
  • Vegetable oil: Vegetable oil is more harmful to health than animal oil because it undergoes more processing, which significantly increases the risk of inflammation in the blood vessel walls.
  1. Avoid Foods That Contribute to Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress occurs when the body produces an excess of free radicals through oxidative reactions. These unstable free radicals seize electrons from the cells of the blood vessel walls, causing damage. Highly processed foods are the primary culprits in inducing oxidative stress in the body.

The proportion of ultra-processed foods in our diet is continuously on the rise. These foods encompass a wide range of products, including mass-produced bread, ready-to-eat meals, fast food, reconstituted meats (such as chicken and fish nuggets), sweets and desserts, salty snacks, breakfast cereals, instant noodles and soups, canned vegetables with additives, sugar-coated dried fruits, sodas, and sweetened beverages.

These highly processed foods usually contain numerous sulfites, which are related to the fermentation agents used in their production. These sulfites can promote the growth of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the intestines, triggering oxidative reactions in the body’s bloodstream.

A study presented at the 2021 European Society of Cardiology annual meeting revealed a correlation between increased consumption of ultra-processed foods and an elevated risk of cardiovascular diseases. The researchers conducted a 10-year follow-up on 2,020 participants without pre-existing cardiovascular diseases. The results showed that individuals consuming an average of 7.5, 13, and 18 servings of ultra-processed foods per week had cardiovascular disease incidence rates of 8.1 percent, 12.2 percent, and 16.6 percent, respectively.

A 2021 research report published in Advances in Nutrition suggested that food additives and neo-formed contaminants generated during food processing may play a role in cardiovascular disease risk. Key biological pathways include changes in serum lipid concentrations, alterations in the interaction between the gut microbiota and the host-microbiota, inflammation, oxidative stress, obesity, dysglycemia (abnormal blood sugar level), insulin resistance, and hypertension.

Prevention is Key

In summary, dietary adjustment is a crucial means of effectively preventing cardiovascular diseases. Among the mentioned foods, the most harmful are sugar, followed by alcohol, ultra-processed foods, excessively processed vegetable oils, and, finally, processed foods appearing under various names with high sugar additives and sulfites. It is essential to avoid these unhealthy foods in daily life, thereby reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Important Notice: This article was also published at www.theepochtimes.com by Jingduan Yang where all credits are due.


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