It’s Official: Processed Food is Bad For Your Heart

A recent study confirmed what we knew all along is true: that the increased consumption of ultra-processed foods correlates directly to bad cardiovascular health.

Researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control in November 2019 released their findings after analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which collected data between 2011 and 2016 from 13,446 adults, 20 years of age and older, who completed a 24-hour dietary recall and answered questions about their cardiovascular health.

Researchers found that for every 5% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods, there was a corresponding decrease in cardiovascular health. Subjects who consumed less than 40% or of their calories from ultra-processed foods had double the chance of having “ideal” heart health compared to people who ate 70% or more of their calories from ultra-processed foods.

Ultra-processed foods are defined as foods that are made of processed and extracted ingredients such as: fats, sugars, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors, colors, emulsifiers, modified starch and other compounds. Examples include packaged snacks, packaged ramen, packaged pastas/rice meals, canned and powdered soups, cakes, cookies, white bread, processed meats, chicken nuggets, most breakfast cereals, and most “convenience” or “fast” food restaurants including many sit-down restaurants that claim fresh food, but are really serving pre-cooked, pre-packaged dishes that are microwaved minutes before being put on a nice plate for serving.

“Ideal” cardiovascular health is defined by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 as measures of healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, avoidance of tobacco products, good nutrition, healthy body weight and adequate physical activity. Over time, just the simple step of avoiding processed food improves your heart health to ideal levels.

So, in the new year, resolve to stay away from the sugar-sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies, chocolates and other quick food and resolve to eat more whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Instead of a bowl of chips, replace with a bowl of carrots. Instead of cookies and cakes, replace with bananas, apples, oranges and plums. Instead of a microwaveable dinner or a fast-food restaurant, bake a potato, steam some vegetables, eat a salad. Learn to make a hearty soup. Cook up beans or lentils. Make dessert fresh fruit or a fresh fruit smoothie. Determine to eat fresh, whole foods and your heart will thank you!

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Danny Kwon JD

Danny is the executive director of Life and Health and identifies with the struggle most people have to eat and live healthy, going back to his days eating fast food and working long hours as an attorney all the way to his present trying to find ways to get his kids to eat their veggies. Those challenges inspire him to produce evidence-based media designed to help people live healthier, happier lives. Danny is also the CEO of Carbon Biotech, the makers of Black Ice charcoal patch and is an attorney licensed in California and Canada.

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