Foods That Heart Docs Should Avoid (And So Should You!)

We're all familiar with the tale of Jack Sprat who ate no fat, and we all know his wife who ate no lean. What I bet you didn’t know was that she was his cardiologist! Many of us physicians are guilty of the "do as I say, not as I do" food prescription. As a cardiologist, chef and self-admitted foodie, there are several foods that I will not consume for both taste and health reasons. Here are five foods that are bad for your health.

Woman eating hot dog

Three rules to eating healthy

As a chef and food lover, I follow the "it has to taste good first, otherwise it's just medicine" philosophy. You can eat deliciously and healthfully by following my threefold path of "Be's."

  • Be aware and avoid the call of the junk-food siren
  • Be fresh -- but no adulteration (skip the so-called processed "health foods")
  • Be on time and in proportion

Five foods that are bad for your health

With those "Be" principles in mind, let's look at the top five unhealthy foods no cardiologist (or chef) should be eating and why.

1Deli meat sandwich

A recent Harvard study published in the May 2010 issue of Circulation showed no increase in risk of heart disease or diabetes in people eating about four ounces of fresh red meat (pork, lamb, beef) a day. However, the study also demonstrated that people who ate only two ounces of highly processed meat (hot dog, bacon, sausage or deli meat) had more than a 40 percent increase in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and almost 20 percent increase in the risk of developing diabetes. The mayo, condiments and even the bun can be sources of additives, preservatives, salts, sugars and unwanted fats. Eat fresh.

2Chef salads

Though salads are often viewed as health foods, they often contain deli meats (see above), unhealthy dressings and highly processed cheese food substances. Toss salads with fresh, unprocessed ingredients to make salads the heart-healthy food they are meant to be.

3Pre-cut and packaged veggies

Convenient, yes. The healthiest choice? No. Though pre-cut produce is certainly better than eating junk food, once fresh produce items are cut, they start to lose their nutritional value and flavor. You'll reap more health benefits if you buy fruits and vegetables whole and cut and slice them when you need them.

4Vitamins

Not technically a food, supplements can be bad for your health. Keep in mind that a good balanced diet provides all the vitamins you need -- supplements are often unnecessary and should never be consumed to compensate for poor dietary choices. Some studies demonstrate that getting your nutrients from foods offers health benefits, while nutrients from supplements either offer no benefit or actually increase the risk of chronic disease.

5Energy drinks and bars

These convenient grabs often have a high level of added sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other additives. A recent article in the Journal of American Nephrology has correlated added sugars, such as fructose, to the development of hypertension. Eat real food in place of processed meal replacement drinks and bars.

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