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changed my nutrition and lifestyle, I made very different food choices than I do today. In graduate school, especially, my meals were focused on convenience and often consisted of fast food. I felt the effects of my poor dietary choices every single day.

At the time, I understood that the diet I was eating wasn’t good for me, but I didn’t research why. Specifically, I didn’t recognize the impact it was having on my heart. Then, my research led to scientific discoveries surrounding Nitric Oxide (NO), and I started connecting those studies to the nutritional components that influence NO production and endothelial health. In 2003, I started my health transformation, including avoiding some of the main heart health offenders.

So, what foods do I avoid? Here’s my list of seven of the worst foods for heart health:

 

French fries: This common calorie-dense American side item is loaded with saturated fats and salt, both of which impact vascular function.

Fish and chips: While having fatty fish twice per week is recommended by the American Heart Association, deep fried fish is high in saturated fat and sugar, which can negate the benefits you would receive if the fish were grilled or boiled.

Bacon: It may be a popular food, but bacon is a double offender because it’s both a red meat and processed, not to mention usually loaded with salt and preservatives—none of which supports heart health.

Fat-free foods: Foods labeled as fat-free aren’t necessarily healthy; to improve their taste and texture, these foods often contain more sugar, carbs and calories, which contribute to how healthy your heart is.

Couscous: While people tend to think this pasta-like food is healthy, couscous is actually high on the glycemic index (GI) and can contribute to fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin.

Banana chips: Seeing the word “banana” on a package may lead some people to think of the chips as a healthy option, but processing actually removes most of the nutrients and leaves behind high sugar content—again, impacting blood sugar levels.

Muffins: Most muffins aren’t much better for you than a slice of cake; in fact, some muffins can pack as many as 800 calories and more than a third of the daily recommended fat intake, making them a not-so-heart-healthy option.

 

There are many more foods that could make this list, but these seven are some of the worst—and perhaps a couple were even surprising. Keep these foods in mind as you plan your meals and make daily choices. While you may choose to indulge once in a while, I recommend that your regular lifestyle and eating habits benefit your heart, mind and entire body.
Tell us: What foods do you avoid and why?