Two years ago, the British Heart Foundation issued a dire warning, declaring the nation to be in the throes of “the worst heart care crisis in living memory,” with 39,000 premature deaths attributed to cardiovascular conditions in England alone. Contributing factors to this crisis include widening health disparities, the ongoing pandemic, and persistent strain on the NHS. Amidst these challenges, individuals wield power over their heart health through dietary choices.

“Despite medical advancements, heart disease and stroke remain leading causes of mortality in the Western world,” affirms Dr. Neil Srinivasan, a consultant cardiologist specializing in general cardiology and heart rhythm management. “Factors such as obesity, diabetes, and sedentary lifestyles contribute to elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance, posing significant modern-day challenges.”

Central to these concerns, according to Dr. Srinivasan, is the widespread availability of highly processed foods. Here are some food items that he advises against including in one’s diet:

Ultra-Processed Breakfast Cereals: Starting your day with a sugary bowl of Kellogg’s cereal ranks among the least healthy choices, as these are classified as ultra-processed foods (UPFs). Research suggests a correlation between high UPF consumption and an increased risk of hypertension.

Baked Patisserie Goods and Snack Bars: Treats like pastries and cereal bars, often packed with additives and sugars, contribute to elevated LDL cholesterol levels, which is detrimental to heart health. Opt for homemade porridge, fresh fruit, and plain yogurt instead.

Salty Meats and Fried Foods: Salami, pepperoni, and fried meats, including those found on pizzas or in pies, pose risks due to their high saturated fat content. These foods can elevate cholesterol levels and increase the likelihood of heart disease. Lean protein sources like chicken and fish are preferable.

Processed Snacks: Items like crisps, while tempting, are high in trans fats and sodium, which are linked to heart disease. Moderating consumption of such snacks can help manage calorie intake and stabilize blood glucose levels.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks contribute to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Dr. Srinivasan advises replacing these with water or flavored soda water to reduce health risks.

In contrast, he recommends incorporating nutrient-rich options like nuts, olives, and whole grains into one’s diet to promote heart health. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of moderation when consuming coffee and alcohol, with evidence suggesting potential benefits from moderate consumption of red wine.

While the allure of processed and sugary foods may be strong, Dr. Srinivasan underscores the critical importance of prioritizing heart-healthy choices to mitigate the risk of cardiovascular disease and promote overall well-being.