Medically reviewed by
Dr. John Patton
McLeod Cardiology Associates
Chicken nuggets, instant soup, pre-packaged baked goods and snacks. Yum, you might say. But your heart and vascular system says “Yuck” to these so-called “ultra-processed” foods.
“These foods put us at risk for many measures of cardiovascular health: cholesterol, body weight, physical activity, nutrition and blood pressure and glucose levels,” says McLeod Cardiologist Dr. John Patton. “Ultra-processed foods pave the way for plaque buildup, heart problems and vascular issues, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.”
WHAT MAKES THEM ULTRA-PROCESSED
Ultra-processed foods are really made of things taken FROM food, but then have added salt, sugar, fats, oils, artificial flavors and emulsifiers used to make processed food last longer. Ultra-processed foods often contain saturated fats, modified starches and cosmetic colors. We often see them advertised as “convenience foods.”
However, our bodies pay for that convenience, which lack vitamins and fibers. They often take the place in our diets of more nutritious foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fresh fruit and lean protein.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
In short, cut down on the ultra-processed food you eat. Of course, that’s easier said than done. So make some simple switches to start down the path to a healthier heart – an apple instead of a candy bar, unsalted nuts instead of potato chips, a fresh chicken breast rather than sliced deli chicken and brown rice instead of a quesadilla.
Find a Cardiologist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, British Medical Journal – Open, American Heart Association, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention