Four Worst Holiday Foods for Heart Health
While we are medical professionals, we aren’t fans of teaching patients to restrict food. We encourage our patients to enjoy all foods in moderation.
However, there are poor foods for heart health we recommend patients avoid. One of your jobs as a doctor is to help patients enjoy a healthy lifestyle, which includes teaching them about less than ideal holiday foods for heart health. Instead, provide them realistic alternative ways to enjoy delicious food with their loved ones.
Keep reading to give your patients practical advice on how to give themselves the best gift this holiday season: a healthy heart.
The Four Worst Holiday Foods You Should Avoid
1. Added Sugar
Consuming too much added sugar is related to high blood pressure and can increase the chance of a heart attack and stroke. Avoiding sugar may seem impossible, but it isn’t. Apple cider and candied sweet potatoes are two popular dishes. While they may seem healthy, they’re laden with sugar and stripped of nutritional fiber.
An easy way to be mindful of sugar during the holiday season is to opt for fresh fruit when you have a sweet tooth, reduce the amount of sugar required in a recipe, or substitute a ripe banana or unsweetened applesauce for sugar to provide sweetness.
Salty foods can be extremely dangerous for people with hypertension or those at risk for developing it. When you consume a lot of sodium, it can increase your blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. Even if your patients aren’t at risk of hypertension, foods with high levels of sodium are still bad for your heart.
Many American holiday foods are chock full of salt. Most households cook ham, and a single serving contains a significant amount of sodium daily value. A few slices of ham can easily take you over the daily value, and that doesn’t account for other salty dishes. Don’t be afraid to enjoy your favorite foods, but be mindful of sodium content.
3. Saturated Fat
When we consume too much saturated fat, it can lead to excess cholesterol in our blood. There are plenty of holiday specialties that include a lot of dairy with high-fat content, which can make it hard to avoid. However, if you are the one making a holiday special then substitute dairy products with plain greek yogurt to reduce the fat content. Foods to avoid include red meat, green bean casserole, and anything with sauces or dips high in saturated fat.
4. Avoid Alcohol
Assuming that the alcohol you’re consuming isn’t filled with sugar, the alcohol itself isn’t going to be an issue for your heart if it’s consumed in moderation. However, if you overindulge in alcohol you are likely to overeat and choose heart-harming food such as the foods mentioned above.
How to Care for Your Heart this Holiday
We’ve discussed what holiday foods to avoid for heart health, but what should you do to keep your heart healthy? Here are some guidelines to recommend for your patients.
1. Stay Active
During the holiday season, we naturally want to rest and relax more than usual. This is natural, and it’s important to enjoy the season with friends and family. However, keep in mind that regular exercise keeps your heart strong, conditioned, and healthy. With less time to devote to exercise, consider movement that boosts your heart health. Bodyweight strength movements, walking, swimming, running, and HIIT cardio all get your heart rate up and keep it strong.
2. Get Enough Rest
Whether it’s a holiday party or the stress of seasonal shopping, we often sleep less during this time. When we don’t sleep well, it’s harder to listen to our hunger cues, manage stress, and enjoy time with loved ones. Make getting enough sleep a priority this season in addition to being mindful about holiday foods for heart health.
3. Listen to Your Body
We tend to eat foods during this season that aren’t fresh and are rich in fats and sugars. You may find yourself feeling sluggish or overstuffed depending on what holiday foods for heart health you’re consuming. Chances are, your body is going to ask for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats moving forward.
4. Stay Hydrated
Water is on the backburner when there are beverages such as apple cider, eggnog, hot cocoa, and more. Less hydration coupled with high amounts of sodium are a recipe for poor heart health. Remember to drink enough water to give your body the boost it needs this holiday season.
Protect Hearts this Holiday
Remind your patients this holiday that they can enjoy special dishes with their friends and family, but they shouldn’t take their heart health for granted and chow down on anything in sight. The short-term and long-term side effects are not worth it, especially considering the poor holiday foods for heart health.
At Vasolabs we are passionate about heart health and want to support physicians by providing on-site cardiac testing. Learn more about our services and how to partner with us on our website.