Sugar and Processed Foods Increase Heart Disease Risk

You can now add sugar to the list of ingredients that are bad for your heart. The results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that people who eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods have lower levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides.

The study followed a group of 6,000 people. The volunteers were divided into groups according to the amount of added sugars and sweeteners they ingested on a daily basis. The study didn’t consider natural sweeteners, such as those found in fruits and fruit juices.)

Average Level of Sugar Consumption

On average, the study participants ate the equivalent of 21 teaspoons of sugar each day. The group with the highest level of sugar consumption averaged 46 teaspoons of the sweet stuff daily, while the group with the lowest level of sugar consumption came in at an average of 3 teaspoons per day.

In cases where 10 percent of a participant’s diet came from sugar, the likelihood of having a low HDL rate was 50-300 percent higher than for people who were in the group consuming the least amount of sugar.

Increased Sugar Consumption

North American diets are becoming sweeter over time, which is not a good thing. Manufacturers are adding more sugar to their products, partly in response to demand for sweeter products. Processed foods have become more popular with consumers feeling strapped for time in response to increasing demands on their time from work and family obligations.

Foods that you may not consider “sweet” contain sugar, such as ketchup and mayonnaise. This ingredient is also added to prepared soups and spaghetti sauces, as well as baked goods.

If you want to become more aware of sugars in foods, be on the lookout for these ingredients. They are all sugars:

  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Molasses
  • Polydextrose
  • Sucrose

Plant Sterols Work to Lower Cholesterol

If you are looking for ways to lower your cholesterol levels, a compound found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts can help. Plant sterols help to lower the level of cholesterol that is absorbed by the lower digestive tract from the food we eat.

The recommended daily amount for plant sterol consumption is two grams per day. You can get them by eating more fruits and vegetables, but you would have to eat a large amount of them to do so. A better choice is to choose foods that have plant sterols added to them.

Look for this ingredient added to foods like milk products, orange juice, crackers and margarine. Since they don’t change the flavor or texture of the foods they are added to, you can reap the health benefits without being concerned about giving up taste.

People who consume the recommended daily amount of plant sterols in their diet can lower their LDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent.plant sterols photo

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps to keep us healthy by moving cholesterol away from the cells and transporting it to the liver so that it can be broken down and eliminated from the body. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is a health issue because it cannot be broken down in water. Instead, it travels through the bloodstream and is taken to the arteries leading to the heart.

How Plant Sterols Help Lower Cholesterol

On a molecular level, plant sterols are very similar to LDL cholesterol. When a person consumes foods containing plant sterols, these molecules compete with the cholesterols ones for absorption by the lower intestine. As a result, a lower amount of cholesterol is absorbed by the body.

Cholesterol Levels Not Related to Appearance

You may be thinking that you can spot a person who needs to take steps to lower their cholesterol, but that is not the case. Genetics plays a part in cholesterol levels, so an individual can avoid the gym like the plague and eat a high amount of fat in his or her diet and may have a lower cholesterol level than a person who eats well and exercises regularly. The way to find out what your cholesterol level is and whether you need to be making changes to your diet, such as eating more foods containing plant sterols, is to see your doctor and have your levels checked.