An active lifestyle helps you stay fit and healthy. However, people who choose to lead a sedentary lifestyle can improve their overall health and well-being by making the right food choices. Excluding foods that can contribute to various health conditions from your diet is the first step to living a healthy, disease-free life.
According to Frank Hu, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, soft drinks provide empty calories, as they contain no minerals, vitamins or phytochemicals. They lead to weight gain and obesity, as they are high in sugar and calories. Limiting soft drink consumption and being active are important steps in avoiding weight gain and obesity.
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Processed foods are the major sources of sodium, an essential nutrient that can increase blood pressure when you consume them in excessive amounts, according to the European Food Safety Authority. High-sodium intake may increase susceptibility to carcinogens that cause stomach cancer. The recommended daily allowance of sodium is 1,500 milligrams. Examples of processed foods are canned foods, processed meat, bread and pastas made with refined white flour, chips, candies and frozen dinners. According to the EFSA report, studies show that when blood pressure in children increases due to high sodium intake, it can remain high even after reducing sodium intake.
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Foods such as milk products, eggs and poultry are high in cholesterol. Two types of cholesterol exist: good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein or HDL is good cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein or LDL is bad cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, high cholesterol is one of the risk factors for heart attack, stroke and heart disease. When you have too much bad cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the inner walls of your arteries that feed your heart and brain and forms a thick, hard deposit called plaque, which clogs and narrows the arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot forms in an artery that is already narrowed.
Bad or Unhealthy Fats
Unhealthy or bad fats such as saturated fats and trans fats have the potential to increase LDL or bad cholesterol and can increase the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. Saturated fats are fats that consist of fatty acid radicals and triglycerides. Foods rich in saturated fats include beef, lamb, pork, dairy products, milk, cheeses, coconut oil and palm oil. Trans fats are formed when vegetable oils go through hydrogenation and are converted into solid fat. The main sources of trans fat are fried foods and commercially baked goods
- USA Today: Obesity Studies Continue to Stir the Soft-Drink Debate
- European Public Health Alliance: EFSA Highlights the Dangers of Eating Too Much Salt
- American Heart Association: Why Cholesterol Matters
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- CDC Report on Usual Sodium Intake Compared With Dietary Recommendations
Mala Srivastava covers health and business for several online publications. She holds a Master of Science in microbiology from India's HNB Garhwal University and a Master of Pharmaceutical Business Management from ICFAI University.