While your diet is widely known as one of the most crucial factors in getting or staying on track when it comes to physical and mental health, new research has actually suggested that 2 out of every 3 deaths from heart disease could have been prevented by making an effort to adopt a healthier diet.
Based on the study, there seems to be a compelling case to make a real effort to eliminate processed foods from our diet—especially if you have a history of cardiovascular disease in your family or already suffer from pre-existing health conditions.
“More than 6 million deaths could be avoided by reducing intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, trans and saturated fats, and added salt and sugar, while increasing intake of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
Ideally, we should eat 200 to 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood each day,” Dr. Xinyao Liu, a researcher at Central South University in Changsha, China, and a study lead author, said in a statement.
But why is processed food really so bad for cardiovascular health?
Think about it like this: According to Bansari Acharya RDN, Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist, for a food item to transform into a form that can stay fresh for a long period of time, a lot of things such as sugar, oil, and fat need to be added to it. Within the oils, particularly hydrogenated oils help to extend the shelf life of many items.
“The health effects of hydrogenated oils are detrimental especially to our heart health. They contain trans fat, which can raise our bad cholesterol and lower our good cholesterol, contributing directly to heart disease,” explains Acharya.
“They also can lead to an increased build-up of visceral fat, which is known to be linked to heart disease. Along with hydrogenated oils, processed food contains tons of added sugars in it, which has been linked to numerous health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and more.”
What’s more, consuming processed food actually makes it harder to weave healthy food into the equation—but that shouldn’t deter you from making the shift to a more whole food diet.
According to Nikola Djordjevic MD, we’re less likely to eat healthy food if we eat junk food before. In fact, if we binge eat highly processed food, we will be less likely to eat foods that are good for our health since there will be less room in our body, and we won’t have the desire to eat more.
It’s always better to do it the other way around if we cannot contain ourselves from eating junk food, as it will help us eat fewer harmful stuff.
Whether you’re ready to shift away from processed food in favor of more healthy alternatives or not, keep in mind that small changes are better than no changes at all.
Processed food not only increases our chance of developing heart disease but also diabetes, obesity, and even an increased risk of depression—which has us wondering if that chicken nugget meal is really worth the indulgence or if it should, in fact, be saved for special occasions.