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We’ve all had a perfectly good excuse to chow down on a less-than-healthy meal. Maybe we’re crunched for time, too tired to cook, or we say to ourselves, “No harm in just this once.” Sound familiar?

According to Shape magazine, we’ll have to rethink that last one because new research shows that eating even just one meal of processed, saturated fat-filled foods has an immediate, measurable effect on your arteries. We know — we’re not happy about giving up our occasional quarter-pounder either, but this recent study is hard to argue with!

Canadian researchers compared artery function in the same non-smoking, 28-year-old, healthy adults after they ate a “high-fat, Mediterranean-diet type meal that included salmon, almonds, and veggies cooked in olive oil,” with “another high-fat meal, this time consisting of a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich and three hash browns” the same people ate a week later. The research revealed that artery function decreased by 24% compared to that of the healthier meal.

That’s not all. When a meal is high in saturated fats — most commonly found in processed foods — the effect can last up to six hours, slowing circulation, and the ability for oxygen and nutrients to do their important work inside your body.  Shape’s Cynthia Sass says, “In other words, the wrong fats negatively impact circulation, and no matter how active or healthy you are, the effects are immediate and important.” You’ll feel tired, stressed, unable to concentrate — not to mention all those extra calories.

Anyone else suddenly in the mood for salmon salad?

Source: Shape

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