The heart is an extraordinary muscle, pumping thousands of times each day to keep us alive. Ignoring your heart’s health, however, can lead to adverse health consequences, and in the United States specifically, one person every 33 seconds dies from cardiovascular disease. One way to ensure you are eating the best for your heart is to avoid these 5 high-risk foods:
- Red Meat
Red meats, including beef, veal, and lamb are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which contribute to the formation of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, eventually limiting blood flow. Perhaps surprisingly, pork is another meat that is high in cholesterol, and which should generally be avoided.
When choosing regular protein sources, it’s best to choose products that are low in cholesterol and fat, like chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, or tofu. These products provide the same amount of protein you will find in a serving of steak or ribs but will be much healthier for your heart.
- Bacon, Hot Dogs, and Other Processed Meats
Though extremely tasty, bacon and other processed meats, including hot dogs and deli meats, should also be avoided to maintain a healthy heart. Unfortunately, like the red meat mentioned above, bacon has an abundance of saturated fat, but also contains high levels of sodium, which is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease. While you can enjoy bacon with your breakfast occasionally, it’s much better to stick to alternative breakfast items in your everyday diet.
- Fried Foods
Everyone loves french fries and other fried foods, but did you know that these foods contain high levels of both saturated and trans fats? Trans fats, unique to other fats, both raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while also lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, greatly increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke. Additionally, these fried foods are often extremely salty, posing another risk to your heart health. To appease the craving, try baked or grilled alternatives to keep those fat levels low.
- Sugary Drinks
Many people don’t realize how much sugar they consume every day. It’s in your coffee, cereal, juice, soda, energy drinks, and plenty of other foods you regularly enjoy. Sugar is a contributor to weight gain, which is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, and, if continued, obesity; each of which are separately associated with harmful heart conditions. Instead of soda, try reaching for seltzer or flavored water, without the sugar, the next time you’re at the grocery store.
- Full-fat Dairy Products
While commercials extol the benefits of calcium-rich milk, certain versions of milk, specifically whole milk, can actually be harmful to your heart. That’s because whole milk has a high fat content, which can limit blood flow and force your heart to work harder. Instead of full-fat milk, choose lower-fat options, or opt for plant-based alternatives like oat milk or almond milk, which offer the same creamy texture of regular milk without the harmful fat.
- Heart Disease Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention