Top Foods That Are Literally Killing Your Heart
Written by: Angelique Johnson
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, killing more than 610,000 people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every 43 seconds, someone has a heart attack. Yearly, that means about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.
Okay, now that you’re listening, let’s talk about showing that ol’ ticker some love, shall we?
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the main risk factors for heart disease. In order to prevent these conditions, avoiding certain foods is a must.
Although your taste buds may be happy eating some of these foods, your heart (and your waistline) are suffering serious consequences. The following are the absolute WORST foods for your heart.
1. Foods High In Sodium
Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in most foods. Although the body needs sodium in order to properly function, too much can lead to high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your sodium intake to about 1,500 milligrams per day, but sets the maximum at 2,300 milligrams per day.
However, most Americans consume about 3,400 milligrams per day – more than twice the recommended amount. To limit your sodium intake, limit the foods listed below.
- Pizza – A slice of pizza with several toppings can contain more than half of your daily recommended intake of sodium. And that’s just one slice (and who can really have just one most of the time?). For example, just one slice from a large, regular crust Papa John’s pepperoni pizza is 870 mg of sodium! Make that two slices and you’re at 1,740mg for one meal.
- Ramen Noodles – Your favorite college go-to is actually a sodium bomb in a convenient cup. One Instant Lunch cup can contain up to 1,410 mg of sodium, depending on the flavor.
- Fast Food – This should be a no-brainer, but at least 1 in 4 Americans eat some kind of fast food every day. Even purchasing small sizes doesn’t help when it comes to keeping sodium at bay. A burger and a small order of French fries can easily contain 1,400 mg of sodium. And don’t think fast food salads are safe either – a Wendy’s apple pecan chicken salad with the pomegranate salad dressing clocks in at 1,320 mg of sodium.
What To Eat Instead: Try flavoring your homemade foods with different spices in order to enhance flavor without overdoing it on the salt.
2. Foods High In Added Sugar
Your sweet tooth may actually be causing you more harm than just keeping those extra pounds on the hips. Sugar raises triglyceride levels in the body and increases blood pressure. The obvious culprits are sweets and candy, but other foods contain a high amount of hidden sugar you may have not been aware were present.
- Flavored Yogurts – Yes, even Greek yogurt can be hiding sugar in all that goodness. If your yogurt contains more than 8g of sugar (which comes from the milk in the form of lactose), you may be eating as much sugar as found in candy bars. For example, a strawberry Chobani Greek yogurt contains 23g of sugar. That’s almost as much as one package of peanut M&M’s.
- Cereals – Your morning bowl of nourishment might actually be mostly sugar. Some cereals can even be up to 55.6% made of sugar!
- Sodas – Although it’s a well-known fact that sodas are extremely high in sugar, it’s important to note that drinking just one soda per day can increase your chances of getting a heart attack by at least 20%.
What To Eat Instead: Reach for fruits instead of cookies. That way, you can satisfy your sweet tooth AND get wonderful vitamins and antioxidants than can help protect you from cancer.
3. Foods High In Saturated Or Trans Fats
Saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels in the body, which increases your risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease where plaque builds up on the inside your arteries. The American Heart Association recommends keeping saturated fat intake to less than 6% of your total daily caloric intake, which is around 15g per day.
In order to avoid trans fat, make sure to read the ingredients of the products you buy. The Food and Drug Administration allows up to 0.5 grams of trans fats to be in a product without having to put it on the label. If you see partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list, you can bet that that product has trans fat. Limit trans fat intake to less than 2g per day.
- Double Cheese Burgers – That double quarter pounder with cheese is literally killing your heart. One burger contains 19g of saturated fat and 2.5g of trans fat, more of both fats than you should consume in an entire day!
- Onion Rings – Just because they have onions in them doesn’t mean they’re good for you. One order of onion rings can contain more than half of the amount of saturated fat you should be eating in a day.
- Broccoli And Cheddar Soup – Clocking in at over 7g of saturated fat per cup, this delicious soup is clogging your arteries. In fact, most restaurants serve over a one cup serving, so one serving can contain up to 13 g of saturated fat.
What To Eat Instead: Try to avoid fried, breaded and creamy items when eating out at a restaurant. At home, replace butter with avocado on your toast, replace half the ground beef with mushrooms for your burgers and choose lean proteins such as chicken, fish, or plant-based proteins.
And by all means, JUICE your veggies daily and make sure you’re getting in a ton of nutrient-dense produce to fuel your cells – and your heart!
Angelique Johnson is a nutritionist from Miami, FL. Through her own journey in weight loss, she discovered her love for health and nutrition and realized she wanted to help others achieve a healthier lifestyle. Angelique has been featured as a nutrition consult on CBS4 Miami News and is a published author on many online health sites. She is passionate about debunking diet rumors and showing her clients how to have a healthy, balanced relationship with food.
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