Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Worst Foods For Your Heart

1. Processed Meat: Hot dogs, bacon, sausage and deli meats -- even lean ones like turkey -- are made with loads of sodium and preservatives, often including nitrates and nitrites, both of which have been linked to heart problems. "With processing, you lose control over the quality of the ingredients," says Cynthia Thaik, M.D., a Los Angeles-based cardiologist.

Processed meats are also higher in saturated fat and lower in protein than any red meat you could prepare yourself, writes director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and HuffPost blogger, David Katz.

Not convinced to stay away? Processed meats have also been linked to a higher risk of diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

2. Red Meat: Yes, the processed picks are worse for your heart, but that doesn't mean you should go wild for steak. Instead, consider it more of a treat than a staple in your diet: It's still high in saturated fat, even when it's unprocessed. "I don't want to suggest that we have to go [completely] plant-based," says Thaik, "but moderation is always the key."

If you're not planning on changing your carnivore ways anytime soon, at the very least pick a lean cut of beef, which, according to the USDA, contains less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. Or opt for extra-lean, with 5 grams of total fat and less than 2 of saturated fat. Of the 29 cuts that meet these regulations, five are extra-lean, according to the Mayo Clinic, including eye of round roast or steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak and top sirloin steak.

3. Pizza: That cheesy slice may contain as much as two thirds of your daily recommended limit of saturated fat, according to Real Age, which is found mostly in animal products like beef, pork, butter, cream and milk. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 7 percent of total daily calories from saturated fat. (Based on a 2,000-calories-a-day diet, that totals out to about 15 grams a day of saturated fat). 

And even though you may think it's "just cheese," many dairy products are actually highly processed, says Thaik. To lighten up, skip extra cheese and top with veggies instead of pepperoni or sausage.

4. Alfredo Sauce: When you consider that the ingredients in this heavy sauce are butter, cream and cheese, it's easy to see why serving up this pasta dish would pose saturated fat problems -- especially if you're dining out where sauce is ladled over piles of noodles.

If you really love an alfredo dish every now and again, ask for the sauce on the side and stick to just a tablespoon or two. If you're making your own at home, try a lightened-up recipe, like this one from SparkPeople, which replaces butter with olive oil, cream with skim milk and cuts down on the amount of cheese.

The rest are soda, fast food, and fried foods, which are obvious enough that I don't need to put 'em up.

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