Much has changed over the past several decades in the realm of what we know about heart disease and its causes. But one thing has stayed the same: its inevitable link to the American, or”Western,” diet. Experts used to believe that eating a diet high in fat was the important factor that led to heart disease. However, now they understand that certain fats, especially omega-3s and -6s, are not harmful in increasing a person’s risk of heart disease. High sodium intake, high sugary-drink consumption, and low intake of fruits and vegetables are primarily responsible for its approximate 45 percent of U.S. deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, according to Suzanne Steinbaum, M.D., cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and volunteer medical expert for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement.
While your family history and genetics can definitely play a role in your risk for heart disease, the very best method to safeguard your heart is to understand how to read food labels so you can be informed on what to avoid. Here are a few of the worst foods to eat if you’re expecting to ward off heart disease and live a long, healthful life.
1. Sodium-Laden Foods
Foods high in salt run rampant in the U.S. and most everywhere else. Normally, Americans eat more than the milligrams a day. It’s well known that high blood pressure, which directly contributes to heart disease is caused by consuming too much salt. “Approximately half of U.S. adults face an increased risk of high blood pressure due to excessive sodium,” Steinbaum states. “This is especially true in certain high-income inhabitants, including African-Americans, people older than 50, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.”
2. Processed or Cured Meats
Processed meats, particularly processed red meats, have been found to be quite detrimental to the human body. They are not just linked to heart disease but to specific cancers, as well. “The processing is high in salt and loaded with’sodium nitrite,’ that have strong links to cancer and other health problems,” says preventative cardiologist Richard E. Collins, M.D., also called”The Cooking Cardiologist.” Even if you decide on low-fat options, all processed meats are going to be high in salt. It’s best to avoid them. Read the nutrition labels to look for whether they contain nitrates or nitrites, which they do.
3. Sugary Drinks
Drinks are one of the culprits of America’s increase in obesity and diabetes. “Approximately half of adults in the United States have a carbonated beverage daily. Every year, 40,000 Americans die from heart problems resulting from consuming too many sugary drinks,” Steinbaum states. “Sugary drink consumption is directly linked to the development of diabetes and eventually cardiovascular disease.” Because of this, it’s best to stick to water as a main source of hydration. Additionally, always check the nutrition label on drinks. Make sure they are not secretly laden with higher sugar content.
4. Fast-Food Burgers
Fat is receiving of the blame for heart disease than it did decades ago. It’s still a concern–especially the saturated fats you find in animal meat. This is even more so true when saturated fats are combined with notes NYC-based cardiologist Robert Segal, M.D., co-founder of LabFinder.com. “Fast-food restaurants often use low-quality ingredients that, coupled with the high saturated-fat content found in animal meats, is catastrophic to your health,” he says. He suggests making your own, if you’re really craving a hamburger.
5. Deep-Fried Food
Yes, even vegetables can escape the”healthy” label if they are deep-fried. “The usual way we deep-fry generates trans fat, which increases bad cholesterol levels in the body and decreases the good cholesterol,” Dr. Segal says. “When cooking at home, try using olive oil for frying. Avoid anything deep-fried.”
6. Bouillon Cubes
Bouillon cubes (stock cubes that create broth), whether chicken, beef, or vegetable, are filled with monosodium glutamate, also called MSG. “This taste enhancer tells the body to pump insulin. With consumption, that can lead to weight gain. We now know [that ] is really not good for our hearts,” Dr. Segal says. Instead, he suggests making your own stock or broth. This will naturally be MSG-free and will not contain harmful additives.