Living in the City of Brotherly Love, there is nothing I enjoy more than trying out a new restaurant and experiencing all the different tastes Philly has to offer. Sushi, Mexican, Italian, and especially a good Philly cheesesteak — I love them all! Although tasty in the moment, a lot of the delicious treats that many of us enjoy can actually be doing more harm to our bodies than we realize. While it’s okay to indulge in moderation, you’d be surprised at just how many Americans take in too much salt, fat, and sugar each day.
Heart disease has been found to be the leading cause of death among Americans killing approximately one person every 39 seconds (wow!). Along with healthy lifestyle choices like exercising and ditching cigarettes, what you’re putting into your body has been found to directly affect your heart health. In honor of American Heart Month, let’s discuss some foods you should try to minimize or cut out completely in 2014 for a more happy heart.
1) Trans Fat: We’ve all heard of trans fats and know they aren’t good for us…. but why? Trans fats are unsaturated fats, which are uncommonly found in nature, but can be created artificially. Like saturated fats, trans fats raise your “bad” cholesterol while at the same time lowering your “good” cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fat you eat to less than 1% of your daily calories. The easiest way to do this is to avoid foods that contain “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list. Some common culprits include packaged snacks, crackers, bakery goods and some margarine.
2) Saturated Fat: Butter, sour cream, mayo. Yep, all the stuff we love to throw on top of our favorite dishes. Saturated fats also raise “bad” cholesterol that can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries over time. Saturated fats should be limited to 5% or less of your total calories. How to do that, you ask? Try replacing butter with vegetable based oils (olive and canola) and substituting lean meat and beans for higher-fat meats.
3) Salt: According to the American Heart Association, Americans take in an average of 3,400 milligrams each day (about a third more than the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg). Cutting your salt intake can help lower blood pressure and help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure over time. An easy way to reduce salt intake is “don’t add it if you can’t taste it.” For example, try not to add salt to boiling water, but rather add it to a dish towards the end of cooking when you will taste it most. A little goes a long way! You can also try to replace sodium filled processed foods with fresh food, which is always healthier.
4) Added Sugars: Americans sure have a sweet tooth! According to the American Heart Association, we consume about 355 calories, or 22 teaspoons, of added sugar every day. Added sugars are those that give us calories without any nutritional value. Some added sugar culprits include corn sweetener or syrup, honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, and the ever so dreaded high fructose corn syrup. It is recommended that women limit their added sugars to 6 teaspoons a day while men limit theirs to around 9. Still craving something sweet? Try eating foods with natural sugar in them like fruit or yogurt.
For more heart healthy tips and information, check out these great resources: