By Betty Murray
Heart disease is the number one killer of American men and women. Stroke is the number three killer of American men and women. What you eat plays a major role in your risk of developing heart disease.
If you want to keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of heart disease or stroke, here are five foods to avoid.
1. Low-fat foods – Just because the nutrition label says it’s “low-fat” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In many cases, low-fat foods still contain high amounts of calories, which won’t help you keep excess weight off.
2. Red or fatty meats – Red meat is high in saturated fat, which can increase risk of heart disease. If you do eat red meat, stick to lean cuts to reduce your fat intake.
3. Empty calories – Foods high in fat, sugar and sodium are packed with calories but often contain little to no nutritional value. Focusing on a plant-based diet is the best way to stick to a nutrient-dense diet. Although natural, whole foods may contain a lot of calories, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, lean meats, beans, nuts and seeds are all foods rich in nutrients your body can use.
4. Too much salt – Salt raises your blood pressure, which can significantly increase your risk for stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store to avoid packaged foods packed with sodium. When you do purchase something other than fruit, veggies or natural sources of protein, be sure to check the nutrition labels for sodium content. You should keep your daily sodium intake below 2,300mg unless you have high blood pressure, in which case you should cut your sodium intake to under 1,500mg per day.
5. Too much alcohol – Excess alcohol is linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats and heart failure. It can also lead to weight gain, which is another risk factor for heart disease.
A plant-based diet is the most heart healthy diet there is. Load up on fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and protein and avoid process foods. Research shows that people who eat more than five servings of fruit and vegetables a day have about 20 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke than people who eat fewer than three servings a day.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.