Foods that impact cardiovascular health

The specific foods we choose are directly involved in several of the key risk factors for developing heart disease and/or suffering a heart attack. Choosing what you eat carefully is one of the simplest yet most important preventative measures you can take.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health report that 10 foods account for nearly half of all heart disease-related deaths.  These foods are ones that are high in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol.  Very simply, if you eat less salt and meat and eat more nuts, fruits and vegetables, you will dramatically lower your risk of heart disease and will enjoy better health throughout your life.

The 10 foods that contribute most to heart attacks

For reference as you review the foods that contribute most to heart attacks, the recommended daily intake of sodium is 2300 milligrams, the recommended daily intake of fat is 44 – 78 grams, the recommended daily intake of sugar is 25g for women and 37g for men, and the recommended daily intake of calories (for someone at an ideal, healthy weight) is 1600 – 2000 for women and 2000 – 2400 for men.

Fried chicken – 4 pieces of fried chicken, not accounting for any side dishes, contain 920 calories, as much as 350mg of cholesterol and as many as 63g of fat. Instead of fried chicken, choose grilled, skinless breasts which have only 120 calories, 70mg of cholesterol and 1.5g of fat each.

Sausage – a single traditional sausage link contains 22g of fat and 810mg of sodium.  In contrast, turkey sausage has just 6g of fat and 125mg of sodium per link.

Cheesecake – 1 serving of chocolate chip cheesecake with chocolate glaze represents 760 calories and 47g of fat.  While plain cheesecake is not ideal, it has only 315 calories and 20g of fat per slice.

Steak – red meat of all kinds contains high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol.  A basic raw sirloin cut represents 600 calories, 18.5g of fat and 191mg of cholesterol.  Those numbers increase depending on how you choose to cook the meat.  Poultry or other forms of protein are much healthier choices.

Burgers – even hamburgers made at home with 80% lean beef have over 210 calories and 15g of fat in every 3 ounce serving.  Ground turkey is a healthy alternative with only 120 calories and 1g of fat per serving.

Pizza – a single slice of plain pizza is an enemy of heart health since it has 551mg of sodium and 10g of fat per slice.  As you add toppings like pepperoni, those numbers go up dramatically.  Instead, make your own pizza with whole wheat dough, tomato sauce, reduced fat cheese and ground turkey.

Pasta – basic spaghetti and meatballs has 1430 calories, 81g of fat and 1295mg of sodium.  Whole wheat pasta is healthier and a good source of fiber. And meatballs made from ground turkey reduce the calories and fat even more.

Ice cream – as an example, Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream has 15g of fat and 22g of sugar in ½ cup.  The frozen yogurt version of Cherry Garcia contains half the calories and only 3g of fat.

Doughnuts – just 1 Krispy Kreme Crème Filled Chocolate doughnut has 340 calories, 20g of fat and 23g of sugar.

Chips – a single 1-ounce bag of plain, salted potato chips has 155 calories, 11g of fat and 149mg of sodium and the average American eats 112 bags each year.  Pita strips and hummus are a much better low-fat, low-sodium choice.

In contrast, the 10 healthiest foods are salmon or other oily fish, walnuts or almonds, raspberries, fat-free milk, beans/legumes, oatmeal, olive oil, dark chocolate, avocados and red grapes.  Each of these helps lower your blood pressure, improves blood vessel elasticity, thins the blood for better flow and keeps your cholesterol and blood sugar levels down.  It’s also important to include vegetables and whole grains in your diet.

Food choice is a critical factor in maintaining cardiovascular health.  To learn more about how diet impacts your cardiovascular health, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.