Heart disease is a serious condition that affects millions of Americans. According to the American Heart Association, more than 82 million American adults (one in three people) have some type of heart disease. Studies have shown that every 1% decrease in your cholesterol lowers your risk of heart disease by 2%, and every 1 milligram/deciliter increase in your good cholesterol (HDL) lowers your risk by 2-5%. What we eat and being aware of what we put in our bodies can be the key to a healthy heart. Here are some of the worst foods for your heart and health:
Stay away from the “bad” fats – Saturated fat and Trans fat.
- Saturated fat: Raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which increases your risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found mainly in animal sources such as meat and dairy products. Foods high in saturated fat include:
- Dairy products made with whole milk
- Fried foods
- Fatty meats
- Chicken and turkey with skin
- Palm and palm kernel oil, coconut oil
- Trans fat: Raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lowers the “good” HDL cholesterol levels. It is a man-made fat used to increase the shelf life of some products. Also known as partially hydrogenated oils. Found in:
- Commercially prepared crackers and cookies (such as the break-and-bake cookies)
- Stick margarine
- Store bought icing
- Canned refrigerated biscuits
- Bakes goods (pastries, doughnuts, cakes, pie crusts)
It is okay to have these foods once in a while. Pay attention to what and how much you are eating. Steer clear of the “bad” fats as much as you can, and choose healthier, unsaturated fats more often. These are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These can help reduce total cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados) can actually help to increase the “good” HDL cholesterol levels. For more information, visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/.
Shelly Edens is a registered dietitian with Memorial Hospital.