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February 17, 2014

Making Healthier Choices for Better Heart Health


Your heart is one of your most important and most amazing organs. Merely the size of your fist, your heart pumps 5-6 quarts of blood each minute to all parts of your body. That’s why we try so hard to maintain our heart health by exercising and eating right.

And while some foods can protect you from heart problems by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, fighting plaque, and reducing inflammation, others do just the opposite. Today’s post will discuss three less-than-heart-healthy foods and three healthier alternatives that will delight your taste buds and love your heart.

1. Red Meat

It’s not that red meat is bad for you per say, it’s the cut of meat and frequency you consume it that’s the problem. The USDA recommends cuts of lean beef containing less than 10 grams of fat (four and a half grams of saturated fat) as a heart healthier choice. If you want to go even healthier, opt for extra-lean cuts of meat (five grams of total fat, less than two grams of saturated fat) like top sirloin or sirloin tip side steak. 

A healthier alternative: For even leaner red meat, opt for grass-fed bison or buffalo meat. One serving of buffalo meat has about seven grams of fat and 55 mg of cholesterol; a comparable serving size of 90 percent lean beef contains 10 grams of fat and 65 mg of cholesterol.

2. Pizza

The meats used to make pizza, like pepperoni, ham, and sausage, are processed. This means they contain high levels of sodium (which can lead to high blood pressure) and nitrates (which has been linked to cancer). Plus, the cheese on one slice of pizza (which is also likely processed if you’re picking your pie up from a pizza shop) may contain two-thirds of your daily saturated fat intake.

A healthier alternative: Try making your own zucchini pizza boats! To get started, follow the recipe here. Don’t forget to ditch the processed meats for leaner, equally filling substitutes like those discussed above. 

3. Soda

Sugar can lead to the development of atherosclerosis (plaque on the artery walls) because it negatively affects insulin levels. Insulin sends a signal that helps to prevent plaque buildup that can cause our arteries to harden. A 2012 study showed that drinking just one sugar-laden beverage per day increases a man’s heart attack risk by 20 percent. Think diet soda lessens this risk? Think again! A 2012 study found that daily consumption of diet soda also increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and death.

A healthier alternative: Instead of soda or sugary juices, give your water a flavor kick with a slice of lemon or lime. You can also check out our blog on other alternatives for soda and diet drinks.

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