Day in and day out cardiologists see the effects of what a poor diet can do to your heart. And while an occasional indulgence is fine—a glass of red wine here, a piece of chocolate there—there are certain foods they will never let pass their lips.
Bacon, ham, hot dogs, and sausages are a part of many Americans’ daily diets but Jennifer Haythe, MD, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia Presbyterian in New York City won’t go near them. “These products are literally dripping with saturated fats. And we know that sausage and processed meats have been linked to heart failure and cancer,” says Dr. Haythe. What exactly is in processed meat? Processed meat refers to meat that has been salted, cured, fermented or smoked to improve its shelf life. While these foods are quick and convenient, the chemicals and sodium used in processed foods are harmful for our hearts, especially when eaten in larger quantities. Hot dogs also make an appearance on our must-read list of foods to never, ever eat raw.
A tender and juicy steak topped with mushrooms sauteed in butter is a meal you may want to reserve for a special occasion. “That delicious steak in front of you is full of saturated fats, cholesterol, and salt,” says Dr. Haythe. Dr. Haythe advises all her patients to limit red meat to once a month. When you do eat read meat, looks for leaner cuts like eye of round roast, top roast, top sirloin, and sirloin tips. Uses spices and herbs for flavor and steer clear of butter, cream, and hollandaise sauces. And if you’re out to eat, avoid ordering bone-in steaks and these other foods you should never eat at a restaurant.
It’s easy to plow through a bag of potato chips or a giant bowl buttered popcorn, but Dr. Haythe says these snacks can be bite-sized bits of trans-fats, sodium, and carbs. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 99.2 percent of people worldwide consume more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day. (Many health organizations recommend no more than 1,500 milligrams a day.) People who consume more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day account for one in 10 cardiovascular deaths. Does this mean you have to give up popcorn for your next Netflix binge? If you can’t give up popcorn or chips entirely, try switching to baked chips and or lightly salted and buttered popcorn. To keep tabs on your portion, leave the bag of chips or popcorn in the kitchen and place a snack in a single-serving bowl.