MHLbannersmallA brief reminder about some heart
unhealthy foods

American Heart Month usually brings with it a variety of recipes and nutritional recommendations for what is generally called a "heart healthy diet," and you're bound to come a across some this month and every other month for that matter. But sometimes, we need a reminder on what constitutes the other side of the coin. Toward that end, your My Healthy Lifestyle newsletter offers a look at some specific food and food groups that are best avoided or significantly reduced in your diet.

hot dogProcessed Meat: This particular category of foods that won't do your body good include a number of popular choices like hot dogs, bacon, sausage and most deli meats. Why? Because they're loaded with sodium and also bring high concentrations of saturated fats as well as unhealthy preservatives like nitrates.

Red Meat: Red meat is an improvement over the processed variety of meat but the high percentage of saturated fat means you would do better to think of it as a special treat rather than a staple of your diet. Along with reducing overall intake, committed carnivores can benefit from at least picking the leanest cuts of beef and avoiding any added sauces.

pizza-Pizza: This one hurts because pizza has long been a mainstay of the convenient, relatively inexpensive and pretty darn tasty meal or snack. But when you consider that one big slice may contain up to two-thirds of the recommended limit of saturated fat (and that the American Heart Association recommends no more than seven percent of our daily total calories come from saturated fat), you can see the problem.

Alfredo Sauces: Butter, cream and cheese. What's not to like, with the possible exception of your daily intake of saturated fat? The good news here is that there are a lot of other and relatively healthier ways to enjoy pasta. But if you're a big fan of fettuccini Alfredo get the sauce on the side and use it sparingly.

fried chickenFried Foods: Don't have to say much about this much-loved but less than healthy category of food, except to make it worse by reminding you that the fat becomes even more saturated as restaurants use their frying oil over and over. There's a little silver lining if you're making fried foods at home (or happen to be traveling in Spain or Italy) since olive oil makes a far better alternative for frying and is definitely worth a try.

Soda: Discussions about heart disease usually bring up such usual suspects as LDL, cholesterol and saturated fat, but there's also considerable evidence that sugar, as it relates to obesity and its effect on insulin, plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis. Studies indicate, in fact, that drinking one sugary beverage a day leads to a 20 percent increase in a man's risk of having a heart attack (and has been linked to increased rates of heart disease in women, too) and that doesn't even take into account what the empty calories do to your weight management efforts.

facts-on-fast-foodFast food: It's true that a growing consciousness on the part of the fast food giants means you can go past the drive-thru window and actually find a few items that aren't loaded with saturated fat (even trans-fat in some cases), sugar or sodium. The problem is most people don't try that. Instead they stick with the old standbys, most of which are recipes for disaster when it comes to heart health. Realistically, few people are simply going to go cold turkey on fast food. But as with the other items mentioned above, making a concerted effort to significantly cut back will do your heart good. And American Heart Month is a great time to re-commit to a diet that's healthier for your heart and for the rest of your body and mind, too.