Most of us know the benefits of a healthy diet – making the right food choices is an essential part of avoiding diseases of the heart and stroke. Experiencing a stroke is terrifying and affects many thousands of people annually. Choosing the right foods will help protect against both diseases of the heart and stroke.
Avoid processed pastries, baked goods, crackers, biscuits and chips
Many of the processed foods we love are high in transfats. Transfats, or hydrogenated fats, are often used in commercial products because they reduce the need for refrigeration and extend the shelf life of many food items. It is essential to check the labelling on all foods and avoid any that include the words partially hydrogenated hydrogenated or transfats. You will soon begin to notice that many processed and convenience foods contain this unhealthy additive.
Years of research have conclusively shown that transfats, (hydrogenated fats) contribute to diseases of the heart and stroke as well as diabetes. Transfats increase levels of bad cholesterol and reduce that of good cholesterol. If possible eliminate transfats from your diet – but certainly, no more than 2 grams daily should be consumed. In addition to checking food labels, you should avoid eating fast foods and do more home baking!
Cut down on processed meats
Processed meats, including those that are smoked, are known to be a risk factor for diseases of the heart and stroke. Processed meats, of all kinds, are high in sodium and the preservatives that are known to cause arterial damage. Consumption of processed meats has also been implicated in the development of cancer and diabetes.
In order to avoid eating too much processed meat, it is essential to eat a wide variety of foods; one way of broadening your choice of sandwich filling, for example, is to choose fish instead of pastrami. You may also prefer to buy and prepare your own roast meats.
Cut down on diet sodas
Whilst many of us choose diet, soda because it appears to be the healthy option studies have recently show that diet soda may be linked to diseases of the heart and stroke. Whilst research into the effects of diet soda remains ongoing it seems wise to substitute it with fresh water, the healthiest drink of all.
Red meat is known to have high saturated fat content and the evidence for its role as a risk factor for diseases of the heart and stroke is both well known and conclusive. However, startling research from a large study of 35,000 women in Sweden has concluded that women who eat red meat on a daily basis increase their risk of stroke by as much as 50%.
The saturated fat in red meats is known to cause clogging of the arteries; it now appears that the haemoglobin content of meat poses a specific risk factor for stroke. It is essential that red meat consumption be reduced by replacing it with poultry, fish or a vegetarian protein such as soy protein.
Canned, processed and pre-packed foods
Foods that are processed, pre-cooked, ready to eat, etc. all rely on high levels of sodium as a way of increasing and improving flavour and of, apparent, freshness. Canned soup has been proven to contain extremely high sodium levels, which are far in excess of the daily recommendations.
Sodium is a known risk factor for diseases of the heart and stroke as well as high blood pressure. Checking the labels of food products and preparing healthy meals and soups with fresh ingredients will reduce the sodium content of any diet. Using fresh herbs and spices for added flavour makes a great alternative to using salt.