The Deadly Foods We Enjoy vs. The Ones We Should Actually Be Eating


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By now everyone knows what they should be eating to stay as healthy as possible, but in real life we sometimes fall short of that glory. There are certain delicious foods that we can’t get enough of, and when we consume too much of them, they put us at risk for death from heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

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The read-em-and-weep list of delicious-but-not-so-good-for-you foods includes processed meats like bacon, bologna and hot dogs. Rounding out the list is red meat — namely steak and hamburgers — and sugary drinks.

These findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, were based on research that, according to U.S. government data, found that 700,000 deaths occurred in 2012 from heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The study showed that the ingredients listed above contributed to 45 percent of those deaths combined.

Related: Eating Just One High-Fat Meal Can Damage Your Metabolism

Study lead author Renata Micha, a public health researcher and nutritionist at Tufts University, said that these particular foods and nutrients were spotlighted because of the direct link they have to specific causes of death. For instance, the over usage of salt can increase blood pressure which in turn can put stress on the arteries and heart. And, according to the study, excess salt was linked to 10 percent of deaths, while overeating processed meats accounted for 8 percent.

A Closer Look at the Good and the Bad

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According to the report, the good foods that most Americans should be including more of in their daily diet include nuts and seeds, seafood rich in omega-3 fats (salmon and sardines), fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. One of the benefits of a regular diet that includes nuts is that they naturally improve cholesterol levels in the body. The study’s recommended amount, based on U.S. government guidelines, says that people should eat five one-ounce servings of nuts or seeds a week, which averages to about 20 nuts per serving.

Of the other items on the ‘good foods’ list, the study recommends eating three average-sized servings of fruit daily. Daily intake of vegetables should consist of two cups cooked or four cups of the raw variety. Two daily servings of whole grains is recommended as well as making sure that your polyunsaturated fat intake, found in oils, is 11 percent of your daily calories. Your consumption of seafood should be in the range of eight ounces weekly.

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It’s important to note that the foods featured on the ‘bad’ list aren’t all bad; they just need to be eaten in moderation. For instance, one weekly serving of red meat, like one medium steak or the equivalent, is recommended. One’s intake of salt, a necessary nutrient, should be kept to 2,000 milligrams daily, which averages to just under a teaspoon.

Processed meats and sugary drinks were among the worst offenders on the bad list; the study says they are not recommended nor necessary for good health.