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12 Heart Stopping Foods

What we eat makes a massive difference to the health of our hearts. Eating lots of fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre plays a big part in helping us to avoid heart disease and other horrible illnesses. But what about the foods we should avoid if we want to stay heart healthy?

Following a diet that is high in fat and salt can greatly increase cholesterol levels and put you at risk of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions. We look at some of the foods you should definitely avoid if you want to keep your ticker healthy

1. Butter

Packed with dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, eating too much butter is a one way ticket to high cholesterol. Make the changes now - eat margarine (margarine is a plant-based product and therefore doesn't contain the dietary cholesterol in animal-based butter) and cook with olive oil instead.

2. Meat

While there is no reason why red meat, when eaten in moderation, can not be eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet, experts recommend that we do not eat too much of it. Red meat contains fat which is converted to 'bad' cholesterol - so make sure you only eat it occasionally and try and go for the leaner cuts.

3. Cream

It may taste absolutely delicious, but cream is full of saturated fat, which increases blood cholesterol levels and puts you at risk of coronary heart disease. Try using low-fat yoghurt or fromage frais instead.

4. Cake or biscuits

Very few foods have no nutritional benefit, but trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils) are one of them. Used to extend the shelf-life of products, they are found in cakes and biscuits and other unhealthy snacks. Avoid like the plague unless you want to put your heart under unnecessary pressure.

5. Coconut oil

Avoid any dishes made with coconut oil, which is full of undesirable saturated fats. Go for olive oil, corn oil or rapeseed oil instead.

6. Sausages

Keeping your heart in tip-top shape means cutting back on Cut back on sausages as well as fatty meat pies, sausage rolls and breaded meat. Sausages are okay as an occasional treat, but make sure you grill them rather than fry them in lots of oil and pierce the meat to let some of the fat drain out during cooking.

7. Chicken

Weren't expecting that, were you? But while chicken is a great source of protein, it is only low in fat if you remove the skin. Leaving the skin on makes the levels of saturated fat increase by about a third, so make sure you remove any skin before eating. And remember to buy free-range, folks!

8. Cheese

Most of us love the stuff, but the brutal truth is that cheese, especially hard varieties, is high in bad fats. But by checking the nutritional labels you can find cheeses that are lower in fat such as cottage cheese, ricotta or reduced-fat hard cheese.

9. Full-fat milk

Milk is a vital source of calcium, so don't feel like you have to give it up for good. Just try and switch to semi-skimmed or, even better, skimmed to cut down on fat.

10. Crisps

Remember that short list of foods with practically no nutritional value? Add fat-drenched potato crisps to it. If you really must, then go for lower fat and salt varieties.

11. Salad dressing

It may sound ridiculous, but often the fattiest and most calorific dish on a restaurant menu is a salad. Not because of the core ingredients, which should be consumed in abundance, but the salad dressing. While some dressings - made with healthy oils, lemon or herbs - are an excellent choice, some shop-bought products contain dangerous levels of fat and salt. So if you can, go for a basic dressing or, even better, make your own.

12. Fizzy drinks

It is easy to ignore the amount of calories you take in through fluids, and fizzy drinks are among the worst. Fizzy drinks lead to obesity, which in turn puts extra pressure on your heart and can cause other conditions such as diabetes.