Let's face it, when we pick up a piece of bacon, we know we're choosing deliciousness over health.
But a study by Tufts University published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week has highlighted how food choices Americans are making contribute to almost half of the deaths from heart disease, strokes and diabetes every year.
Those who eat too many of certain unhealthy foods and those who don't eat enough of foods that are good for us are at heightened risk of death resulting from one of the three afflictions.
The research is based on U.S. government data of 700,000 deaths from heart disease, strokes and diabetes in 2012, which was matched up with national health surveys about people's eating habits showing people didn't eat the recommended amounts of certain foods and drinks.
What we're eating too much of:
Salty food: Too much sodium intake was the biggest cause of death from one of the three ailments listed above, accounting for 9.5 percent of deaths. WebMD has a list of some of the worst offenders when it comes to salty food – including pretzels, pasta sauce and instant noodles – and has some ideas about some alternatives.
Processed meats: That would be your bacon, your sausages, hot dogs, salamis, corned beef and jerky, which the study found contributed to 8 percent of heart, diabetes, and stroke deaths in 2012. Avoiding all processed meat isn't just a recommendation for healthier hearts, but is also recommended by the American Institute for Cancer Research to mitigate cancer risk.
Unprocessed red meats: Unsurprising in the land of the burger (and the state of the hotdish), but Americans are eating more beef, pork, veal and lamb than is healthy for them. The study recommends cutting back to one serving per week.
Pop: Referred to as "sugary-sweetened beverages" in the study. Sugary pop was linked to 7.4 percent of heart, diabetes, and stroke deaths in the study, and The Associated Press reports Tufts University researchers backed recent efforts by cities to impose sugar taxes on such drinks.
What we're not eating enough of:
Nuts and seeds: Not eating enough nuts and seeds was a factor in 8.5 percent of the recorded deaths, the study found, recommending that people should eat five, 1-ounce servings of the foods – which are filled with healthy fats – every week.
Polyunsaturated fats: Wait, what? Yes, we know it's not a thing you think about when shopping or eating out, but people not getting enough polyunsaturated fats is causing them health problems. These fats can have a positive impact in the right doses. They are found in soybean, corn and sunflower oil as well as fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.
Seafood high in omega-3 fats:EatingWell lists sardines as having the highest amount of omega-3 per serving, but if you're not a fan then wild salmon or canned albacore tuna might be more up your alley. Mussels and rainbow trout also have high omega-3 content.
Fruits and vegetables: They're so obvious as healthy foods it's barely worth mentioning, but the Tufts study found that 7.6 percent and 7.5 percent of deaths they studied were partially the result of low vegetable and fruit intake, respectively. We should be eating three fruits a day and 2 cups of cooked (or 4 cups raw) of vegetables.
For more information, the USDA has a whole website dedicated to healthy eating that is worth checking out, called Choose My Plate.
Some of the tips it suggests include making half of your dinner plate fruits and vegetables, moving to low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt, making half your grains whole grains and to vary the proteins you eat.