No matter where you live, you’ve probably walked into this dangerous place

As researchers continue to unravel the link between health and the foods we eat, they’re finding out that geography plays a strong role in the foods we are tempted to eat. Just like accents, regional foods have a personality all their own. And in certain parts of the country, those foods seem to carry a heavy dollop of danger for much of the population.

But no matter where you live, you could be at risk: If you’ve ever succumbed to the lure of Southern-fried chicken at a local fast-food chicken joint, you’ve taken a few steps closer to serious heart problems.

When scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Preventive Medicine looked at the foods being frequently consumed by folks in the southern section of the U.S., they found that the preponderance of fried foods and sweetened drinks are proving, for many people, to be a recipe for heart disaster.

The six-year study showed that people eating diets heavy in foods like fried chicken (and other fried dishes); processed meats like bacon, ham and hot dogs; and sugary beverages like sweet tea were running a significantly higher risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues. They were also found to be at a much bigger risk of dying during the years of the study.

Meanwhile, other research has linked these foods to increasing the chances of a stroke.

“Regardless of your gender, race, or where you live, if you frequently eat a Southern-style diet you should be aware of your risk of heart disease and try to make some gradual changes to your diet,” says researcher James M. Shikany. “Try cutting down the number of times you eat fried foods or processed meats from every day to three days a week as a start, and try substituting baked or grilled chicken or vegetable-based foods.”

Steaming is a great alternative to frying. Or, if you are desperate for something that tastes like French fries, try baking sliced-up potatoes in the oven with oil. A simple way to make faux French fries is to coat the potato slices with coconut oil and bake them at 350. Stir them every ten minutes or so, and in about forty minutes, you can have a reasonable facsimile of French fries. And you’ll be omitting the dangerous effects of fried food.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.