Let’s be honest: heart disease is scary. In the United States, nearly one person dies of heart disease every 37 seconds, and about 18.2 million adults above the age of 20 have coronary artery disease. These statistics can sometimes make grocery shopping or eating out an overwhelming process because it’s difficult to know what exactly is good for your heart and what is risky. With all of the different opinions out there, it can be hard to know exactly how to have a healthy heart. We’re here to help you out and we’ve put together a list of surprising foods that you may not have realized are damaging your heart.
Sugary sodas are fairly well-known as bad news. It’s no secret that these are on the warning list of beverages that aren’t great for your heart. Because of this, some may rightfully assume that a diet soda is a safer option. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as regular intake of sugary sodas—yes, including diet—has been proven to increase the risk of heart diseases and diabetes. The Publication of Medicine concluded in a similar study that regular consumption of artificially-sweetened drinks can lead to an increased risk in heart disease as well as increased blood pressure.
It’s normal to get excited about a delicious toasted sub with slices of ham from the local deli and all of your favorite toppings. The bad news is that deli meat (or cold cuts) has been proven to greatly increase your risk of heart disease. A 2020 study found that eating processed meats just two times a week could heighten your risk by 3-7%. The study states that going with seafood for your next lunch can greatly help with heart health. If you’re not a seafood fan, you can also opt for a plant-based protein or grilled chicken.
Pulling out a box of pasta at home is one of the easiest dinner options on those busy evenings. What you might not realize, though, is that processed carbohydrates are risky when it comes to damaging your heart health. Processed carbs like pasta, white bread, and white rice are all known as high GI foods (high glycemic index). Foods like these are known to raise the glucose levels in your body to dangerous amounts. It is always helpful to opt for whole-grain pasta or bread when you’re still craving those carbs!
Some energy bars are healthier than others. But you need to be careful—just because a company advertises themselves as “healthy,” it doesn’t always mean it’s true. If you’re going to reach for the energy bar, check out the back of the box to make sure you can read and pronounce the ingredients. Many energy bars are made with corn syrups, citric acids, and added sugars. Processed foods, also known as ultra-processed foods, have been proven to cause an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and can damage your heart health. If you’re going to reach for an energy bar, try one with real or organic ingredients.
Rotisserie chicken is probably the most enticing smell you’ll encounter in the grocery store. For those fans of this quick, delicious dinner choice, it’s important to know that it can actually put you at risk for heart damage. Not only is rotisserie chicken loaded with sodium, but it’s packed full of saturated fats. Regular consumption of saturated fats is one of the most common causes of heart failure and cardiac disease. Next time when you reach for the rotisserie chicken, opt for chicken breasts to throw on the grill instead!
This one may be surprising because you most likely don’t often think about your condiments as much as you think about the main meal. Unfortunately, condiments can be just as much the culprit as your red meat or diet soda. Ketchup, for example, is full of processed sugar and sodium. Like we mentioned early, processed sugar consumption has a directly negative impact on our cardiovascular health. Next time you’re craving ketchup, try making a simple homemade ketchup recipe and cut back on the salt and sugar.
Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
At first glance, fat-free peanut butter might sound great. However, peanut butter is loaded with healthy fats. When you opt for the fat-free version, you’re sacrificing those good fats for tons of added sugar to compensate for flavor. Added sugars increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Processed Fruit Juice
Fruit juice may be a surprising beverage to find on this list. But when you are choosing a fruit juice to buy, it’s important to look at the ingredients. Many common fruit juices that you buy at the store are actually packed full of sugar and processed ingredients to use as preservatives. Any type of refined carbohydrates, which especially includes drinks loaded with sugar, can increase your risk of heart disease, coronary heart disease, and high blood pressure.
If you’re making fresh smoothies at home, this shouldn’t be much of an issue for your heart. But when you go to the store and buy those premade, bottled fruit smoothies that are packed with added sugars, you may actually be damaging your heart without realizing it. You know now that added sugar is trouble for your heart health. But smoothies are a culprit for another, lesser-known reason. You need fiber in your diet to help regulate your blood lipid levels. When you don’t regulate these levels, you are increasing your risk of heart disease. By drinking fruit in a sugary beverage with zero fibers, you are hindering your abilities to regulate your lipid levels, which can be dangerous.