Forget real maple syrup, commercial pancake syrup is packed with high fructose corn syrup. This stuff is bad news. High in triglycerides, it’s a short cut to higher blood pressure and higher quantities of low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) circulating in your blood. This puts strain on your heart and increases the body’s chances of suffering a heart attack.
Just because it doesn’t contain sugar, you don’t get a free pass to drink as much diet soda as you like. Instead of natural sugar, diet soda is sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Recent research shows that artificial sweeteners can prompt the same spike in blood sugars as real sugar. This tells your pancreas to up its output of insulin and raises your risk of metabolic disease, including heart disease.
As well as sugar, commercially-baked cakes contain high amounts of partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are a prime source of artery-clogging trans fats, which are known to play a part in heart disease. It’s also worth knowing that trans fats are considered so dangerous that they’ve already been banned from many commercially-prepared foods.
An eternal kiddie favorite, candy is as bad for your heart as it is for your teeth. Fair enough if you’re choosing 70% dark chocolate over a Snickers or packet of gummy bears. However, if you’re regularly snacking on M&Ms, red vines and milk duds, you can expect all that sugar to clog up your arteries. This massively increases your chance of suffering from heart disease.
Crunchy, tasty, ever so moreish – and a nutritionist’s nightmare: this description sums up potato chips to a tee. While the basic ingredient – sliced potato – is natural, the same cannot be said of their salt and fat levels. As an occasional treat, potato chips are passable. However, eat them regularly and you can expect the high sodium levels to impact your heart health by increasing your blood pressure.
Canned soups are convenient and may even seem healthy. However, even if the ingredients include vegetables, the high sodium content that characterizes canned soup negates any potential benefit. According to the Food and Drug Administration, a typical serving of canned soup gives you a whopping 40% of your recommended sodium.
Another very convenient and often cheap dinner option, fried chicken risks ratcheting up your future medical bills. High in sodium and saturated fats, a typical bucket of fried chicken can easily take you over your daily maximum for both. And, of course, sodium and saturated fats are both closely implicated in heart disease risk.
If you don’t drink your coffee black, think hard before supplementing it with anything other than milk or cream. That’s because coffee creamers – whether liquid or powdered – are full of manmade fatty acids, which are notorious for bumping up harmful LDL levels in the blood. At the same time, they also manage to reduce the levels of heart-protecting HDL.
The buttery fluffiness of a croissant is irresistible. However, all croissants are not equal. For instance, a French croissant is made of little more than butter, flour and yeast. Meanwhile, a Dunkin Donut’s croissant is a smorgasbord of monoglycerides, modified palm oil, fructose and corn syrup solids. Neither will win a health award, but the Dunkin Donut’s version is far worse for your heart.
A typical slice of store-bought apply pie contains 6 grams of saturated fat. This is half of your recommended total daily allowance and leaves very little room for seconds! What’s more, many pies – especially meat pies – contain even higher levels of saturated fat. Obviously, saturated fat is a known heart health risk, which makes that pie a particularly unwise choice.
The refined grains that make up white bread are devoid of the fiber, healthy fats, minerals and phytochemicals that help protect the heart. As well as swerving these benefits, white bread also promotes the laying down of belly fat, which indirectly also raises the risk of heart disease. Luckily, the solution is simple: switch to wholegrain bread.
A glass of cold soda on a hot day is a lovely thing. Unfortunately, it’s also a shortcut to additional inches on your waistline and strain on your heart. Regular consumption of sugary soda drinks causes insulin spikes, which can result in heart-straining weight gain and metabolic disorders.
The occasional ice cream isn’t usually a problem in a balanced diet. However, a pint of the stuff is not recommended. Ice cream is high in sugar and fat, and eating it causes an insulin surge. It will also raise the heart rate and systolic blood pressure, making blood platelets stickier. Together, this threatens the effective and healthy function of the heart.
Your burger might not be the same without it, but your heart will be much better off if you skip the ketchup. High in sugar and salt, ketchup is definitely not on the side of the angels. If you want precise figures: a single tablespoon of the stuff contains 4 grams of sugar and 160 milligrams of sodium.
Margarine is often advertised as a heart-healthy alternative to the more traditional butter. However, approach it with caution! Many margarines contain trans fats, which are known to be particularly dangerous for the heart. Butter is actually a better alternative, as is one of the olive oil-rich spreads on the market.
These flaky, savory treats are a perfect match for sausage gravy. Unfortunately, indulge in them too frequently and they’re also a perfect shortcut to heart disease. High in saturated fats and sodium and with almost no protective fiber, they have little to recommend them from a nutritional point of view.
It’s sad but true to say that most flavored yoghurts have never seen a strawberry, raspberry or whatever fruit is on their label. Instead, the fruit flavor is artificial and the yoghurt gets most of its taste and texture from either sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sugar has obvious implications for the waistline, insulin regulation and, ultimately, for the heart, as do, perhaps surprisingly, artificial sweeteners.
Do you flavor soups, stews and casseroles with a bouillon cube? Perhaps you even use them to make a hot drink… but perhaps you should think again. Unfortunately, many popular commercial brands of bouillon cubes contain monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Acting similarly to salt, this has been linked to fat storage and insulin spikes, both of which can increase your risk of heart disease.
Although it’s a common accompaniment to curries, chillies and Asian dishes, white rice is not the healthiest choice. It owes its white color and soft texture to the fact that the original grain was stripped of its husk, germ and bran. Inevitably, too, this means it was stripped of its fiber. As a result, white rice is great at triggering insulin spikes, which can lead to weight gain and heart disease.
Packed with sugar and ice-cream, it should come as little surprise to learn that the typical milkshake doesn’t feature on any healthy eating charts. Weight gain, insulin spikes, an increased risk of heart disease and, as a bonus, dental damage, are all possibilities if you indulge regularly. For a healthier option, make your own sugar-free fruit smoothies.
If your kids enjoy sugary cereals for breakfast, it may be time to think again. All that sugar causes insulin spikes that raise the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. They also promote weight gain and, unfortunately, help lay the foundations for a lifetime of unhealthy eating that may eventually end with heart disease. In the short term, sugary cereal leaves you ravenous after an hour or two.
Bacon’s high levels of sodium and saturated fats are bad news for your heart. The health implications of tucking into a rasher or two of this breakfast time favorite don’t stop there. Most bacon also contains very high levels of nitrates and nitrites to help preserve it. Unfortunately, these are implicated in the development of breast, bowel and prostate cancers. Try opting for turkey bacon strips instead.
Potatoes are a high glycemic food. This means they cause blood sugar spikes, which are not conducive to maintaining a healthy heart. However, turn potatoes into French fries and their healthy eating profile takes a nosedive thanks to the added oil and salt. A baked potato, in moderation, is perhaps a more heart healthy option.
Pouring teriyaki sauce over your chicken definitely produces a tasty dish but your heart won’t thank you for it. High in sugar – sometimes as much as five grams per tablespoon – teriyaki sauce is headed straight for your waistline. With that amount of sugar, it’ll also send your blood sugar levels soaring and lead to an insulin spike.
Multiple studies show that processed meats, including sausage, are one of the worst things you can eat if you want to look after your heart. Their high salt levels will raise your blood pressure while their saturated fat content will fur up your arteries. Both of these problems are closely implicated with the development of serious heart disease.
Bottled fruit juice
Pure fruit juice is definitely better for you than soda. However, it’s still surprisingly sugary, with an average sized serving containing as much as 36 grams of the sweet stuff. Additionally, bottled fruit juice lacks any fiber because it doesn’t contain the skins of the fruit, which lower bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. High sugar levels and zero fiber are bad news for your chances of avoiding heart disease.
Lovely on a slice of toast, a muffin or baked into cakes and pastries, nonetheless, butter is something to approach with caution. Inevitably high in saturated fats and sodium, and almost devoid of fiber, it’s long been associated with an elevated risk of heart disease. In healthy individuals, a small amount of butter can be enjoyed as part of an overall balanced diet.
Did you know that soy sauce has around 1000 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon? It is, of course, why it tastes so good but it’s also why you should look for equally tasty alternatives. Salt is one of the top causes of heart disease. Its role in raising blood pressure is well known but it also stiffens arterial walls, which makes them more vulnerable to blockages.
Quick, convenient and available in a wide range of cuisines, frozen dinners are the best… or are they? Sure, they might help you meet your daily protein needs and they can even include nutrient-rich veggies, but much of their flavoring depends on large quantities of added salt and sugar. These are famously bad for your waistline, blood pressure, artery health and, ultimately, your heart.
Whether it’s on a pizza, mixed with macaroni, or eaten with crackers, cheese is everyone’s favorite – in moderation. Its saturated fat content makes it anything but waistline or heart-friendly. It’s also high in salt, which isn’t good news for your blood pressure or arterial walls. Choosing half-fat cheeses can help but you may prefer to eat the real stuff in much smaller quantities.
It isn’t just the cheese and pepperoni that makes pizza a food to approach with caution. It’s also the lack of fiber in the dough used to make the crust and the inevitably high salt content. Plus, everyone almost always ends up overindulging. If you want a food that’ll make you fat, raise your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and stiffen your artery walls, pizza is the one for you!
Whether it’s home-made or store-bought, there’s an excellent chance that your gravy contains a heart-stopping amount of sodium. Current FDA recommendations suggest no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (salt) per day. One portion of gravy can easily send you over the line, leaving no room for salt in anything else. Too much salt raises your blood pressure and risks the health of your heart.
If you could put a heart attack in a bun, it might look a little like a cheeseburger. First, there’s the fiber free white bun. Next, the meat patty and cheese; both rich in artery-clogging saturated fat and blood pressure-raising salt. Finally, we have the condiments, likely ketchup and mayo, with their high sugar and salt levels. Really, a token piece of lettuce or slice of gherkin is doing nothing.
With their aromatic scent and sweet glaze, a cinnamon bun is an appealing breakfast treat. They are, however, also high in saturated fat and sugar. A single roll usually contains far more calories than you realise. It won’t fill you up either and the ensuing insulin spike will have you looking for something else to eat, well before lunchtime.
Store-bought pasta sauce
Definitely labor-saving, store-bought pasta sauce isn’t usually heart-saving. It might contain a decent quantity of tomatoes and vegetables but it will also contain more salt and sugar than you realise – definitely more than anything you’d put into a home-made version. When it comes to pasta sauces, it really is better to make your own in bulk!
Loaded with saturated fat and sugar, the average brownie is not kind either to your waistline or your heart. However, if you really can’t resist, you can make a healthier home-made alternative. Try swapping the white flour for black beans and oatmeal. Instead of sugar, substitute stevia and a splash or two of gooey maple syrup.
From your heart’s perspective, certain cuts of steak are worse than others. Fattier cuts include T-bone, porterhouse and ribeye – and they’re even worse if you pair them with creamed spinach or butter-laden mash. On the other hand, a leaner cut, such as a sirloin or fillet, isn’t so bad for your heart and is recommended as an alternative by the AHA.
Did you realise that vegetable shortening is basically just saturated fat? The giveaway is the fact that it hardens to a solid at room temperature although, of course, it melts beautifully during the cooking process. Replacing just some of the vegetable shortening and other saturated fats in your diet with polyunsaturated fats can reduce your risk of heart disease.
The perfect accompaniment for nachos or to top a baked potato, sour cream isn’t so great for your heart. Just two tablespoons contain around three and a half grams of saturated, artery-clogging fat. For a healthier alternative, choose mix three parts unsweetened Greek yoghurt with one part sour cream.
Large portions, sweet sauces, lots of salt, the fried coating of the tempura, and the monosodium glutamate… Unfortunately, the average Chinese takeout meal is a nightmare for your heart. In fact, the American Heart Association has gone so far as to state that a meal like this quadruples your risk of suffering a heart attack within two hours of finishing eating.