Heart Disease

Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


4 Worst Foods for Your Heart


Avoid these hard-on-your-heart foods 

By Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD


Quick, name a food that doesn't belong in a heart-healthy diet. An egg-a-day? Nope. That morning cup of coffee? Wrong again.

While these foods may be the subject of some talk when it comes to heart health, there are other foods associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure and heart disease that don't get nearly as much attention. Give your heart a break: aim to nix these 4 unexpectedly bad foods from your diet.


1. White Bread

White Bread

The issue with white sandwich bread is not the color per se, but the fact that it’s typically made of refined, or processed, grains. When whole grains go through the refining process, they’re stripped of two nutritious parts: the bran and the germ layers, which contain all the good-for-you vitamins, minerals and fiber. When a diet includes primarily processed grains, the risk of heart disease increases. 

Smart swap: Instead, choose unrefined (and therefore more slowly digested) whole-grain alternatives. Brown or wild rice, 100% whole-wheat bread and whole-wheat pizza crust are all good options. If you love the taste of white bread, try a loaf of white whole-wheat; it’s a healthier way to get the white bread “experience.”


2. Canned Soup

Canned Soup

While soup can be a great way to curb your appetite for few calories, certain canned soups can potentially be hazardous to your heart. Just 1 cup of chicken noodle soup may contain 1,000 milligrams of sodium, which nearly meets the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendation of 1,500 milligrams per day. 

Too much sodium can accumulate in your blood, which makes your heart work harder to keep up pressure in your arteries.

Smart swap: Homemade soup is ideal, since you can control how much salt you add to the recipe. If you're pressed for time and can't take on a DIY cooking project, shop for low-sodium canned or boxed soups instead.


3. Microwave Popcorn

Microwave Popcorn

Popcorn is not only a nutritious whole grain, it's also delicious and fun to eat! There is, however, an exception. Much of the microwave popcorn on the market is loaded with trans fats, the sneaky fats that raise your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lower your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. One serving can pack as many as 5 grams, which is more than double the AHA’s recommendation of no more than 2 grams a day.

Smart swap: Make it yourself! Popcorn is easy to make with healthful fats, or no fat at all: pop it in a lidded pot on the stovetop, use an air popper or even the microwave. For DIY microwave popcorn: place 1/4 cup of kernels into a microwave-safe bowl, put a lid or plate on top and heat until the kernels stop popping (usually about 2 minutes).


4. Full-Fat Dairy


Dairy foods like yogurt, milk and cheese can all be healthful additions to your diet — if you choose the right ones. Saturated fats — the type that can raise your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol — can add up fast when you choose full-fat dairy products.

Smart swap: Go for nonfat or low-fat dairy choices. You'll get the same bone-building calcium and strengthening protein with little or none of the heart-unhealthy saturated fats. And in most cases you won't even notice the difference!


Published on February 7, 2012. Updated on August 1, 2016. 


Rachel Meltzer Warren is a NYC-area based nutrition writer, educator, and counselor, and the author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian. 

Reviewed by Shira Goldenholz, MD, MPH, on June 28, 2016.
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