The Surprising Foods That Could Actually Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

There are some foods, like fresh vegetables, that are obviously healthy. And there are some foods, like milkshakes and Big Macs, that are obviously unhealthy. However, most foods fall in that ambiguous area of not clearly being one or the other. If you’re looking to lower your risk of heart disease, try to avoid these foods. Spoiler alert: You might be surprised by some of the items on this list.

Canned veggies

Female with daughter choosing canned goods

These canned goods aren’t exactly “good” for you. | iStock.com/JackF

Canned foods last so long because they’re usually preserved with sodium. For example, a half cup of fresh tomatoes has only 6 milligrams of sodium. However, a half cup of diced tomatoes has around 250 milligrams. Since sodium can increase blood pressure, too much of it also ups your risk of heart disease. Always try to choose fresh veggies over canned.

Next: This sauce isn’t as healthy as it seems. 

Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce in pan

The salt content is way too high. | iStock.com/ lewkmiller

While tomatoes have great benefits like vitamin C and lycopene, canned tomato sauce can put some serious strain on your heart. That’s because, similar to canned veggies, tomato sauce is preserved with salt. Since salt pulls water into your blood vessels to increase pressure, it can be damaging to your heart in the long run. Make your own tomato sauce (with fresh tomatoes), so you can keep better track of its salt content.

Next: This hearty favorite is bad for your heart. 

Pasta

Italian food: Pasta alla Norma

If you go with pasta, choose the whole wheat variety. | iStock.com/ALLEKO

White pasta contains simple carbohydrates, or simple sugars. Simple sugars create a spike in blood sugar, which can damage your arteries’ walls. Plus, the inflammation from simple sugars can cause arteries to narrow and not send enough blood to your heart. Complex carbs, such as whole wheat pasta and whole grains, break down much slower because they contain fiber. Try to choose whole wheat pasta over white.

Next: This lunch option seems healthy, but it can actually be terrible for your heart. 

Sushi

Be careful with how much you choose this meal. | iStock/Getty Images

Sushi can be extremely healthy if it’s done the right way. However, extras like crunchy flakes, spicy sauce, and soy sauce all add unnecessary sodium and saturated fats that can be harmful to your health. Foods high in saturated fats can increase the bad cholesterol in your body. If your cholesterol is too high, you increase your risk of heart disease.

Next: A love affair with these can break your heart. 

Cold cuts

thinly sliced ham

This snack isn’t as harmless as it looks. | iStock.com/ vikif

Cold cuts are a convenient food that tends to be very high in sodium. One slice of lunch meat, such as deli ham, can have more than 300 milligrams of salt. And it’s likely that you’re putting more than just one slice of meat on your sandwich. Two slices of meat and a slice of American cheese means your sandwich could easily top the 1,000 milligram mark.

Next: This convenient dinner comes with a lot of health risks. 

Frozen dinners

Lasagna with spinach

Make your own instead. | iStock.com/-lvinst-

Common types of frozen TV dinners, such as mac and cheese, lasagna, beef, etc. are often very high in fat and sodium. Purchasing a pre-made meal means you are not in control of what goes into it. While it can be easy to just pop a frozen meal into the microwave, it often doesn’t come with many rewarding health benefits. The high fat and sodium content can take a serious toll on your heart health.

Next: This breakfast classic is only healthy in moderation. 

Eggs

eggs on shelf of refrigerator

Only consume these in moderation. | jarabee123/iStock/Getty Images

Eggs are great in moderation. If you eat one hard-boiled egg for a snack, you’re giving yourself 7.5 grams of protein and only 76 calories. Plus, it’s a great option to keep you full throughout the afternoon. However, eggs also contain a lot of cholesterol. One egg contains about 62% of the daily recommended amount of cholesterol. Be sure to eat eggs in moderation (stick to one per day) to make sure you’re keeping your heart as healthy as possible.

Next: As tasty as these are, you’ll want to avoid them. 

Biscuits

Flakey Buttermilk Biscuits

They’re more delicious than healthy. | iStock.com/bhofack2

It’s hard to resist a Pillsbury biscuit. However, one delicious biscuit packs 460 milligrams of sodium — yikes. Plus, 2.5 grams of saturated fat goes into one biscuit, which is a lot for such a little treat. Saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol level. Try to steer clear of this high cholesterol and high sodium combination.

Next: This starchy side won’t benefit your heart. 

White rice

Basmati rice cooke

This food may lead to higher blood sugar levels. | vm2002/iStock/Getty Images

White rice is a starch, just like white pasta. Starches are highly-processed grains; their nutritional components, including most of the fiber, has been removed. The body breaks down starches more quickly than whole grains, which causes a spike in blood sugar. High blood sugar levels increase your risk of heart disease.

Next: It’s hard to say no to this salty meat, but you should try. 

Bacon

Fried Bacon (selective focus) on an old vintage wooden table

The salt content in bacon is scary. | HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

Bacon is delicious. But unfortunately, it’s also teeming with saturated fat and sodium (that’s probably why it’s so delicious). The effects that sodium and bad saturated fats can have on your heart make it worth it to cut down your bacon intake. That’s not to say you should never indulge, but don’t treat yourself daily.

Next: Bacon’s ‘healthier’ alternative isn’t that great for your heart. 

Canadian bacon

eggs Benedict

This type of bacon isn’t any better for you. | iStock.com

This bacon alternative might be low in fat and calories, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely healthy. One serving of Canadian bacon boasts 460 milligrams of sodium. And if you’re adding it to a breakfast sandwich, expect the total sodium count to be much higher than that. It’s simple: Processed meats are high in sodium. Sadly, most breakfast meats fall into that category.

Next: This can be great in moderation, but harmful if over-consumed. 

Cheese

Emmental cheese might just be the creamiest cheese out there. | Mariamarmar/iStock/Getty Images

Cheese in moderation can actually be good for you. Studies showed that those who ate 40 grams of cheese per day (about the size of a matchbook) were less likely to have heart disease or a stroke than those who didn’t eat cheese at all. However, most people eat more than a matchbook’s worth of cheese per day (eat one slice of pizza and you’ve exceeded that amount), and that’s what health experts warn against. Cheese has very high levels of saturated fat and sodium. Moderation is key with a food like this.

Next: This fan favorite should only be eaten every once in a while. 

Pizza

Pineapple and Ham Hawaiian Pizza

Keep your consumption to a minimum. | bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

Pizza combines three items on this heart-unhealthy foods list into one delicious combination: Starch, tomato sauce, and too much cheese. Processed grains (dough) combined with high-sodium tomato sauce and high-fat, high-sodium cheese puts pizza on the list of worst foods for your heart. But yes, you can have a slice of pizza every once in a while. Just make sure it’s not too often, and eat plenty of other heart-healthy foods in between takeout orders.

Next: This type of meat has been linked to heart disease. 

Steak

grilled beef steaks

Go for white meat or fish instead. | iStock.com/Magone

Red meat is high in saturated fat, but a recent study found that it might also contain another heart disease risk: Carnitine. This is a protein building block, and studies suggest that bacteria in the intestine convert carnitine into a compound that speeds up the hardening and thickening of artery walls, WebMD reported. Alternatives like chicken and fish are excellent sources of protein and leave you with a lower risk of developing heart disease.

Next: This addition to your healthy meal can wreak havoc on your heart. 

Salad dressing

Variety of sauces and salad dressings

Use this in moderation. | VeselovaElena/iStock/Getty Images

It’s hard to eat a salad without dressing. But the truth is, the dressing could be negating some of the nutritional benefits of your salad. Dressings contain high sodium, sugar, and fat content, and they’re not always light on calories, either. Plus, they tend to contain bad trans fats, which are extremely unhealthy. If you’re desperate for the dressing, make your own healthier version, or cut the serving size in half.

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