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15 Foods Bad for Heart Health

The relationship between food and heart health is obvious. Cardiologists agree that poor diet choices are the root of heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, inflammation, and obesity. Unfortunately, addictive foods continue to win out, with millions of Americans chowing down on the worst foods for heart health without a second thought. 

Think of it this way. You get a brand new houseplant from the nursery, are excited to bring it home, and start caring for it. You know it needs sunshine, water, and nutrients. 

So you stick it in a dark closet, “water” it with Pepsi, and instead of a nutrient-dense fertilizer, you sprinkle french fries over the soil. Within a week, your new houseplant is beyond saving.

This ridiculous scenario is what happens when you feed your body junk food. Just like a houseplant, it needs water, sunshine, and nutrients. How often do you feed it Pepsi and french fries instead? What you put into your body affects every system — including your heart. 

Here is our list of some of the worst foods for heart health and what you should eat instead. 

Worst foods for heart health

Soda and sweet drinks

Anyone with an interest in healthy eating shouldn’t be surprised to see soda and sweet drinks at the top of the list of popular foods bad for heart health. According to researchers, sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories and added sugar in the U.S. diet. 

Fancy coffee drinks that are more syrup than coffee. Energy drinks — a dangerous cocktail of chemicals, sugar, and caffeine. Fruit juice — marketed as part of a balanced diet for schoolchildren everywhere. Not to mention the biggest culprit of them all — soda.

Unfortunately, this list barely scratches the surface. Chocolate milk, lemonade, sports drinks, sweet tea, and even sparkling water all contain high levels of added sugar — making them disastrous for heart health. 

These drinks are sweetened with sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, maltose, brown sugar, fructose, and straight-up refined sugar. 

Studies show that 63% of American adults aged 18 or older reported drinking sugar-sweetened beverages once daily or more. This rising prevalence of sugary drinks is linked to the rise in heart disease in the nation. 

A Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) report published in 2020 followed U.S. adults for a mean of 12.5 years. Researchers found that drinking more than 12 ounces of sugary beverages daily led to a 53 percent higher risk of high triglycerides and abnormal cholesterol, clear risk factors for heart disease. 

Studies show that your heart disease and stroke risk increases with each sugary drink you consume in a single day. 

Sugary drinks also contribute to the obesity epidemic, which is linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of heart attack. 

Drink instead: Enjoy a nice glass of filtered water or pure, carbonated water with no added flavor or sugar. Click here to shop our favorite high-quality water filtration system. 

Note: Diet isn’t better! Diet soft drinks are loaded with artificial sweeteners and chemicals that contribute to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and increased sugar cravings. 

Fast, fried food

Many people who fail to plan and prepare healthy meals grab fast food as a quick, cheap option. According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during 2013–2016, 36.6 percent of adults consumed fast food on a given day.

Fast foods are some of the worst foods for heart health. French fries, processed meats, and greasy takeout food are high in unhealthy oils and trans fats that directly contribute to inflammation and plaque build-up in the arteries. Like sugary drinks, fast food also leads to obesity, abnormal cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes — risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 

Eat instead: Meal prep at the beginning of the week so that you’re prepared for a busy workweek. Having food on hand will keep you from those hunger-driven stops at the drive-thru. 

Baked goods and refined grains

As we’ve mentioned, sugar is a top contender for the top food that is bad for your heart. Unfortunately, it isn’t just in soft drinks and fast food. Cookies, cakes, donuts, and white bread contain sugar and other preservatives that contribute to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. 

Baked goods also often contain trans fats like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, a known contributor to heart conditions.

Plus, refined grains convert to sugar in your body, leading to a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and early death. Not to mention, white flour contains nothing your body needs — it lacks any fiber, essential nutrients, or vitamins and minerals.

Eat instead: Enjoy a piece of organic, in-season fruit for dessert and stick to grain-free flour such as almond flour. If you need your bread-fix, check out Bread Srsly for non-GMO, gluten-free options. 

Highly processed meat

While conventional medical advice still recommends avoiding red meat for heart health; experts recognize that quality, grass-finished red meat is an essential source of vitamins like B12 and D3. Studies show that saturated fat from quality animal sources is good for your heart, contrary to what most nutritionists suggest. 

The problem is highly processed meat that barely resembles anything close to its natural state. Just look at the process of creating a hot dog.

Factories grind parts from various animals into a paste, add coloring, artificial preservatives, and sugar. They then stuff this “meat” into a tube, which is packaged and sold as a hot dog. 

Traditional sausage, salami, and deli meat contain chemicals, additives, and excessive amounts of sodium that could contribute to heart disease. 

One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that 5 ounces or more of processed meat a week increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 46 percent and the risk of death by 50 percent compared to eating no processed meat. 

Eat instead: Enjoy organic, unprocessed meat freely and eat organic, processed meat (such as pasture-raised bacon and pure grass-fed beef hot dogs) in moderation. We love US Wellness for Grass Finished beef products. Click here to shop their site. Paleovalley is our top choice for on-the-go meat sticks and other grass-finished meat products. Shop here. 

Margarine

Margarine was long heralded as the world’s heart health crisis. Now, most people recognize this “butter” as a heart-harming chemical concoction of GMO vegetable oils.

For years, fat was seen as the enemy of heart health. This led to a rise in alternative products, like margarine, being marketed as healthier alternatives. Now, doctors and dieticians are starting to recognize that not all fat is bad. In fact, healthy, organic fat from quality sources such as avocado is necessary to support your heart.

An analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that the sugar industry funded many studies that blamed fat for the rise of heart disease. In reality, the villain was sugar all along.

Eat instead: Enjoy raw, grass-fed ghee or butter. Cook with avocado oil and drizzle with olive oil. Make sure you buy quality olive oil such as Kassandrinos. Shop here. 

Other foods that are bad for your heart

  • Canned soup — High in added sodium that could contribute to atherosclerosis. 
  • Ice cream — Contains sugar, trans fats, and unhealthy conventional dairy.
  • Candy — Contains excessive amounts of sugar that contribute to obesity, heart disease, and oral health issues that could contribute to coronary heart disease. 
  • Pizza — Offers no nutritional benefit and is a significant source of refined grains. 
  • Potato chips — Loaded with GMO hydrogenated vegetable oils and refined table salt. 
  • Condiments and salad dressings — Sneaky sources of sugar and highly processed. 
  • Pasta — Refined grains that lead to blood sugar spikes and increase heart disease risk. 
  • Sugary cereals — Often labeled as a “nutritious part of any breakfast,” cereal contains sugar and refined carbohydrates that contribute to inflammation and increased cravings. 
  • Soy — Soy lectins contribute to inflammation and have been linked to heart disease. 
  • Moldy food — Moldy food is a significant source of toxins that impact heart health.   Common sources of food mold include whole grains such wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Other mold-friendly foods are corn, peanuts, dried fruits, cheese, coffee beans, alcohol, and chocolate. Avoid mold-prone foods unless you are confident that the food source is safe. Read more about mold mycotoxins in food here. 

Next steps

Eliminating these foods that are bad for heart health is a great step towards a healthy diet. After all, all of the seafood and organ meat in the world won’t matter if you’re eating fast food every day and downing soft drinks like water. 

Go through your fridge and pantry and throw out anything from this list to start. Make sure to read the ingredients and check for anything that contains added sugar, refined grains, or hydrogenated oils. Remember, those condiments in your fridge door could be a sneaky source of hidden sugar!

Check out NHD’s four-week online Foundational Nutrition course for more information about healthy eating and practical strategies to prepare your body for health through diet. You can also check out our Nutrition page here for some eating principles to get you on track.

Next, get in touch with one of our expert health coaches here at NHD. They can walk you through the next steps and answer questions to support your journey to your 100 Year Heart.

Eat well, Live well, Think well

Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza 2023

In order to live well, one must eat well.

Get the Natural Heart Doctor approved Diet and discover how to eat for your 100 Year Heart.

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About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Acupuncture

Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.