Eat Smart For Your Heart

By Emily Effren – February 1, 2020

Strolling through the grocery store, people are generally accustomed to finding the words “Heart Healthy” stamped onto boxes or packages of food for the primary purpose of increasing sales — even when they may not be truly beneficial for the heart. It can be tough to figure out which brands are overstepping their advertising and which foods are actually telling the truth.

Here are some of the most popular everyday foods that can be commonly mistaken for heart-healthy, when, in fact, they are some of the farthest from it.

Canned Vegetables

A large deterrent of purchasing fresh vegetables is that their shelf life is not very long. Buying fresh vegetables sounds like a good idea until they are forgotten, and one opens their refrigerator to find mold, slime or a mysterious odor. Enter, canned vegetables. With the evolution of the food industry and scientific discoveries, we’ve found ways to keep vegetables lasting longer on the shelf. However, this longer shelf life comes with a price. According to the Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas, as canned vegetables are processed, they are more likely to have less nutrients than fresh or frozen produce. In addition, the high amount of sodium used to make canned vegetables can lead to high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and more, according to the American Heart Association.

Coffee Creamer

To the population of Austinites that enjoy a drop of coffee with their cream, we’ve got some bad news for you. Coffee creamer (depending on the ingredients) can be one of the worst everyday-used products for the heart. Not far down on a popular coffee creamer’s nutrition list are the dreaded words “partially hydrogenated oil,” which is oil that has been processed to make them more solid, according to the American Heart Association. These oils are known to negatively affect cholesterol levels and even increase one’s chance of heart disease. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration ceased to view these hydrogenated oils “generally recognized as safe” in 2013 — so they must be very, very bad for you.

Red Meat

Even though red meat is filled with awesome nutrients such as iron, zinc and protein, eating too much of it isn’t recommended. Due to red meat’s high-saturated fat content, eating red meats (that are not grass-fed and antibiotic-free) in large quantities can increase one’s blood cholesterol and cause heart disease to grow worse, according to the American Heart Association. If having a hearty protein is an absolute must for an evening meal, consider switching to an alternate source: fish. With its high amount of Omega-3s, fish can actually be very beneficial for the heart and can “provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation,’’ according to the Harvard School of Public Health.


Even though many Facebookers feel a wave of reassurance as they scroll past a repost about how one glass of red wine is full of antioxidants and is seamlessly healthy for the heart — don’t be fooled. As one glass of wine can be beneficial to someone, more than that one glass or serving a day of wine (or any other alcohol) can negatively affect one’s heart. According to Mayo Clinic, “having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases.” If someone does drink a lot — and often — it’s healthiest for the heart to alter those habits and only drink in moderation or stop drinking completely, according to Mayo Clinic.

That Seasonal Blended Coffee

In the bitter middle of winter, one of the best parts of the season for Austinites (who aren’t accustomed to cold) is the feeling of wrapping cold fingers around a warm cup of coffee. During the holiday season, Starbucks and other local coffee shops come out with coffees that smell and taste like Christmas in a cup. “Caramel this and peppermint that” can be tasty, but all too often, people don’t know what exactly is floating under the foam in their cup. Some winter favorites from your local coffee shop can be filled with sugar and have over 500 calories.

According to Medical News Today, “consuming high amounts of sugar can alter your fat metabolism in ways that could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.” Order that peppermint mocha frappe on occasion — but not everyday on your way to the office.

Fried Food

One may typically think staying away from fried food is common sense, but do we fully know the possible negative effects? According to Medical Express, “people who ate fried foods one to three times a week had a 7 percent higher risk of heart attack and stroke compared to those who ate fried foods less than once a week.” In addition, studies have shown that consuming fried foods often is linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure. Next time, get the grilled chicken.

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