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The Best and Worst Foods For Your Heart

The importance of your diet on your heart health cannot be overstated. Not only does a balanced diet contribute to your overall health and wellness, but certain foods have the potential to significantly improve or damage your heart health. In this brief article, the best heart doctor in Tampa Bay, Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, helps you understand the difference and how you can start incorporating heart-healthy foods into your diet.

Related: Coronary Heart Disease: Treating the Deadliest Disease in America

The Best

Tired of searching endlessly for heart-healthy foods you can incorporate into your diet to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease? Look no further! Below, a cardiologist in Tampa reviews some of the best foods you can eat to propel yourself down the path to a heart-healthy diet. 

Whole Grains

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed, such as the germ, endosperm, and bran. In other words, they retain the layers containing healthy vitamins, fiber, and minerals that are stripped off during the process of creating processed or refined grains. Thus, you’re left with a great source of fiber and other nutrients that can play a crucial role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. Common types of whole grains include whole wheat, oats, rye, barley, brown rice, and buckwheat. This means look out for whole-grain bread, high-fiber cereal, whole-grain pasta, and steel-cut oatmeal at your grocery store.


One of the most commonly talked about superstars of heart-healthy food is fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. This is because they’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to lower total levels of cholesterol, blood triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. It is for this reason that the American Heart Association has long since recommended that people eat fish rich in unsaturated fats at least twice a week. However, if you don’t eat much seafood or are worried about eating too much fish, there are other options for obtaining these omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds, and green leafy vegetables.

Fruits and Vegetables

By now, you certainly know the drill on this one. Ten servings a day or about five cups of fruits and vegetables has been consistently proven to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke and reduce your risk of premature death. This is because fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, rich in dietary fiber. The fruits and vegetables which offer the greatest benefit are apples, pears, oranges, great leafy vegetables, and green and yellow vegetables. It doesn’t matter whether these are fresh, frozen, or canned, so long as they are not packed in heavy syrup, fried or breaded, or contain added sugar.


Related: How a Plant-Based Diet Can Improve Your Heart Health

The Worst

Looking to keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy for years to come? You’re in luck. Below, a heart specialist in Tampa outlines just a few of the worst meals and snack items for your heart health. If you find you can’t replace these food items with heart-healthy alternatives, then it’s best to save them for occasional indulgences, at most.

Salty Foods

Did you know that the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day? That’s double the 1,500 mg suggestion for adults age 51 and older and a third more than the dietary guidelines daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg. Unnecessary sodium in your bloodstream is dangerous because it increases the volume of blood flowing through your blood vessels, may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls, speed the buildup of plaque, and force your heart to work harder and harder over time. 


The only problem with cutting back on sodium is that the numbers add up quickly. Take a typical turkey sandwich, for example. Two ounces of sliced deli turkey alone can contain about 400 mg of sodium or more. After you add cheese, bread, and even a single serving of potato chips, you’ll find that one lunch could contain well over half your daily 2,300 mg limit. Other sneaky sodium sources to look out for include frozen dinners, processed cheese, cereal, canned fruit, and salad dressings.2

Processed meat is any type of meat that has been modified to improve its taste or extend its shelf life, such as through smoking, salting, curing, fermentation, or drying. Think: bacon, hot dogs, sausages, salami, ham, beef jerky, pepperoni, and corned beef. One study, conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, found that eating even one serving a day of processed meat (the equivalent of a single hot dog or two slices of salami) was associated with a 42 percent increased risk for heart disease and a 19 percent increased risk for diabetes. Other chronic diseases processed meat has been linked to include high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bowel cancer, and stomach cancer.


Related: Hamburgers and Heart Health: How Impossible Meat Is Changing the Game for Health-Conscious Foodies

Sugary Foods

Sugar has somewhat of a bittersweet reputation when it comes to heart health. On the one hand, sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. As we know, consuming these whole foods with natural sugar is more than okay, as the sugar is able to steadily provide a stream of energy to your cells. The problem occurs, so to speak, when you consume too much added sugar — that is, any sugar that food manufacturers add to products to improve flavor or extend shelf life. In the average American’s diet, the top sources of added sugar are as follows:


  • Soft drinks

  • Fruit drinks

  • Cookies

  • Cake

  • Candy

  • Coffee creamer

  • Fat-free packaged snacks

  • Flavored yogurt


You may not think something like fat-free packaged foods would be a source of added sugar based on the name alone; however, what it doesn’t have in fat, it makes up for in sugar. Instead, you’ll almost always want to stick to all-natural, full-fat, and sugar-free alternatives. Added sugar is also known to be present in items like soups, breads, cured meat, and ketchup, just to name a few. For more information on incorporating any of the heart-healthy foods mentioned in this article into your diet, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a cardiologist in Tampa, FL.


To consult Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, a cardiologist in Tampa, please call (813) 344-0934 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. 


Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.


The content, views, and opinions communicated on this website do not represent the views of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Although this website contains links to other medical websites, this is strictly for informational purposes. Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC is not responsible nor does the medical practice approve of the content featured on any third party linked websites referenced on this website. 

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