Sean Cate
Sean Cate
April 17, 2024 ·  3 min read

3 Common Foods That Are Horrible for Your Heart Health According to Experts (and What to Eat Instead)

Heart disease is, to this day, the leading cause of death in the United States.1 While maintaining heart health might seem like an intimidating task, making simple dietary changes can substantially improve cardiovascular well-being. Here, we’ll take a look at three common foods that experts recommend minimizing or completely eliminating from your diet to promote heart health, along with some healthier alternatives.

1. Bacon

We all saw this one coming. Despite its popularity, bacon is a major contributor to heart health problems. According to Michelle Routhenstein, a preventive cardiology dietitian-nutritionist, bacon’s curing process contributes to heart disease.

“The curing process of bacon with sodium nitrite and its high sodium content can elevate blood pressure, while the compounds formed during cooking, like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), contribute to inflammation and damage to blood vessels, collectively increasing the risk of heart disease.”

Dr. Saman Setareh-Shenas, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai, warns against processed meats due to their association with cardiovascular issues. “People who eat diets rich in red meat, especially those with highly processed meats, have been associated with higher cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality, and obesity.” To replace bacon, consider incorporating legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans into your diet. These are rich in fiber, promoting satiety and regulating bowel movements.

2. White Bread

Sorry Wonderbread, you’re the problem, too. White bread, with its high glycemic index and lack of nutrients compared to whole-grain options, can lead to rapid blood sugar spikes and weight gain, lowering our heart health. Dr. Daniel Luger, a preventive cardiologist, advises opting for whole-grain alternatives like quinoa and whole-wheat bread, which offer a much more nutrient-rich profile including fiber, phosphorus, and antioxidants. “All refined carbohydrates increase your circulating glucose and triglyceride levels,” he says. “White bread is stripped of all of the healthy fiber and nutrients. What’s left is pure sugar.”

3. French Fries

Unfortunately, our beloved french fries pose significant risks to heart health too. Dr. Setareh-Shenas explains “[w]hen food is fried, its nutritional content changes — the food loses water and takes up fat…in the case of french fries, the oil is often reused, which leads to a loss of unsaturated fats and an increase in trans fats,” which is linked to heart disease. Instead of french fries, consider incorporating fatty fish into your diet. Salmon, mackerel, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk factors like cholesterol and blood pressure.2

Some Heart-Healthy Alternatives:

Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. When asked, Dr. Luger said he highly recommended an “increased consumption of legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans.” These guys are particularly high in vitamin K and nitrates, which can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function and heart health.


Berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries) are packed with antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against oxidative stress and inflammation associated with heart disease. Regular consumption of berries may also improve vascular function and improve heart health.


Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced cholesterol levels and are great for heart health. They are also rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.

While maintaining heart health may seem overwhelming, simple dietary adjustments can make a significant difference. By reducing consumption of major fried food culprits and incorporating nutrient-rich alternatives, you can take proactive steps towards a stronger, healthier heart.

Read More: Eating Leftovers? Some Have a Higher Chance of Making You Sick Than Others


  1. Eliminating These 3 Foods From Your Diet Can Be A Game-Changer For Heart Health.” Huff Post. Leigh Weingus. February 8, 2024.
  2. 17 Incredibly Heart-Healthy Foods.” Healthline. Rachael Ajmera, MS, RD and Heather Hobbs. November 17, 2023