Grocery shopping can always seem daunting, but it can be especially difficult when you’re trying to stay healthy. With a whole store filled with what seems like endless options, how do you know what’s right for you and what you should leave out of your cart? When it comes to heart health, it’s important to avoid foods high in sodium, sugar, and other processed ingredients, but some of these can still be hard to spot. To help you out, we spoke to an expert who told us about a few types of foods you should make sure to avoid the next time you’re stocking up at the store.
ClincSpots dietitian and nutritionist Krutika Nanavati called canned foods and ready meals as two options you should keep off the shelf for your heart health. Learn more about the harmful effects these two foods can have on your body below!
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1. Canned foods
Canned foods can be convenient and last a long time, but Nanavati warns that they can seriously harm your overall health, including that of your heart, if you’re not careful. “Many canned foods contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical known to cause hormonal disruption and has been linked to a variety of non-heart health issues,” she explains.
Another major problem with canned foods is that they usually lose a lot of their nutritional value and contain harmful additives. “Since canning usually involves high heat, water-soluble vitamins can be lost because some vitamins are heat sensitive. High sodium, sugar, or preservatives are sometimes added to canned foods to improve their flavor, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.” she explains, noting that “increased sugar levels can cause sodium buildup leading to calcium buildup, leading to vasoconstriction and hypotension.” Ouch!
Of course, not all canned foods are bad for you. The important thing to do is take a look at the ingredients and keep an eye out for the warning signs. “Look for items with minimal added sugar or sodium and check the serving size. Aim for a variety of packaged fresh fruits and vegetables with no added sauces or syrups,” Nanavati suggests.
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2. Ready-to-eat foods
Pre-packaged and ready-to-eat meals are another variety of convenient, but unfortunately unhealthy foods. Think microwaveable meals or pre-prepared lunches in the refrigerated section. Like canned foods, these meals tend to contain processed ingredients. “Ready-to-eat foods can be particularly bad for heart health due to their high sodium and saturated fat content,” notes Nanavati. “Both of these components are associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease, as well as a higher risk of stroke.” Oh oh !
It’s also important to point out that because these meals have generally been stripped of their nutritional value, they’re generally a waste of calories. “Eating ready-to-eat foods means you’re basically consuming empty calories,” says Nanavati. “These foods are mass produced and are manufactured with the intention of increasing shelf life. Adding preservatives is the easiest way to increase the shelf life of such a food product. These added agents are harmful to heart health.”
Overall, all sorts of ultra-processed foods should be avoided if you want to maintain a healthy body (and heart). This can include anything from potato chips to sweet pastries, but canned foods and ready meals are some of the worst options. Whenever possible, it is always best to choose nutritious, whole foods that can nourish your body and keep you healthy. It will be worth it in the end!
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