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The #1 Worst Food for Your Heart, Says Dietitian

This processed meat packs a punch of sodium, preservatives, and saturated fat.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

There are plenty of ways to care for your heart. Physical activity, lowering stress, and avoiding smoking are all helpful tools in maintaining it. But among all the tools you can use for improving your heart health, eating a healthy diet is one of the most effective.

Along with incorporating more heart-healthy foods, avoiding unhealthy ones is crucial, too. This includes things like fast food, ultra-processed food, and anything high in added sugar.

According to our medical expert Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility, one of the worst foods for your heart is a hot dog.

"Between the sodium content, saturated fat, and sodium nitrates used as preservatives, classic hot dogs are one of the worst foods to eat for your heart health," says Manaker.

Continue reading to learn more about why this food is so harmful to your heart health. And for more healthy eating tips, check out Eating Habits to Reduce High Blood Pressure.

bacon wrapped hot dog

Many people fear red meat when it comes to their heart health, but it's actually processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, deli meat, and bacon that have consistently been linked to heart disease and poorer heart health.

According to a review published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, processed meat consumption is known to lead to a higher risk for coronary heart disease compared to unprocessed red meat.

The report concluded that one of the most significant reasons for this difference between processed and unprocessed meat when it comes to heart disease is the sodium content, especially seeing as processed meat can often have up to 400% higher levels of sodium.

A 2021 review of 13 cohort studies came to similar conclusions, finding that regular processed meat consumption increased your risk of coronary heart disease by 18%, with unprocessed red meat raising it by only 9%.

Some people may see these statistics and try ditching the regular beef hot dog for a chicken or turkey dog alternative. However, Manaker warns that these may not be good for your heart either.

"Even if you are opting for a turkey or chicken hot dog, know that most of them are loaded with unsavory ingredients too, making them no better for you in many cases."

So, if you're trying to eat healthier foods for your heart, you may want to stay away from hot dogs and other processed meats as much as possible. And if you're craving something on the grill at your next barbecue, try grilling some chicken or vegetables instead.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha