5 Foods Your Cardiologist Wants You to Stop Eating

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar tells us what not to eat for a healthy heart

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S? And nearly 1 out of 3 deaths in Singapore, are due to heart disease or stroke.1 We all read about what’s healthy and what’s not, but sometimes marketing gimmicks, labels and pre existing notions make us eat food that may actually be harming our bodies. We spoke to Senior Cardiologist, Dr Ramasami Nandakumar on the top unhealthy foods for your heart and what to eat instead. Read on to find out more.


 1.  Foods High in Salt


 You already know foods like chips or crisps pack a lot of salt, but you need to be aware of how much they raise blood pressure, making you susceptible to heart disease. Dr Nandakumar says “Chips are laden with saturated fat and salt, and both are terrible for your heart. There are also several foods that we almost don’t expect to be high in salt. Premade soups, canned vegetables, off-the-shelf sauces are some of the worst culprits. The solution lies in reading labels and eating fresh – more work in the kitchen, but so worth it! As I always say – be smart. Be Label Smart.”

 2.  Cured Meats


If you have been watching What the Health on Netflix you already know where this is going! The sausages and cold cuts we eat are laden with nitrates and salt. Nitrates can increase your risk of cancer and salt is a known contributor to hypertension and heart disease.“You can treat yourself with the occasional hot dog or hamburger. When you eat about 50 grams of processed meat every day which is the equivalent of one hot dog or 4 bacon strips, your risk of developing colorectal cancer increases by 18%. Avoid red meat and processed meat and include skinless poultry, lean meat, oily fish, beans and lentils for your fill of protein” 2 adds Dr Nandakumar.

3. Sugar and its Hidden Forms


While we often strive to not eat sugar in the form of chocolates and candy, there’s plenty of it in that soda you are sipping too. Dr Nandakumar explains “Whilst there are many obvious foods like pastries, white rice and sweet sauces, breakfast cereals and fruit juices also pack a lot of sugar. We all like our can of soda or soft drink with our food, but that could have approximately 10 or 11 teaspoons of sugar which exceeds the AHA recommendations for consumption of sugar(6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men).3 Try to include whole grains and fiber in your diet and be aware of foods that have high glycemic index. You’ve probably heard it before, but be conscious of portion sizes, read labels and snack on fruit or nuts when that urge to eat sugar strikes. And yes, think again before you open that can of soda.”


4. Fried Food


 Love that bucket of fried chicken? Your heart is urging you to stop eating it along with those samosas, fries and pub-style calamari. “Say no to french fries” says Dr Nandakumar. “ The carbs can spike your sugar levels and the added fat and salt is doing your heart no favours. Do consider healthy snacks such as nuts or seeds but if you really crave those crisps then baked is reasonable.  Moderate consumption and preparation methods are key to maintaining a balanced nutritious diet”


 5. Blended Coffee


Saying goodbye to our regular cup at the coffee shop sounds too harsh, cruel even. Dr Nandakumar empathises “ Most of my patients hate having to do away with their regular coffee. But even if you skip the cream, the syrup, sugar and other toppings can increase your blood glucose and BP levels ie, a total disaster for your heart health. My advise is to not skip your cuppa entirely, just have it black or with milk and stay away from the added sugar. I actually prefer gourmet, well-sourced coffee i.e. Ethiopian, Sumatra or the Kenyan – with no add ons!”






2 Lancet Oncology, Vol 16, no 16, 1599-1600

3 Does consuming Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners Change Taste preferences? Bartolotto et al, Perm J 2015 Summer;19(3):81-84

Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Among Adults With Type 2 Diabetes Sara N Bleich and Y.Claire Wang, DIABETES CARE, VOLUME 34, MARCH 2011, 551-5

Cross-sectional survey of the amount of free sugars and calories in carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages on sale in the UK

Kawther M Hashem, Feng J He, Katharine H Jenner, Graham A MacGregor        BMJ Open 2016;6: e010874. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2015-010874

About Dr Ramasami Nandakumar

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar is currently working as a Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, Farrer Park Hospital , Mount Alvernia Hospital and Cardiac Centre International. He is also a Visiting Senior Consultant at Ng Teng Fong Hospital and National University Hospital. You can reach Dr Kumar on +65 82616483 (WhatsApp also) or via his website www.h2h.com.sg