Eat Well to Be Well: Top beverages for heart health; which to consume and to avoid – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Eat Well to Be Well: Top beverages for heart health; which to consume and to avoid

When counseling patients who have been referred to the cardiac rehabilitation facility I work at, I get a lot of questions about what foods to eat to keep their heart healthy. Depending on their specific dietary needs, some of the more common suggestions I provide include: Load up on fruit and veggies, get plenty of fiber, keep sodium in moderation, and stay away from saturated and trans fats.

But, one question I’m rarely asked is, “What beverages should I be drinking – or not drinking? What impact do beverage choices have on either harming or hurting my heart health?”

These questions are crucial to ponder, especially considering that heart disease has been the leading cause of death in Americans for the past century. Just like food choices, it’s just as essential to gain an understanding of which beverages are best for supporting heart health and which ones to avoid, to make informed choices that promote overall cardiovascular well-being.

Drink to boost heart health

Here are several beverage options to explore of six diverse and delicious beverages to consider to help boost heart health:

Water – In my opinion, water is the optimal choice for maintaining overall health, particularly concerning cardiovascular functioning and heart health. When the body is dehydrated, blood circulation diminishes, placing undue strain on the heart, necessitating it to work harder and beat faster. A helpful indicator of hydration status is the color of your urine — clear or straw-colored suggests adequate hydration, whereas darker shades signal the need for increased water intake. Monitoring your hydration levels can contribute significantly to supporting cardiovascular wellness.

Tea – Both versatile and flavorful, tea is packed with phytonutrients called flavonoids. These compounds may reduce inflammation and buildup in your arteries. Whether you prefer a hot cup’s soothing warmth or an iced tea’s refreshing chill, you can still enjoy the same heart-healthy benefits. To incorporate tea into your daily routine, consider replacing one of your daily coffee or soda servings with a cup of tea. Plus, with about half the caffeine in coffee, tea is an excellent option for anyone experiencing caffeine sensitivity. This flexibility empowers you to make a heart-healthy choice that suits your taste and lifestyle.

Pomegranate Juice – This beverage boasts a wealth of antioxidants for combating arterial hardening and narrowing. Additionally, pomegranate juice aids in lowering blood pressure and contains micronutrients that reduce inflammation and promote circulation. Concord grape juice similarly offers significant heart-health benefits.

Tomato juice – Packed with vitamins and minerals that fight heart disease, especially vitamins C and E, iron, magnesium, and potassium, for helping blood flow. Loaded with the antioxidant lycopene, drinking tomato juice may help strengthen arteries and reduces cholesterol and heart disease risk. Choose low-sodium and low-sugar options.

Beetroot juice – This juice might have an acquired taste but is excellent for heart health. It’s full of dietary nitrate, a natural compound in many vegetables, like beets. Nitrates help keep blood vessels supple and flexible, helping keep blood pressure low.

Coffee – Enjoying two to three cups daily provides a nice pick-me-up boost along with remarkable health benefits, particularly for heart health. Coffee contains caffeine, renowned for its stimulating effects, and a rich array of antioxidants that help protect against oxidative stress—a significant contributor to heart disease. Moreover, studies suggest that coffee’s anti-inflammatory properties further support cardiovascular health. Regular consumption in moderate amounts has been shown to have an association of reducing heart disease risk, making it a comforting and beneficial addition to your daily routine.

Three beverages to avoid, harmful for heart health

Now that we’ve explored six heart-healthy beverages, it’s just as important to be mindful and aware of beverages that can harm heart health. These beverages offer few, if any, benefits to promoting a healthy heart.

Here’s a look at three beverages I counsel my patients to avoid due to their nature of causing more havoc on heart health than good. They are as follows:

Soda – Sugary beverages are ubiquitous in the American diet. On any given day, about half of adults and over 60 percent of children consume a sugary drink, accounting for almost half of the added sugar in a typical American diet. Recent research published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, in 2024, has found a potential link between sugary and artificially sweetened drinks and atrial fibrillation (Afib) – an irregular heart rhythm associated with increased stroke risk. Analyzing data from over 200,000 adults in the UK, researchers discovered that those consuming two liters or more of these beverages weekly (equivalent to about one 12-ounce drink per day) faced a 20 percent higher risk of Afib than those who did not drink them.

Energy drinks – Consumers primarily consume this popular beverage to boost energy throughout the day when feeling fatigued or lacking get-up-and-go. However, energy drinks can significantly hurt your heart. One way is for the potential to alter the function of your heart cells, which might result in a faster or irregular heartbeat. It is like asking your heart to beat rapidly without a proper warm-up. These changes are particularly concerning because they can contribute to serious heart conditions, especially for individuals with pre-existing heart problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mix of high caffeine levels and other stimulants in energy drinks can elevate both heart rate and blood pressure. These are recognized as established risk factors for heart disease. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health warns that consuming these beverages excessively can result in disruptions to heart rhythm and other health issues.

Alcohol – The evidence is increasingly clear: alcohol, especially when consumed over the guidelines of moderation, poses risks to heart health. It elevates the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases that negatively affect both the heart and blood vessels. Alcohol is particularly significant as a risk factor for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. This condition involves blood pumping with excessive force through arteries and blood vessels, and it stands as the primary contributor to cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

In conclusion

With this newfound knowledge about which beverages support a healthy heart and which ones pose risks, you have the power to transform your daily drink choices. By consciously opting for heart-healthy options, you’re not just quenching your thirst – you’re nurturing your cardiovascular health. Your heart will undoubtedly appreciate the care you’re investing in it, paving the way for a healthier and happier you in the long run.

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a outpatient clinical dietitian for local clinics, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia, The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook and The Heart Disease Prevention Cookbook. Visit her website

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