Heart palpitations may come on after eating certain foods or you may have heart palpitations for another reason, such as dehydration, low electrolyte levels, pregnancy, anxiety, anemia, thyroid issues, or an underlying heart disease or arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation.
While experiencing heart palpitations after eating is fairly common and is usually not dangerous, an irregular heartbeat—felt as a fluttering, pounding, racing, or feeling as if your heart were skipping a beat—can also be a symptom of heart problems.
If you often experience frequent heart palpitations after eating or drinking, identifying the culprits and limiting or avoiding foods that trigger heart palpitations can help you work out whether this symptom is primarily food related or whether you need to go for diagnostic testing.
Top Foods to Avoid If You Experience Heart Palpitations
While some triggers are highly individual, there are several categories of foods and beverages that are more likely than others to trigger heart palpitations. Some of these substances—like caffeine—stimulate the sympathetic nervous system directly, so a racing heart shouldn’t be a big surprise. Others, like spicy foods, might induce heart palpitations indirectly due to the proximity of the digestive organs to the heart.
Caffeinated beverages and foods can trigger heart palpitations—if you have enough—due to their stimulating properties. In addition to coffee, this category includes chocolate, cola, energy drinks, green tea, and other stimulating drinks.
If you experience palpitations after drinking a second cup of coffee or downing a large can of Monster, pulling back on caffeine consumption could be a good idea. As a guide, The American Food and Drug Administration recommends a limit of 400mg of caffeine per day for adults. During pregnancy, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends consuming less than 200mg of caffeine per day.
2. Sugary Foods
Sugary foods and high-carb foods like rice, pasta, and bread can lead to heart palpitations—especially in people with low blood sugar. A racing heart is part of that “sugar rush”—your body has a quick-burning source of energy and is gearing up for action.
If you find that sweet foods and carbs bring on uncomfortable heart palpitations, it can help to reduce your serving size of carbs, consume carbs together with healthy fats to slow down digestion, and consume sweet treats after a healthy-fat-containing meal rather than on an empty stomach.
Some people also find that whole grains and boiled potatoes are less likely to cause heart palpitations than white pasta and white bread, so switching up your carbohydrates for less-processed options could be something to try.
Chocolate is a triple whammy when it comes to inducing an irregular heart rhythm. Not only does chocolate contain caffeine and sugar, but it also contains a chemical called theobromine that is known to increase heart rate. To lower the risk of palpitations, try dairy chocolate rather than dark chocolate and keep your serving size small.
4. High Sodium Foods
Foods that are high in sodium put additional strain on your digestive system as well as your cardiovascular system. A high-sodium diet is also a risk factor for high blood pressure (hypertension) and makes you more likely to develop atrial fibrillation and coronary artery disease.
If you eat a lot of salted chips or salted meats or add a lot of table salt to your food, go without processed foods for a while and salt your meals sparingly to see whether the heart palpitations decrease.
5. Fatty foods
Fatty foods such as fried snacks, fried chicken, ice cream, and foods like red meat hamburgers that are high in saturated fat can trigger heart palpitations. Aside from causing discomfort, consumption of high amounts of vegetable oils that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids (such as those commonly used for frying) has been associated with a higher incidence of coronary artery disease. A diet that’s high in saturated fat also increases the risk of arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.
Reducing one’s consumption of fried foods and saturated fat could help to reduce heart palpitations and can have positive benefits for long-term heart health, too. Remember to include healthy fats in your diet with foods like avocados, olive oil, lightly roasted nuts and seeds, and fish.
Alcohol consumption is known to bring on heart palpitations. Additionally, frequent or excessive alcohol ingestion is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and sudden cardiac arrest, so limiting your intake can help with palpitations as well as protect your long-term cardiac health.
How Much Alcohol Should I drink?
For women, a good maximum is one standard drink per day. For men, it’s two standard drinks. However, if alcohol brings on heart palpitations, it might be best to limit your consumption to a maximum of two or three standard drinks per week.
7. Spicy foods
Eating spicy foods in moderation may help to reduce bad cholesterol and support a healthy metabolism, but eating an especially spicy dish—especially when you’re not used to it—can cause discomfort in the form of sweating, heartburn, and a racing heart.
When introducing spicy foods to your diet, start out with the mildest level of heat and see how you respond before increasing the amount of spice. If you do overdo it and experience palpitations, have some milk, ice cream, or cottage cheese (if you can tolerate lactose), eat some carbohydrates, and wait it out.
8. Foods Containing Tyramine
Tyramine is an amino acid that works to regulate blood pressure in the body, and eating foods that contain tyramine can temporarily raise blood pressure.
Some of the foods that are high in tyramine include aged cheeses, sauerkraut, soy sauce, salami and other cured meats, alcohol, and dried fruit. Foods like sauerkraut are an excellent source of probiotics (which are important for gut health), so enjoy these treats sparingly and take note of how your body reacts.
9. Foods Containing Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used as a flavor enhancer in many processed foods and restaurant meals. This ingredient may cause heart palpitations in people who are sensitive to it, along with other symptoms like headaches.
If you are sensitive to MSG, it’s important to note that this ingredient and its variants go by many names, including (but not limited to) hydrolyzed vegetable oil, hydrolyzed corn and soy protein, glutamic acid, autolyzed yeast extract, monosodium salt, monosodium glutamate monohydrate, monosodium, L-glutamate monohydrate, L-Glutamic acid, monohydrate, UNII-W81N5U6R6U, and MSG monohydrate.
10. Certain Dietary Supplements, Herbs, and Medications
Aside from foods and beverages, there are several herbs, supplements, and medications that can bring on heart palpitations.
- Bitter orange
- Yerba maté
- Excessive amounts of vitamin D
- Allergy medications
- Asthma medications
- Cold medications
- Diet pills
- Heart disease medications
- High blood pressure medications
- Thyroid medications
- Certain recreational drugs
How to Deal with Heart Palpitations After Eating
If you notice frequent heart palpitations after eating, use a food diary to record what you eat and drink, your supplements, medications, and mood (e.g. stressed, excited, calm), and your heart rate after each medication, beverage, or meal.
After a week or so, take your food diary to a doctor or cardiologist for analysis and to see whether the doctor recommends further testing.
When It’s a Medical Emergency
Heart palpitations along with chest pain, shortness of breath, tightness in the arm, chest, jaw, neck, or upper back, fainting, excessive sweating, confusion, or dizziness might signal a medical emergency.
If you have palpitations and any of the other symptoms listed, call 9-1-1 and notify the people around you so that they can fetch a public access defibrillator like the LIFEPAK CR2 or Philips HeartStart FRx and revive you if you go into sudden cardiac arrest.
Heart Palpitations After Eating: Probably Harmless but Still Important to Address
Heart palpitations after eating might be a common experience, but many of the foods that can tend to trigger palpitations also carry a certain level of cardiac risk.
If you’re experiencing frequent heart palpitations, start a food diary, experiment with limiting or eliminating certain foods, ingest plenty of water and foods that are rich in electrolytes (like coconut and bananas), and talk to a cardiac health professional. If you experience heart palpitations along with symptoms of heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest, seek medical attention right away.