When you think of heart-healthy foods you should avoid, some obvious culprits probably come to mind: fatty meals from McDonald’s, fried foods, red meat, etc. However, it’s important to remember that eating too much sugar can also be a serious health problem. over time, it harms your cardiovascular health, putting you at risk for problems like high blood pressure and ultimately heart disease.
Of course, it’s not surprising that sugar is unhealthy, but what are the worst choices when it comes to heart health? To answer this question and learn more about the dangers of high-sugar foods, healthcare professionals Dr. We spoke with Leonard Ganz and registered dietitian and dietitian Sara Whipkey. Owner of The Plant Potential. They said ultra-processed foods with added sugar are the biggest culprits to watch out for.
Ultra-processed foods with added sugar
When it comes to the worst sugary foods for your heart health, Dr. Ganz and Whipkey agree that you should avoid processed foods that contain added sugar. “A diet high in processed, sugary foods often leads to high blood pressure, unintentional weight gain, and inflammation associated with a variety of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease,” warns Whipkey.
Among the worst offenders are ultra-processed foods, which means they contain many of manufactured, artificial ingredients rather than natural whole foods. As Whipkey explains, ultra-processed foods “have gone through several different types of processing, contain many additives, and are highly manipulated.” The ingredients in these foods have undergone extensive processing, completely stripping them of their nutritional value, making them a terrible addition to your diet. “They provide no nutritional value, but they do contain a lot of sugar, fat, and/or salt to reward our brains,” she says.
All the added sugar in particular can be harmful to almost every aspect of your overall health, including your heart health. Dr. “Added sugars can harm heart health by increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and coronary artery disease,” says Ganz. Yeah!
Ultra-processed foods to avoid
Now that you know how terrible sugary, over-processed foods can be for your heart, which ones should you avoid at the grocery store? Unfortunately, there is no definitive and dry answer, these are the absolute worst options. However, Dr. Ganz says it’s a good rule of thumb to be wary of foods that contain added sugar. “While it’s not the worst sugary food for your heart, added sugars can scare you,” she says, noting that these sneaky sugars are found in foods and beverages like:
Regular sodas, energy and sports drinks
Fruit drinks and punches
Many energy and meal replacement bars
sugary bakery products
Dairy desserts and dairy products (including flavored yogurts)
Sugary breakfast foods (cereals, shakes, bars, etc.)
Fancy coffee drinks like lattes or mochas
What to eat instead
We get it: sometimes you just can’t stop your sweet tooth. Fortunately, when you’re craving a sugary treat, you can choose from many healthy options that won’t put your heart at risk. Whipkey says fruit is one of the best choices, and it doesn’t have to be boring! “Some of my favorite plant-based desserts include: fine frosting (frozen banana, cocoa powder, almond butter, unsweetened plant milk, and flaxseed – mix it all together for an ice cream-like treat), paired with minimally processed dark chocolate, a handful of hazelnuts and berries, “Frozen grapes and strawberries dipped in dark chocolate,” she says. Yum! Sign up with us.