A Cardiologist Tells Us the Worst Thing For Heart Health

Photographer: Sheila GimNo Restrictions: Editorial and internal use approved. OK for Native and co-branded use.
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

When it comes to protecting your heart, you probably have heard countless times to stay at a healthy weight, watch your saturated fat intake, don't smoke, and get enough exercise. And while all these tips are great to maintain a healthy ticker, there's another type of food that trumps them all as being the absolute worst for your heart.

"Sugar has been finally recognized as the ultimate villain wreaking havoc on our health," cardiologist Luiza Petre, MD, told POPSUGAR. "We owe the obesity and heart disease epidemic to the sugar and high fructose corn syrup propaganda of the 1980s."

"Fructose converts straight into fat, as the body cannot process it as a source of energy the same way as glucose," she added. "So suddenly we ingest food that goes straight to our fat deposits. Visceral fat is one of the biggest inflammatory triggers for heart disease and becomes an endocrine organ that sabotages individuals and makes them even fatter."

She said that while the connection between fat and heart health is still up in the air, "sugar is way more harmful than fat or proteins could be."

That being said, you should still watch your intake of some fats: trans fats should be avoided at all costs, and saturated fat should only constitute 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. However, it's extra important that you also watch your sugar intake — switch from drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages to sparkling and detox waters.

In fact, the American Heart Association only recommends no more than six teaspoons (or 25 grams) of added sugars for women a day. Be sure you're reading your nutrition facts and ingredients label closely: added sugar has dozens of names, including corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, and sucrose.

By limiting your added sugar intake you'll not only be protecting your waistline; you'll be protecting your heart, too.