We’ve always been told that too much salt and sugar in our diets is not good for our heart health, so what are we to make of new research that claims excess sugar is far worse for heart health than salt?
A recent study, published by US researchers in online journal Open Heart suggests that sugar is in fact worse than salt for raising our blood pressure levels and heart disease risk.
Along with suggesting that people need to focus more on cutting sugar consumption levels than their salt intake, the researchers also claim that reducing salt levels could, in certain circumstances, actually do more harm than good.
Their findings, however, have caused a backlash amongst other scientists who maintain that in order to boost heart health, both salt and sugar levels need to be kept in check.
Why sugar and salt are bad for heart health
Whether or not sugar is indeed worse for our heart health than salt, the fact of the matter remains that too much of either of these does nothing to benefit heart health.
There are in fact a number of studies to show that excess sugar consumption could increase your risk of dying from heart disease (even if you’re not overweight) such as this report published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Here, the excess sugar causes inflammation of the arterial walls. It’s this consistent chronic inflammation of the blood vessels that can lead to heart disease and strokes.
Too much salt meanwhile (salt is essential for keeping your body fluids balanced at the right concentration) could send your volume of body fluids soaring. This in turn raises your blood pressure, which can cause even more serious heart health problems such as stroke or heart disease.
How to cut your salt intake
NHS guidelines suggest that you shouldn’t consume more than 6g (one teaspoon) of salt per day. Here are a few quick and easy ways to start reducing your salt intake today:
- Instead of adding extra salt to your homemade dishes, add some flavour by making the most of these heart-healthy herbs and spices as ingredients.
- Opt for buying fresh meat as opposed to more processed versions which tend to have a much higher salt content.
- Did you know that dissolvable (effervescent) tablets such as painkillers and vitamin supplements can contain as much as 1g of salt per tablet? Where possible, choose capsule alternatives instead.
How to reduce sugar consumption
Current guidelines suggest that no more than 50g of sugar for women and 70g for men should be consumed per day.
- Did you know that a typical 250ml glass of fruit juice can contain up to 7 teaspoons of sugar? Switch instead to water or a lycopene-packed tomato juice.
- Ditch the extra teaspoons of sugar in your cup of tea/coffee. If you can’t forgo them completely, opt instead for a low calorie sweetener.
- Craving a sugary treat? Chow down on a piece of fruit instead of reaching for your usual chocolate sugar fix. Although fruits do contain some sugar, they’re also packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
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