We live in a world in which poor diets and inadequate nutrition have led to a rise in all sorts of preventable diseases. High blood pressure (hypertension,) and diabetes are among the leading causes of preventable health problems. Many of the preventable illnesses from which we suffer are directly related to salt and sugar consumption.
The consequences of a diet with too much sugar, whether it be from direct sugar intake on its own, or from foods that are metabolized as sugar, can be seen in problems ranging from obesity, diabetes, hyperglycemia, high cholesterol and high triglycerides, the latter of which is a predictor for Type 2 diabetes. The over consumption of salt can be seen in a host of cardiovascular problems, some of which are more readily evident than others.
Just as the consequences of a diet full of too much sugar is evident in the rising obesity epidemic in the United States, too much salt has a direct impact on blood pressure, heart disease and a host of other problems. People don’t realize that there is hidden sodium in virtually everything we eat, and unless we are vigilant about the hidden substances in our foods, we may never learn how to help ourselves and to prevent many of the preventable diseases.
CARBOHYDRATES AND SUGAR –
Many people think that cholesterol problems are associated with too much meat consumption and too much high fat food. That’s a very simplistic understanding, and it is only partially correct. There are other things that contribute to high cholesterol. Foods that are considered carbohydrates can be metabolized by the body as sugars, and that leads to higher triglycerides, and if left unchecked, a high triglyceride level can quickly become Type 2 diabetes.
When people fail to consider portions and calories, it’s easy to forget that something like the average can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. Two cans of soda has as much as 1/4 the daily calorie requirement for the average woman. Sugar is often present in foods and we may not even realize it unless we read the labels.
Look at juice drinks and you will see that high fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient. That’s basically sugar. Look at ketchup and you will see the same thing. Pasta sauces,barbecue sauces, marinades, and a host of other things that people eat quite frequently, all contain hundreds, if not thousands of calories in hidden sugars.
Simple carbohydrates –
People who eat a diet that is full of simple carbohydrates (as opposed to complex carbohydrates that are found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables,) fail to realize how the body uses these carbohydrates. White breads, regular white pasta, mashed potatoes, boxed dinners, cereals that aren’t made with whole grains are all examples of simple carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates metabolized as sugar –
When we consume those simple carbohydrates, they are converted to sugar in our bodies. This is one of the reasons why these foods are so bad for people with diabetes. What most people don’t realize is that even though they may not affect the LDL and HDL cholesterol numbers, they do affect the triglyceride level in one’s bloodstream, and a high triglyceride level is directly linked to diabetes.
Although these foods may not contain significant amounts of sugar that can be seen on the packaging, the way the body metabolizes them, they might as well have been a five pound bag of sugar that one consumed in one sitting.
Effect on triglycerides –
People with high triglyceride levels are at great risk for diabetes, and they may even be considered pre-diabetic. This isn’t to say that all sugar is bad for us. We get natural sugars from the fruits we eat, but the fruits also provide us with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
This is one of the reasons for which some fruits or juices that are particularly high in natural sugars are not recommended for diabetics. Orange juice, for example, is one of the things that diabetics are urged to avoid: the sugar in orange juice is released into the blood stream very quickly.
SALT IN THE DIET –
It seems likely that salt is the oldest seasoning known to the world. If there is one seasoning or spice that has the ability to alter the flavor of any food so significantly that it can make something bland taste delicious or make something delicious taste awful, salt has that power. The trouble is that even when a small amount of salt is added to food to flavor it, people pile the salt on their food at the table.
High blood pressure –
Salt becomes a problem for a variety of reasons. Too much salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to cardiovascular disease. When our bodies retain salt, we experience swelling in our hands, feet and other parts of the body – even the lungs.
Heart problems –
Water retention can be a symptom of congestive heart failure and that is a potentially life threatening condition. When our bodies retain fluid which is linked to too much sodium in our blood stream, we can experience bloating and weight gain. Weight gain predisposes us to a host of diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol problems and diabetes.
Salt in ordinary foods –
Salt or sodium chloride, it’s chemical name is essential for our diet, but in moderation. Some foods can contain sodium naturally, making it unnecessary to add extra sodium to the foods while cooking. People have a tendency to put salt on food when they cook it because it improves the taste. Salt is probably the oldest seasoning known to man. Adding additional salt after the salt has been used in the cooking process is one of the ways by which we over do it with salt.
Sugar and salt are both essential to our lives and good health. Sugar is the substance that gives our bodies the energy we need to function. Our bodies metabolize certain foods as sugars, making them lower in fiber and nutrients than is necessarily good for us.
Salt is necessary to keep our electrolytes in check. It makes it possible for our bodies to sweat, and when we can no longer threat, we are experiencing a life threatening health issue. Sweating is the way our bodies cool themselves down. When we can no longer do that, then we are at great risk for heat stroke and death. We can get plenty of salt in the foods we eat without adding several times the necessary amount. When we drink electrolyte enhanced beverages, we are getting sodium and potassium, both of which are essential to our health.