While we need salt to survive, the problem is that we eat too much. The amount required for the body to function is minuscule compared to how much salt most people consume.
Our ideal salt intake is about three-quarters of a teaspoon daily, the American Heart Association says. But it’s estimated that Americans consume about five to 10 times that much.
To win the battle, you need to toss the salt shaker and rid your shelves of processed foods, where hidden salt hides.
And even seemingly sweet desserts can be salt-filled. Starting now, give yourself a 30-day holiday from added salt. You’ll be surprised how vibrant flavors will seem once you kick the salt habit.
Herbs are a great way to perk up foods without adding salt. Try basil, garlic, oregano, sage, and thyme. And don’t forget turmeric and cinnamon — both spices have many healthy properties.
Obviously, foods like candy and cake contain sugar. But watch out for the “halo effect” — branding food as “healthy” even though there’s a lot of added sugar. Yogurt is a prime example of a halo food. While plain yogurt is healthy, you can barely even find it anymore among the mountain of flavors available. A UK survey published in September found that the vast majority of these brands are packed with sugar, and just one serving exceeds the recommended daily sugar limit for adults, which is six teaspoons for a woman and nine for a man.
To recognize “hidden” sugar in food and drinks:
• Learn to read labels. Sometimes it’s not called sugar, but masquerades as fructose, glucose, lactose, maltodextrin, and dextrose. You may have read about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, but substituting raw sugar or honey can still raise glucose levels. Substitute fresh fruit instead.
• Alcoholic drinks, including wine, are metabolized as sugar. Drinking alcohol also weakens your resolve to eat healthy. Instead of a cocktail, drink sparkling water with fruits like lime or a few raspberries.
• Banish processed and packaged foods. When was the last time you added a cup of sugar to a stew you were making, or a loaf of bread you were baking? You wouldn’t do that, but a food manufacturer would.
• Eat dark chocolate instead. If you’re really hankering for something sweet, eat a square of dark chocolate or pour a thin drizzle of dark chocolate syrup on fresh strawberries or raspberries.
• Avoid juice. While fresh fruit does not raise diabetes risk, that’s not the case with fruit juice, which a recent Harvard School of Public Health study found increases it.
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