While whole, natural foods contain complex carbohydrates, natural salt, or fructose that break down into glucose— the sugar that our body uses for fuel— many people think that getting sugar or salt in processed foods is the same thing. Even seemingly straight-forward foods like bread, fruit juice, yogurt, cereal and condiments can have very high levels of sugar or salt added, and not in healthy forms.
Watch for hidden ingredients!
Research shows that today we consume 43% more caloric sweeteners than we did in the 1950’s. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control stated that 70% of our sodium comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker and not from whole foods.
Because of the added sugar and sodium in most packaged foods, we have become accustomed those tastes. Sugar should be kept to 100-200 sugar calories per day. The American Heart Association recommends keeping sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less daily. So it is important to monitor how much you consume. The best way to do this is to read labels!
Here are 3 basic tips you should remember:
- Look at the order of the ingredients listed. Those at the beginning of the list are included at higher amounts. This is important to know because the top 5 ingredients on the label might all be different forms of sugars.
- Keep your eye out for hidden sugar. Know the other names for sugar like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, fruit juice concentrate and any ingredient that ends in –ose, such as fructose, sucrose and glucose.
- Compare labels. Look at a can of soup—for example—and see how high the sodium is, or how much sugar it contains. Then check a ‘low-sodium’ version or even a different brand. When you begin to compare labels you will discover that, “Wow, this soup has 675 mg of sodium!” or “This food has 75 gm. of sugar in it!”
There are many more things you can do to avoid extra sodium or sugar. My two favorite books on finding ways to do this are Get the Salt Out and Get the Sugar Out, both by Ann Louise Gittleman.
When you are cutting back on salt and sugar, it takes your taste buds 6 to 8 weeks to adjust to the new flavors. If you like to cook, preparing your own meals gives you the ability to adjust flavor levels gradually. Using other spices and herbs like cinnamon, ginger, dill, garlic and cayenne give you lots of flavor— You won’t even miss the sugar or the high levels of salt!