Hold the Sugar and the Salt for Blood Pressure Control

Contributed by: Sonal Hill, RD, LD

You’ve heard for years how bad salt is for your blood pressure and that’s accurate but now there may be another culprit to add to the list of things that can elevate blood pressure. No, I’m not talking about pain as my colleague Shazia Chaudry, MD, mentions as a blood pressure increaser in her article, Your Everyday Ailments May Be Causing Hidden Heart Problems. I’m referring to sugar.                                                                                                 Salt&Sugar

According to a new report in Open Heart, added sugars, particularly fructose, may increase blood pressure and heart rate. “Compelling evidence from basic science, population studies, and clinical trials implicates sugars, and particularly the monosaccharide fructose, as playing a major role in the development of hypertension,” said researchers Sean Lucan of Montefiore Medical Center and James DiNicolantionio of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute. In their study, Lucan and DiNicolantionio found that high sugar levels affect a key area of the brain called the hypothalamus which causes an increased heart rate and blood pressure. They also found that sugar may cause our bodies to produce more insulin, which also causes your heart rate to speed up.

It could be argued that most Americans consume a majority of their sugar, especially fructose, by drinking sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda. A 12 oz. can of regular soda contains on average 33 grams of sugar and empty calories which can cause several health problems including heart disease. The study found that those who consume more than 10% of their calories from added sugars have a 30% increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and those who consume 25% or more calories from added sugars increased their risk by almost three times. Researchers also discovered that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages has been directly associated with increased blood pressure. “Intake of >12 fl. oz of sugar-sweetened beverage per day can increase the risk of having hypertension by at least 6%, and it can increase mean systolic blood pressure by a minimum of 1.8 mm Hg in roughly over 18 months.”

Alternatives to Sugar and Salt

There are two types of sugars in our diets: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit and milk. Added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to food or beverages. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily calorie allowance. For most women, this is no more than 100 calories, or 6 teaspoons, per day and no more than 150 calories, or 9 teaspoons, per day for men. Since our bodies, don’t need sugars or salt to function properly and sugar and salt can actually do more harm than good, I recommend the following to replace sugar and salt in your diet:

  • Cut out the soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. If you must have a beverage other than water, go with the sugar-free or low-calorie option.
  • Eat fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits. Choose fruit canned in water or natural juice. Fruit canned in syrup is added sugar that you don’t need.
  • Add fruit to your breakfast. Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, add bananas, strawberries, blueberries, etc. or dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or apricots.
  • Cut back. Cut the sugar and salt called for in recipes by at least one-third to one-half or swap the sugar for almond, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or other spices or herbs to flavor food.
  • Remove sugar and salt containers from your view. If you don’t see them, you won’t be as tempted to add sugar or salt to your food.
  • Select unsalted or no-sugars added foods. It’s best to avoid processed, prepared and pre-packaged foods because they are packed with salt and sugar.
  • Don’t add salt or sugar before you taste it. Taste the food with its natural flavor before adding in unnecessary salt and sugar.

Added sugars and salt are lurking in dozens of foods and beverages we enjoy eating and drinking every day. While it’s not necessary to totally eliminate sugar and salt from your diet it’s also not a bad idea to think twice about your food and beverage choices. Choosing healthier options can be overwhelming but don’t worry; we are here to help you! We can help you navigate the information and develop a healthy eating and beverage plan. So start the new year off with less sugar and salt and better blood pressure and heart rate! Call (513) 475-U-C-4-U to schedule an appointment with our nutrition experts.

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