Bloating, high blood pressure, extra calories… too much sodium in your diet can lead to all three, none of which are conducive to weight loss. Experts recommend 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily, or 1,500 if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, are African American, or 51 and older. That means about half the U.S. population should, theoretically, cap it at 1,500 mg, but it’s pretty much impossible unless you do all your own cooking and use very few packaged foods. In fact, you’d be surprised how easy it is to blow right by these levels. (Check out Why You Should Shake Your Salt Habit to learn why everyone should cut back on sodium.)
You can slash your intake by:
Reading labels. It’s eye-opening how many foods are laden with sodium, from your go-to whole-wheat bread to your favorite salad dressing to your usual breakfast cereal. Make it a habit to check the label for sodium content before putting anything in your grocery cart. Choose foods that are lower in sodium in each category, or even better, opt for “no salt added” (canned tomatoes, canned beans, grain mixes).
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A recent study found a correlation between how high a nation’s sugar consumption is and its type 2 diabetes rate. Now researchers are taking it a grim step further by estimating how many deaths can be directly attributed to sugary drinks.
Researchers at Harvard have linked sugary drinks to the deaths of 25,000 Americans every year and 180,000 deaths worldwide.
“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together,” said Gitanjali Singh, the lead author of the five-year study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
In a not-so-shocking development, The American Beverage Association issued a critical response to the study’s findings.
“It does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer – the real causes of death among the studied subjects,” the industry group said in a written statement. “The researchers make a huge leap when they take beverage intake calculations from around the globe and allege that those beverages are the cause of deaths which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease.”
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- A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests 1 in 10 U.S. deaths is linked to salt consumption, with one in three deaths due to excessive sodium consumption occurring before the age of 70. This is compared to earlier studies that claimed sugar was more dangerous, with sugary drinks causing nearly 25,000 U.S. deaths per year.
- “The burden of sodium is much higher than the burden of sugar-sweetened beverages. That’s because sugar-sweetened beverages are just one type of food that people can avoid, whereas sodium is in everything,” said Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, author of both the salt and sugar studies.
- The research is based on 247 surveys looking at sodium intake and 107 clinical trials measuring how salt affects blood pressure, and specifically how blood pressure attributes to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
- Bread and cheese are the top two source of sodium in the U.S., making sodium a sneaky ingredient that nearly everyone consumes daily, likely in too great of quantities.
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It seems the general rule when it comes to salt is ‘don’t have too much – it’s not healthy for you.’ And after hearing this message for most of our lives, the majority of people view it as fact. Put the salt shaker down; it’ll give you high blood pressure.
But a recent editorial piece in the New York Times by Gary Taubes argues otherwise, questioning whether or not salt really is as bad as they say it is.
Taubes points out that recent evidence suggests restricting the amount of salt we eat can actually increase our likelihood of dying prematurely, which is the exact opposite of what we thought before. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture still considers salt the nation’s greatest health threat before fats, sugars and alcohol. But, a new rebel band of health experts now suspects that it’s more likely that eating the amount of salt the USDA and CDC actually recommends would be doing more of a disservice than benefit.
In the 1970s, despite no conclusive evidence showing a connection between salt intake and serious health problems, salt reduction was declared a must. Health experts at the time thought this to be true primarily based on the observation that populations outside the U.S. that ate little salt had minimal hypertension, as well as a study that showed a group of rats developed hypertension on a high-salt diet.
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