What You Need To Know About Salt, Sugar and Fat.
January 17 2012
True or False? High sodium diets will lead to high blood pressure. True. But so will a low sodium diet plus the intake of excessive sugar plus the intake of bad fats.
True or False? Eating fat makes you fat. False. Eating large amounts of sugar, processed foods, or any kind of simple carbohydrates will make you fat. Factor in the absence of correct, good fats and you’re sure to be even more fat. Good fats will keep you thin and regulate metabolism.
True or False? Eating sugar will make you crave salt. True. The more sugary treats we eat, just hours later our bodies will crave salt. And in return, the saltiness will give way to more sugar cravings. Those sugar cravings will lead to craving bad fats. Before you know it, the potato chips, apple turnovers, and cheese platter have us bouncing around like a ball in a pinball game between the sugar, salt and fat. No wonder we can’t appreciate the taste of freshly steamed vegetables or simply sliced cucumbers–we’re always craving salt, sugar or fats, all of which are missing in fresh veggies. So it seems in order to break the cycle and regain strong, steady health, all three elements must be adjusted back to healthy levels. But how?
When it comes to salt, sugar and fat, less of them certainly does mean a more healthy you. But let’s not forget that there are acceptable forms of all of these dietary components. When you’re sick, sodium is essential in proper amounts to aid in re-hydration, hence why chicken soup is supposedly “good for you”. It’s not actually the chicken, but the broth and it’s ratio of sodium content. I definitely appreciate my daily dose of noodle soup when I’m under the weather! (If you want to try my favorite, it’s Dr. McDougall’s vegan “chicken” noodle soup. It’s noodles, broth and veggies, with just 390mg of salt.) Fruit sugar is certainly acceptable if you’re eating the whole fruit in it’s natural state, not canned! Fruit juice is a different story because it’s missing the fiber and the fiber is what helps slow down absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream, so fruit juice is along the same lines of white sugar, although certainly dense in minerals! Good fats are the one exception to the rule. While low sodium and low sugar are generally a great guideline, fats must be adequate. Think avocados, olives, flax seeds, flax seed oil, hemp seeds, savi seeds, chia seeds, and raw pumpkin seeds…those are all great examples of good fats. And of course bad fats, fats like fried foods, doughnuts, pastries, burgers, dairy, any cooked animal meat, or anything stir-fried at too high of a temp, is not only going to make you fat, but will build up inside too, making you feel lethargic, weak, tired and craving more bad fats, sugar and definitely salt. Major conundrum.
Sodium levels should never exceed 1200 mg a day for average individuals, that is, if you’re not in the category of having a medical reason to “watch your salt”. Otherwise a low sodium regimen of about 700mg a day or less is necessary. But the truth is most people are eating over 1500mg a day and sometimes as much as 3600mg! No wonder our blood pressure is soaring in this nation! We eat fast food, therefore we have high blood pressure! The more processed a food is, the salt content is usually high as well. That’s because the taste of how crumby the food really is must be disguised. However, if you’re eating patterns and habits are formed around whole food, not processed, but always fresh, having to “watch your salt” is not really an issue. Fresh foods are very low in salt. Did you know that just a tiny 1/4 teaspoon contains 590mg? A good rule of thumb I always follow while cooking from a recipe is to automatically cut the salt in half. You can usually get away with this and it still tastes perfectly fine!
Keep your processed sugar intake to under 20 grams or less per day. Most folks end up somewhere around the 100 gram mark by the end of the day, or more. And it’s very easy to do. Between the maple syrup at breakfast, cookies as a snack at the office, ketchup on the hotdog at lunch, mid-day soda, and all the garbage in between, that sugar consumption is booming. If you want to chase away a sugar craving, grab some protein and that will cancel it. Make a protein smoothie and bring it to work. I like hemp protein from VEGA. Blend it with a non-dairy milk. Stash some raw almonds in your purse or backpack. Pumpkin seed bars, Mrs. Mays snacks, and homemade treat bars if you’d like. Or try packing just a good ol’ apple and enjoy the sweetness of that all by itself.
Remember, your body needs good fat, and quite a bit of it! Our brains and nervous systems rely on it. Good fats are protective and we need at least 20-30 grams a day. Without good fats, such as avocados, olives, flax seeds, flax seed oil, hemp seeds, savi seeds, chia seeds, and raw pumpkin seeds, we will have brittle hair and nails, poor skin health, and dull, dry eyes. Plus we won’t think clearly or be happy and have a good outlook on life. With good fats missing from our diets it will also be hard to stay in shape or have energy! An average serving of flax seed oil is 14 grams. If you make a hemp smoothie, you’re looking at about 7 additional grams. So stock up!
Out of all three components (sugar, salt and fat), I’d say the most important one to fix first is the fat. Start getting better fats in your diet, while eliminating the bad ones and then fixing the other two will be easier. All three are connected. YOU are in charge of your health. Making better decisions is a snap if you have the right knowledge! Here’s to a new year and a new you!