It seems that almost every week there is an article in the press telling us we are consuming too much salt and sugar. With low salt and sugar free diets being endorsed by celebrities and the NHS (which has declared sugar in particular is “worse for health than smoking”), perhaps it is time we all stood up, took notice and changed our salty and sugary ways?
Salt and sugar is hidden in countless foods. From the obvious things, such as ready meals, crisps, fast food, alcohol, cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets, fizzy drinks, desserts, sweet and savoury pastries, pizzas, as well as processed meals and takeaways, breakfast cereals, bread, cheese, butter and some dairy alternatives. To things such as baked beans, tomato ketchup and other condiments, all of which contain high levels of both salt and sugar.
We all know that too much salt and sugar is bad for us, but how much is too much? Let’s take a closer look at recommended daily amounts, as well as the effects that eating too much salt and sugar can have on us:
War on salt
The latest NHS and government recommendations on salt consumption are that adults should consume no more than 6g of salt a day, which equates to approximately just one teaspoon. It is even less for babies and children. Babies under one year old should have less than 1g of salt a day, infants up to 3 years should have less than 2g of salt a day, children aged 4 to 6 years should have less than 3g of salt a day and children aged 7 to 10 years should have less than 5g of salt a day. For children aged 11 years and over, the adult recommended daily amount applies.
On average, UK adults eat 8.1g of salt a day. This may not sound like much; however, the extra 2.1g a day is enough to seriously impact on your health. A diet high in salt results in your body storing extra water to compensate. This causes your blood pressure to rise and can lead to your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain being put under immense stress. It also means you are more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, dementia or kidney disease. High blood pressure shows almost no symptoms, so it is often very difficult to tell whether you have high blood pressure or not. The NHS has estimated that approximately 30% of adults in the UK unknowingly have high blood pressure.
War on sugar
The latest recommended guidelines set by both the NHS and the government recommends that women should consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day, men should not exceed 36 grams, and children should have even less, with no more than 19 grams for 4-6 year olds, and 24 grams for 7-10 year olds. As a guide, 30 grams of sugar equates to 7 sugar cubes. So seeing that there are 10 grams of sugar in just one chocolate chip cookie, it really is food for thought.
Sugar contains a high number of calories but absolutely no nutrition. Eating too much sugar has been proven to link directly with an increase in obesity and the chances of developing a serious medical condition, such as certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as well as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Particularly prevalent in children, sugar leads to tooth decay if it is left in contact with teeth for any great length of time. Snacking on sugary foods in between meals is especially harmful, so choose unsalted nuts, carrot sticks, houmous, cucumber and whole, natural fruits instead. It is worth mentioning that fruit in its whole and natural form won’t cause tooth decay, but when it is juiced, blended or dried the sugars are concentrated and more likely to stick to your teeth and do damage.
Eating too much sugar is responsible for causing your blood glucose levels to peak and plummet, which can leave you feeling hungry, irritable and fatigued. Furthermore, it is proven that sugar puts our minds and bodies under stress. That is because when your blood sugar levels peak and then plummet, your body releases stress hormones which leave you feeling anxious and jittery.