||There are many messages consumers are hearing about salt and sugar, whether it is on a food label, ingredient list or in an advertisement – “Low sodium”, “natural sugar”. It can all be very confusing. Read on to find out the truth behind many myths you hear about salt and sugar.
MYTH: Only people with high blood pressure need to limit how much sodium they eat.
THE TRUTH: Everyone can benefit from eating less sodium. Canadian adults eat about 3,400 mg every day; which is more than twice the recommended daily amount your body needs. In addition to high blood pressure, too much sodium can lead to stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Sodium intake is also a concern for children. Many foods targeted to kids are very high in sodium. High sodium intake in children can result in many of the same health risks we see in adults.
MYTH: The best way to limit your sodium intake is to stop using the salt shaker.
THE TRUTH: The salt shaker is not the biggest culprit. Only about 10 percent of the sodium we consume comes from salt added when cooking and at the table. About another 10 percent of the salt we consume occurs naturally in foods such as meat and milk products. The majority (almost 80 percent!) of sodium we eat comes from processed foods, packaged and ready-to-eat foods, and restaurant meals. Examples of food items high in sodium include: luncheon meats, hot dogs, processed cheese, potato chips, frozen meals, canned soups, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, onion salt, garlic salt, sea salt and bouillon cubes. Take a look at what you eat and where you can reduce sodium in your diet. Choose more fresh foods. Try to eat fewer processed foods and restaurant meals. Try using fewer condiments and in smaller amounts.
MYTH: Sea salt is natural so it’s better for you than table salt.
THE TRUTH: Sea salt, just like kosher and gourmet salt, has about the same amount of sodium as table salt. It is not a healthier choice. The differences between sea salt and table salt are taste, texture and how they are made. Whichever salt you choose, use less. Other sources of sodium to look for in an ingredient list include: salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sea salt, soy sauce, brine. Instead of mimicking the taste of sodium with salt substitutes, start to change your taste buds by trying to include more herbs and spices such as garlic, basil, oregano, or salt-free herb blends to add more flavour to food.
MYTH: Fruit has too much sugar to be healthy.
THE TRUTH : Fruit is a healthy choice! It’s true that fruit has naturally occurring sugar but it’s also full of vitamins, minerals and fibre that are important for good health. Choosing more vegetables and fruit can help you reduce your risk of developing health problems. Enjoy whole, fresh, frozen or canned fruit each day. Whole fruit is better than juice. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a baked apple or yogurt topped with berries. Try to eat less foods that are high in added sugar and low in nutrients, such as candy, cookies, chocolate treats, gummies, sweetened soft drinks, and products labeled “made with real fruit” (hint – these products have little or no fruit).
MYTH: Honey, brown sugar and agave syrup are better for you than white sugar.
THE TRUTH: Nutritionally speaking, they are all pretty much the same. While some people consider brown sugar, honey or agave syrup to be more natural, they are still sugars with very few other nutrients. Your body can’t tell the difference between them and white sugar.
If your health care practitioner has told you your triglycerides are high speak with a Registered Dietitian to see how you can reduce the sugar in your diet. This may help to lower the triglycerides and that would help with heart health.
Whether you choose to use honey, brown sugar, agave syrup or white sugar, use small amounts. Also there are different kinds of sugar that are added to products that are not listed as “sugar”. When you look at an ingredient list, look for ingredients that end in “ose” (e.g. sucrose, fructose), liquid invert sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup, concentrated fruit juice and corn syrup.