Sugar and salt are addictive; and, as with most things that are addictive, they’re not good for you. The more you have, the more you crave, and the harder you have to work to undo the damage.
You won’t find a surgeon general’s warning on their packaging; but, if there was one, it would mention that they can both be harmful to your heart and your waistline.
What’s worse? They’re both very sneaky about getting into your food without you realizing.
While eating dinner at home the other night, my husband reached for our favorite creole seasoning. I mentioned the high salt content to him since he tends to overpour, and he said, “Oh well, it should be okay since I haven’t had any other salt today.” He thought he hadn’t had salt that day because he hadn’t used a salt shaker. In his defense, this is a common misperception.
Where are they hiding?
- Check the labels of pre-packaged foods, sauces, seasoning blends, dressings, marinades, bottled/canned beverages, etc. and you’ll quickly understand why your body is hanging on to unwanted pounds and water-weight.
- I love soy sauce, ketchup, hot sauce and Worcestershire, but I use to use them as freely as if they were made up of air or water. Now I know better, and I’ve also learned that a little goes a long way. Now I understand why ketchup packets are so tiny.
- Bread, cereal, snack foods, dried fruit, nuts, jerky, olives, pickles, hot dogs, baked beans, etc. are full of unnecessary sugar and salt, and energy and athletic replenishment drinks are just as guilty.
What you can do to get off sugar and salt?
- The less sugar and salt you have, the less of them you’ll want, and both addictions are much easier to kick than something like smoking.
- Cook at home, and pay attention to everything you add. Try out different herbs, spices, freshly squeezed citrus juices or even alcohol to enhance the flavor of your food without salt, and make sure your canned goods are low sodium or say ‘no salt added’ on the label.
- Taste your food and think about all the natural flavors of what you’re eating before you add anything to it. Here in Italy, salt isn’t commonly on the table at restaurants. Why should it be? If you’re paying a chef to cook your food, maybe you should let him/her decide how it should be seasoned. I’m not a trained chef, but I’m insulted when someone seasons the food I’ve cooked before they taste it.
- Make dessert a real treat. One night of not reaching for something sweet after dinner will make it easier the next night. It should be a treat rather than something you have to have. Try having an orange after dinner to cleanse your palate and satisfy your sweet tooth, or go brush your teeth right after your meal.
- If you’re a parent, you are in control of whether or not your child starts out with an addiction to salt and/or sugar.
How much can/should you have?
- The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine recommends that most adults get no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day; the equivalent of about one teaspoon of table salt. If you are at risk of hypertension, cut that number down to no more than 1,500 milligrams.
- Nutritionally, you do not need any added sugar; especially not refined sugar. Most fruits and vegetables have natural sugars in them, and these cover all you need.
- A balanced diet of natural, “real” food covers all of your nutritional needs.
It’s not all evil.
Everything in moderation is fine. I like sugar and salt too, so I’m not saying you have to cut it out entirely to lose weight. The goal is for you to be aware, and in control, of how much you have. Knowing that they are both in most of the food you eat, even if you don’t add them yourself, will help you moderate your consumption.
If you need a nasty visual, imagine a sticky sugar substance making fat stick to you, and salt making you swell up. Got that image in your head? Doesn’t look nearly as tasty that way, does it?