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Salt & Sugar: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. But the pinch here or dash there won’t hurt you as much as the sodium that’s preloaded into processed foods.

Some cornflakes have it; canned veggies, soups, and sauces are loaded with it; deli meats are infamous for it. Forget about pizza, bacon, crackers, and cheese—the more processed the food, the more salt it’s likely to have. 

For optimum health, shoot for no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (a little less than 1 teaspoon). 

Salt Smarts

Shop for healthier options, but don’t look for just the word “salt” on the label. These aliases apply!

  • Sodium alginate
  • Sodium ascorbate
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Sodium chloride
  • Sodium citrate
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Sodium saccharin
  • Monosodium glutamate (msg)

Look for low- or reduced-sodium soups, sauces, beans, and vegetables. Rinse canned beans and veggies to reduce salt.

Choose fresh produce; most is low in sodium. When you cook, reduce or eliminate salt in recipes. (Baked goods are the exception.)

Instead of using salty condiments, season your food with herbs, spices, and lemon or lime juice.

Sugar Smarts

Reducing sugar intake is smart. It’s easy to cut back on sweetening your cereal or coffee. But sugar in potato chips? Pasta sauce? As with salt, finding hidden sugar in everyday foods is a challenge. When the going gets tough, the tough read labels.

Here are some of the sweet stuff’s aliases:

  • Sucrose
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Dextrose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Cane juice, cane syrup
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Invert sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup

Easy ways to reduce sugar include cutting out sodas and candy, gum, and other sweets. Choose milk or water instead of fruit juices, and watch out for cereals and yogurts with added sugar.

Limit processed foods, including condiments—ketchup and many salad dressings have added sugar. Choose reduced-sugar jams or fruit preserves. When you bake, try reducing the amount of sugar called for; use 2/3 cup instead of a cup, for example. If you buy canned or frozen fruit, look for products without added sugar.

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