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As the leading cause of death in America, anything that can be done to prevent heart disease is welcome news. For a long time, following a heart-healthy diet meant reducing salt intake. However, new studies continue to show that the amount of sugar we eat may be just as important, if not more so. Concerns have also been raised that reducing sodium intake may be overrated. However, both sides can agree that it’s important to be mindful of your sugar intake.

The sodium controversy

Recent studies have begun to push back at the traditional line of using salt as means of preventing cardiovascular and other problems. A 2014 study using data from over 100,000 participants, gathered as part of the PURE study found that limiting sodium intake for people already consuming a moderate amount could actually increase the risk of heart disease.

It makes sense that we shouldn’t fall below a certain level of sodium intake. Our body needs salt, right? The question is really, how much do you need? The study wasn’t looking for an optimal dosage amount, but was able to conclude from the data that it’s somewhere between 3,000 mg and 6,000 mg a day. Why bring that up? Currently, the FDA recommends 2,300 mg a day while the American Heart Association recommends even less.

When a study disagrees with institutions as big as the FDA and AHA, it’s a big deal. The same conference seeing the presentation of this study even had its own formal debate on sodium reduction. It’s difficult to draw a line at exactly how much salt is good and how much (or how little) is bad. However, maintaining moderation is certainly the prudent option.

Salt and heart disease

In a 2013 review of current evidence on heart disease and salt by the Mayo Clinic, researchers found that too much salt did indeed lead to heart disease and was also associated with higher risks of stroke and kidney disease. They recommend “population-wide sodium intake reduction.”

Of course, it’s worth noting here, that thinking of salt as the same as sodium isn’t wrong but can be misleading. The more processed products often have lots of added sodium, meaning you can be getting salt from foods that may not taste very salty, like many frozen foods.

But what about sugar?

Sugar causes numerous problems in the body, specifically fructose. By damaging Insulin Efficiency and more, sugar can lead to increased weight gain, liver damage, heart disease and more. In fact, a recent review of evidence published in the British Medical Journal concluded:

“It is time for guideline committees to shift focus away from salt and focus greater attention to the likely more-consequential food additive: sugar.

A reduction in the intake of added sugars, particularly fructose, and specifically in the quantities and context of industrially-manufactured consumables, would help not only curb hypertension [high blood pressure] rates, but might also help address broader problems related to cardiometabolic disease.”

Of course, sugar is still an essential part of our diet, what’s important is getting the right kind of sugar. That means avoiding lots of high-processed sugar. Oddly enough, one fortunate aspect of this is foods high in fructose and other added sugars also commonly contain added salt. Cutting down on one can, in this manner, simultaneously reduce the intake of the other.

Other common culprits for packing sugar into the diet are soda and other sugar-added beverages, like sports drinks and some juices. Not only can they make you age faster, they are specifically targeted by the American Heart Association as a health problem in need of serious intake reduction.

What to do next

Cutting sugar and perhaps salt from your diet means replacing the foods you used to eat with other ones. Following a dietary plan is the simplest and most effective way of doing this. The Mediterranean diet has shown great results in reducing heart disease, and the YOU%2B Nutrition plan also takes advantage of similar foods, but with the added flexibility of a wider range of food. It’s also good to get plenty of antioxidants in your diet.

Exercise plays a major role in reducing heart problems, and includes strength training. Because the YOU%2B Nutrition plan is also integrated with Fitness, you’ll be able to increase the results you get. Check out more articles linked throughout this one, browse the YOU%2B app or read Dr. Steve’s book Reprogram Your Life: Bioscience for a Healthier You to learn more about sugar, salt and how to achieve long-term health.

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