Who doesn’t like to devour a bowl of chatpata that is both spicy and salty? And who can forget the delicious sweet dish that we all eat at every meal? Well, the heart wants what it wants, but is it healthy for your heart? In recent decades, research has increasingly shown that a diet high in salt and sugar can cause heart problems and put you at risk for various cardiovascular diseases. For the sake of your heart, let’s find out if sugar and salt are good for your heart or not!
Health Shots asked Dr. Mohit Tandon, Non-Invasive Consultant Cardiologist at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Okhla, New Delhi, to understand how sugar and salt are bad for the heart.
Why is sugar bad for the heart?
Natural sugars may not be as bad as processed sugar or even artificial sweeteners. Have you heard of added sugars in processed foods? Well, your favorite junk food (soda, processed fruit juice, cookies, candy, cake) contains added sugar which can lead to various health problems.
Citing a 2014 study published in JAMA International Medicine, Dr. Tandon states that people who ate 17 to 21 percent of their calories from added sugars were more likely to die of heart disease than those who did not. . “So the more added sugars you eat, the higher your risk of heart disease,” says the expert.
Sugar may not affect your heart directly, but it may affect it indirectly by increasing the risk of the following risk factors, the expert adds. Excess sugars in your diet are metabolized by your liver and converted to fat, which over a period of time can lead to fatty liver and obesity, which in turn can increase your risk of heart disease.
Too much sugar in your diet is an easy way to gain weight. Added sugars are simple carbohydrates that are easily digested. Sugary drinks, such as sodas and soft drinks, are not as filling as solid drinks and therefore do not satisfy or turn off the appetite system like a diet high in protein, fat or fiber.
Excess added sugars can also promote chronic inflammation and increase blood pressure, which in the long term increases the risk of developing heart disease.
How does salt affect your heart?
By salt, we mean your sodium intake. While sodium is an essential mineral needed to maintain overall health, too much can be problematic not only for the heart but also for the body. Dr. Tandon says that 1,500 mg of sodium per day is more than enough for an adult to meet their daily sodium requirements. According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, your sodium intake should be less than 5 grams a day. Also, salt is not the only source of sodium. Bread, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts, soups, salty snacks, poultry, cheese, tortillas, and more everyday foods are high in sodium.
Also read: Here are 8 great tricks prescribed by a top dietitian to reduce your salt intake.
Sodium is regulated by our kidneys. Consuming too much sodium causes your body to retain more water while maintaining its normal concentration. This leads to an increase in overall blood volume, making the heart work harder, increasing blood pressure levels and stress on the arteries. In the long run, it leads to hypertension, which further increases the risk of heart disease. Therefore, you may feel bloated and experience swollen feet and ankles, explains Dr. Tandon. While a high salt intake can increase your risk of developing heart disease, a low sodium intake can also increase your risk of low blood pressure.
It should be remembered that increased sodium intake may have variable effects in different individuals. Some people who may be ‘salt sensitive’ show a greater increase in BP compared to those who are not, the doctor explains.
Salt vs sugar: Which is worse for your heart?
Too much sugar in your system can make you obese, push you toward diabetes, and promote atherosclerosis, all of which significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease. On the other hand, excess sodium can increase blood pressure levels, putting you at risk for heart disease.
Whether you eat too much sugar or too much salt, both can increase your risk of heart disease. Whether you like salty or sugary foods, you should eat them in moderation. The next time you think about eating too much salt and sugar, think about how much it’s increasing your risk of developing heart disease.
The key to a healthy heart is eating a diet rich in potassium and low in sodium. Including foods such as whole grains (grains), vegetables, and fruits may help increase the risk of heart disease. Another good practice would be to read food labels and look specifically for sodium and added sugars so you can avoid those products. Be sure to keep track of your sodium and salt intake.