Concerned about your heart? For years experts have warned us to watch our sodium intake to prevent high blood pressure—a significant risk factor for heart disease—but recent studies show that dietary salt may not necessarily be the bad guy we have been led to believe. Instead, new evidence points to a far more dangerous culprit: sugar.
Not only does it affect healthy blood pressure, but a recent Mayo Clinic report reveals that a diet high in added sugars, particularly fructose, is causing a significant increase in cases of diabetes and pre-diabetes in the United States—and may soon result in a nationwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes.
What many people don’t realize is that heart disease is a major complication of diabetes, and according to the American Diabetes Association having diabetes actually doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke. Excess fructose also contributes to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, and even moderate doses of added sugar over a short period of time can cause significant damage to the heart, say experts.
As you may have guessed already, Americans consume a lot of fructose—most often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup—but reducing all forms of added sugar is really the best line of defense for a healthy heart. Below are 4 important “heart healthy steps” you can take every day:
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly.
- Eliminate added sugars from your diet.
- Reduce your intake of carbohydrates from starchy foods such as bread, pasta, pastries and starchy vegetables. Carbohydrates break down into sugar in the digestive tract, and those sugars are absorbed and contribute to high blood sugar.
- Read ingredient and nutritional content labels before purchasing a food product.
As you work to eliminate sugar from your diet, remember to eat plenty of non-starchy veggies, low-sugar fruits, protein (from sources such as tofu, poultry, eggs and fish), healthy fats, nuts and seeds.