Contributed by: Dustin Gonzales, M.S., NASM-CPT
Which one is worse: SALT or SUGAR?
The average sodium intake per person in the U.S. is more than 3,400 mg per day. And most of that comes from processed and restaurant foods. As a matter of fact, the FDA breaks down Americans’ sodium intake like this:
• 77% from packaged and restaurant foods
• 12% from naturally occurring sources
• 11% from adding salt during cooking or at the table
Limiting the intake of processed foods is the key. When we focus on whole, minimally-processed foods prepared in healthful ways at home, we naturally limit our sodium intake.
Sodium in and of itself is not harmful to one’s health. In fact, sodium is necessary for optimal health, well-being, and fitness. It’s an essential nutrient that must be obtained from food, so it’s obviously quite important. Research suggests it lies in the quality of sodium (e.g., sodium used in processed foods versus sodium found in products like Himalayan salt/sea salt), as well as sodium intake relative to total electrolyte and fluid intake. Meaning, the quality of the sodium matters, as does your intake of all electrolytes (e.g., magnesium, potassium, calcium, etc.) and water.
How about Sugar?
All sugars, regardless of how they’re labeled (e.g., white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, evaporated cane sugar, brown sugar) have a similar effect on the body by raising blood sugar levels, causing the production of insulin. Insulin is needed to flush the sugar out of your bloodstream, providing your body with energy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as energy in and of itself is necessary for our bodies to function. It’s when we overload our systems with too much sugar that it becomes problematic. In fact, sugar is a major source of calories that in excess can lead to fat gain, too much sugar can cause accelerated cellular aging and excessive inflammation, both of which can increase your risk for multiple chronic diseases.
So, which one of these substances should be banned? Well, my opinion, since salt is necessary for your body to function and sugar is not, and since sugar can increase the negative effects of salt, SUGAR is the more evil of the two.