Our daily diet and food have changed drastically from what our ancestors used to consume. Modern technology and innovation in the kitchen have led to the production of a plethora of dishes and recipes. It has become quite easy to order a flamboyant, sumptuous restaurant meal to treat our food cravings with the click of a button. But as grand and presentable as these dishes are, have we checked for its wholesomeness? Do we realize to see if it is nutritious enough? All that considered, our consumption of sugar and related products and salt has gone way up than their required daily value. Eating packaged foods or restaurant preparations regularly has led to over-consumption of sugar and salt, leading to adverse health effects on our health. No wonder the numbers of people with non-congenital diabetes and high blood pressure issues have been increasing at a high rate in the past few years.
Sugar is an empty calorie food, which means eating sugar gives us no nutritional benefit. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar everyday. Processed and prepared foods as well as sweetened beverage drinks contain high amounts of added sugars and other artificial sweeteners. This carb-intense ingredient when consumed too much invites a large number of ailments and chronic diseases like obesity and heart related diseases. Manufacturers of packaged foods are required to mandatorily mention the amount of added sugars on their food labels, but poor consumer awareness regarding checking these labels for direct amount of added sugars has led to them putting substitute ingredients, which in the end are equivalents of the same sugar with similar nutritional properties. Sweets and savouries, extruded cereal products, commercial chocolates, nutritional health drink mixes, processed juices, milkshakes and soft drinks are products with high sugar content.
Almost any food is incomplete and bland without the addition of salt. Salt is an important component of food, providing essential nutrients like sodium necessary for maintaining osmotic balance in and out of the cells and functional in nerve impulse conduction. Salt is also important as a fortification vehicle for iodine, iron and other minerals required by our body. But over the years, the consumption of salt has reached far beyond daily consumption values. Recent reports indicate that the consumption of salt is around 9-12 gm daily, about twice the recommended daily value. Due to rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles, people are inclined towards eating highly processed foods containing a large amount of salt, sugar, fat and are calorie dense too. A major reason for this is affordable and hassle-free availability of packaged foods. Consuming too much salt is detrimental to body health, leading to hypertension, heart related ailments and calcium losses from the bone. Too much salt in circulating body fluids can alter (reduce) the water content of the cells, leading to confusion, death or seizures. Pickles, papads, bakery products, chips, pizza, burgers and fries contain excessive amount of salt.
The best way to reduce sugar and salt content in food is by including fruits and vegetables in the diet and cutting out processed food products. This will also help in better intake of potassium which reduces blood pressure, and maintain the ion balance in the body. We can consciously choose foods which keep our daily sugar and salt intake within the daily value limits and lead a healthier life with healthier choices.