As the rate of heart-related diseases, heart attacks and strokes continue to rise in the U.S. how to avoid heart disease affected by sugar consumption becomes more and more important.
In the Dietary Guidelines published by the U.S. government for 2015-2020, one of the top recommendations is that all Americans limit their intake of added sugars to no more than 10% of their daily calories.
However, getting 10% of your daily calories from sugar is still far too high when it comes to heart health.
For most people eating that amount of sugar would amount to a whopping 12 teaspoons of sugar a day! …And that doesn’t even include the consumption of white flour, such as in bread or pasta, which the body quickly converts to sugar…
Hopefully, you get the picture. Learning how to avoid heart disease affected by sugar consumption needs to go on your top ten list of things to do.
But, why is it so bad for you?
The problem with sugar is that it contributes to inflammation of the walls of your arteries.
- It does that by generating an insulin spike, which is a normal function of the endocrine system that usually happens after eating.
The endocrine system is a collection of glands that secrete hormones, in this case, insulin, directly into the circulatory system to be carried towards other organs.
In a healthy person, the insulin spike does its job and then the levels return to normal. If something goes wrong and the insulin levels stay high, it can cause symptoms of dizziness before quickly becoming a medical emergency.
Then, as the insulin continues to spike, it starts to ravage the fragile, but very important “endothelial lining” (the connective tissue) of blood vessels.
If the endothelial lining becomes damaged, all the well-known causes of heart disease problems become the new reality, creating the inflammatory swarm to the scene and creating the inflammatory disturbances that eventually leads to heart attack and stroke.
And then, of course, excessive sugar consumption can also cause weight gain.
- And that makes it worse, because weight gain, combined with sustained high insulin levels, can lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes—which is a highly researched and by now, the well-known established risk for heart disease.
- Beware of high fructose corn syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener in sodas and fruit-flavored drinks. As its use has increased, so have levels of obesity and related health problems.
Most of the sugar you eat is “hidden,” usually under the guise of high fructose corn syrup. This corn-based sweetener is used in thousands of foods, from ketchup and tomato sauce to soft drinks and crackers. Read the labels! (Glycemic Index is often listed as GI)
- Do everything you can to avoid foods containing this sweetener.
Instead: Use natural sweeteners.
- If you must sweeten foods, add a little fruit juice or try some shredded raw or dried apples, coconut, raisins or dates.
- Use spices such as cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg. Or experiment with Stevia, an herbal supplement that is now available as a sweetener.
- Eat several small meals a day, rather than three large meals.
By eating little portions spread throughout the day, you’ll feel more satisfied and be less inclined to overload on sweets that can contribute to heart disease.
- Limit alcohol intake.
This includes wine, beer, and liquor. Many people don’t realize that alcohol has a large store of hidden sugar.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet, with so many other benefits, that it is highly and consistently recommended by nutritionists, heart experts, and Diabetic Educators.
- Restrict bread and bread products as much as you can, especially those containing wheat.
Wheat is found in many processed foods, from bread to pasta, and manufacturers use it in abundance because it’s convenient, inexpensive, and long-lasting.
The problem with wheat, however, is that our modern-day wheat is grown from genes that have been spliced over 50,000 times to make it easier to grow and resistant to drought.
Unfortunately, that splicing has also resulted in wheat that has a higher glycemic index than table sugar…**See the link at the bottom of this article to learn about the glycemic index.
The glycemic index measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose. A food with a high Glycemic Index raises blood glucose more than food with a medium or low one.
Examples of carbohydrate-containing foods with a low Glycemic Index include:
- Dried beans and legumes (like kidney beans and lentils)
- All non-starchy vegetables, some (a few) starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes
- Most fruit
- Many of the whole-grain breads and cereals (like barley, whole wheat bread, rye bread, and all-bran cereal).
Meats and fats don’t have a Glycemic Index because they do not contain carbohydrates.
These are a few specific examples of other factors that can affect the Glycemic Index of a food:
- Ripeness and storage time — The riper a fruit or vegetable is, the higher the Glycemic Index. (Think about how much sweeter a ripened banana tastes compared to a semi-green one)
- Processing — Juice has a higher Index than whole fruit; mashed potato has a higher GI than a whole baked potato, stone ground whole wheat bread has a lower GI than whole wheat bread, and so on.
- Cooking method — how long food is cooked (al dente pasta has a lower GI than soft-cooked pasta)
- Variety — Converted long-grain white rice (Such as Uncle Ben’s) has a lower Index than brown rice but short-grain white rice has a higher Index than brown rice.
The American Heart Association recommends a sugar intake of no more than 9 tsp in one day for men and no more than 6 tsp for women.
Choose your foods wisely to avoid heart disease affected by sugar consumption.
Everything you eat has to do with everything else.