Sugar And Salt Alternatives To Support Better Health
February 10th, 2022
Using salt and sugar alternatives in your diet could have significant benefits, including for your weight, your heart health, and your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Many of us are hooked on these flavourings, but reducing your intake of both sugar and salt could have a big impact on your life.
If you put sugar in your tea every day or can’t eat a meal without reaching for the salt shaker, think about how you could cut down, make some healthy swaps, and experiment with sugar and salt alternatives.
What Are The Benefits Of Reducing Sugar Intake?
Reducing your sugar intake and consuming more healthy sugar alternatives could help you to lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Sugar is high in calories, which can lead to weight gain, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Sugar consumption also raises your blood sugar levels, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
The NHS recommends that adults in the UK should consume no more than 30g (equivalent to 7 cubes) of sugar per day, with your sugar intake accounting for no more than 5% of the total energy you consume from food and drink each day. Consuming more than this on a regular basis could increase your risk of multiple health conditions.
High Sugar Foods To Avoid
It’s estimated that people in the UK consumed 2,900,197 tonnes of sugary foods in 2019, according to analysis of Public Health England data by Fresh Smile Clinic. The analysis found that this was 3.5% more sugar than people ate in 2015, with biscuits accounting for 540,424 tonnes of the total quantity.
This indicates that biscuits are certainly one food that people may need to cut down on to reduce their sugar intake, but you should also be mindful of your consumption of:
- Salad dressings
- Flavoured porridge sachets
- Fruit juice
Always read a product’s ingredients list to check the sugar content before you buy, but bear in mind that it may not be labelled as ‘sugar’, and you should also keep an eye out for the following:
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice
Healthy Sugar Alternatives
It’s easy to find low-sugar items (classed as 5g of sugar or less per 100g) when you’re shopping, as these will have a green sugar label under the traffic light labelling system.
One way many of us consume too much sugar without even realising is through what we drink. Fizzy drinks, fruit juice, and squash can all contain a high amount of added sugar, so one of the easiest swaps you can make is to switch to drinking water or no added sugar squash. When it comes to healthy alternatives to sugary snacks, fresh fruit is a great, naturally sweet option.
It can be harder to find sugar alternatives when baking, but there are multiple options out there, including:
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Date paste
If baking brings you joy, you can still enjoy your favourite hobby on a low-sugar diet, but you may need to switch up the recipes you make. Cakes such as a tea loaf, fruit cake or banana bread are all wonderfully tasty, but don’t rely on too much sugar, getting their sweet flavour from dried fruit or mashed banana instead.
Is Sweetener Better Than Sugar?
If you’re looking for sugar alternatives to add sweetness to tea or coffee, sweetener is the natural first choice. There is some confusion around whether sweetener is actually a healthier option, and whether it comes with any risks of its own. However, research has shown that this is not the case, and that they don’t raise blood sugar levels in the same way.
Dietitian Emma Carder explained: “Research into sweeteners shows they’re perfectly safe to eat or drink on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet. Like sugar, sweeteners provide a sweet taste, but what sets them apart is that, after consumption, they do not increase blood sugar levels.”
What Are The Benefits Of Reducing Salt Intake?
Seeking out salt alternatives to reduce your salt intake can also have significant benefits for your health. In the UK, it’s recommended that adults consume 6g of salt per day, but figures from Action On Salt show that the average person is actually eating 8.1g of salt each day. This may be lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) global estimate that people are consuming 9-12g of salt per day, but it’s still much higher than it should be.
WHO has set a global target to cut the amount of salt people across the world consume each day to 5g by 2025, believing that this could prevent as many as 2.5 million deaths each year. This is because a diet that’s high in salt can increase the risk of:
- High blood pressure – this is because salt causes your body to hold onto more water, placing extra pressure on your blood vessel walls
- Stroke – one of the key risks associated with high blood pressure
- Heart disease – a diagnosis is more likely if you have high blood pressure
- Stomach cancer – research from the World Cancer Research Fund has found that too much salt can damage the lining of the stomach, causing lesions that could become stomach cancer
- Osteoporosis – a diet high in salt can cause calcium to be lost in bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and associated breaks and fractures
- Vascular dementia – this type of dementia is caused by blocked blood vessels in the brain, which can be linked to high blood pressure, potentially caused by too much salt in the diet
- A high-salt diet may also exacerbate diabetes symptoms
High Salt Foods To Avoid
Bread is the biggest contributor of salt to our diets in the UK, according to data from Public Health England’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2018-19. As well as bread, you should keep an eye out for added salt in:
- Crisps – even in ‘healthier’ baked options
- Stock cubes
- Soy sauce
- Tinned vegetables
- Tinned tuna (opt for tuna in spring water rather than brine or sunflower oil)
- Cured meats
- Pre-prepared pasta or curry sauces
- Preservatives in processed foods and ready meals
Healthy Salt Alternatives
Look out for reduced-salt alternatives while food shopping for an easy way to lower your salt consumption. Products including stock cubes, sauces, and even bacon are all available in reduced-salt versions. Other healthy salt alternatives include:
- When seasoning your food, go for black pepper without the salt, or herbs and spices (either fresh or dried) to add extra flavour to your meals
- Try making your own stock by boiling chicken bones in water to release their flavour, instead of buying stock cubes or stock pots
- Swap mustard for reduced-fat mayonnaise in sandwiches
- Make pasta sauces yourself from fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic, rather than buying them in jars
- If you’re eating out, go for tomato-based sauces with lots of vegetables rather than creamy or cheesy sauces with lots of meat
- Avoid full English breakfasts; poached egg with avocado and tomatoes on wholemeal toast makes a tasty, filling lower-salt alternative
Eat Well With Low Sugar And Salt
You can still eat some incredibly tasty food – and even homemade cakes – when you’re using salt and sugar alternatives in your diet. Of course, you’ll also be enjoying the benefits they can have on your health, weight, and the way you feel in yourself.
If you’re looking for some low-sugar or low-salt recipes that still allow you to enjoy your favourite meals, try these tasty recipes:
- Low-salt tomato soup from Just a Pinch
- Low-salt chicken coconut curry from Skip the Salt
- Low-salt shepherd’s pie from Sodium Optional
- Sugar-free birthday cake from Sugar Free Londoner
- Healthy vegan cinnamon cookies by My Kids Lick the Bowl
If you have a loved one in a New Care home and you’re worried about their diet, you can feel reassured knowing that all of our residents benefit from our fine dining service. Our trained chefs prepare a variety of menu choices for different dietary needs every day, including low-salt and low-sugar alternatives.