Sugar

I have rather a sweet tooth. Is sugar really that bad for you?

Yes. Sugar is just calories without any good bits added (like vitamins, protein, fibre) and you get the calories that you need with the good bits by eating healthily. We really don't need sugar on its own as this can cause tooth decay. Sugary foods also tend to be high in calories, so eating too much can make you put on weight.

Chemical names for sugar are glucose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose and maltose. None is any better than another nor is brown or cane sugar any better than white.

I've read that poor dental health can cause coronary heart disease - is this true?

Door dental health is not good for you whichever way you look at the problem. It causes bad breath and can lead to infections. There is a link between poor dental health and coronary heart disease but this may reflect other factors such as poor nutrition, cigarette smoking and generally poor conditions in a person's lifestyle. A recent publication has suggested that even allowing for these other factors, poor dental health can harm the heart. The message is clear - look after your teeth and gums!

Have you any tips for cutting down on sugar?

Cutting down on sugar is the easiest way to begin losing weight whereas cutting down on your fat intake is the most effective (see the section Losing weight below).

• Begin by cutting out sugar in tea and coffee. It may be tough at first but after four or five days you will wonder why you ever added sugar. Try to do without artificial sweeteners if you can, or use them only sparingly; some contain sodium (salt) which can upset your blood pressure control or treatment of heart failure.

• Drink low-calorie drinks, e.g. Diet Coke or caffeine-free diet coke, Diet 7-Up, diet tonic. Remember plain water is the most refreshing calorie-free drink there is.

• Choose tinned fruit in natural juice rather than syrup.

• Beware of sugar-coated breakfast cereals. A good breakfast could consist of low-fat, low-calorie yoghurt poured on unsweetened muesli, bran-type cereals with some fresh fruit, or porridge made with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.

• Chocolate, cakes, biscuits and puddings can be replaced by fresh fruit, e.g. apples, bananas and pears, or low-fat yoghurts, fromage frais, low-fat mousses and frozen desserts.

Salt

I have raised blood pressure and my doctor tells me that I must cut down on my salt. Why is this?

Excess salt can raise the blood pressure (see Chapter 2). Salt (sodium chloride is the chemical name) in excess causes your body to retain water, upsetting the hormone balance, and the blood pressure goes up.

It is best to avoid extra salt at the table and any salty foods, e.g. crisps and salted nuts. Table 9.4 gives a guide to salty foods.

So how much salt do we actually need in our diet?

Your body needs 500 mg of sodium a day, the same as one-third of a teaspoon of salt. We eat on average one to three teaspoons of salt a day, equivalent to 6-18 g salt. In the UK, men eat just over 3 g sodium a day, equivalent to six to seven times more than they need.

Table 9.4 Levels of sodium in various foods

Foods

Typical portion

Sodium

size (g)

(mg)

Processed foods

Bacon (grilled)

45

900

Baked beans

200

1060

Bread (2 slices)

75

390

Butter (salted, spread

on large slice of bread)

7

61

Cereals

All-Bran + milk

25 + 115

468

Cornflakes + milk

30 + 115

340

Cheddar cheese

30

183

Corned beef (2 slices)

60

570

Cream cracker

+ processed cheese

21 + 20

392

Ice-cream

75

54

Mars Bar

65

98

Pork pie (medium)

140

1104

Sausages (2 grilled)

90

900

Sausage roll

332

Scone

50

385

Spaghetti hoops

125

525

Tomato sauce (1 tbsp)

17

58

Tomato soup (canned)

240

1108

Unprocessed foods

Apples (1 medium dessert, peeled)

120

2

Bananas (1 medium peeled)

100

1

Beef (roast topside, 3 slices)

90

43

Cabbage (boiled, white)

100

4

Carrots (boiled, old)

70

35

(tinned)

65

240

Chicken (meat only)

100

81

Cod in batter (fried)

85

85

Unprocessed foods (cont'd)

Eggs (2, scrambled

with milk/butter/salt)

140

1442

Potatoes (boiled, old)

150

5

(mashed with butter)

170

83

Drinks

Beer (1 pint draught bitter)

568 ml

68

Bovril (heaped tsp)

5

240

Coffee (instant)

195

1

Horlicks + semi-skimmed milk

20 + 195

199

Marmite (heaped tsp)

5

225

Milk (2 tbsp)

30

15

Tea (1 cup)

195

Trace

 
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