While there are so many factors that contribute to high blood pressure, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high sodium, it seems sugar has been among the enemy ranks and can possibly do even more damage than most of us realized.
When doctors make recommendations to patients with hypertension, they often suggest a lower daily consumption of sodium and harmful fats, but sugar is less often linked to high blood pressure.
In fact, a diet known as the DASH diet is commonly recommended to those with high blood pressure. And while the DASH diet is low in fat and sodium, it’s also low in sugar — for a good reason.
Like Sodium, Sugar is Often Hidden in the Foods we Eat
It’s sweet, but it’s sneaky. Sweetener, especially high fructose corn syrup, is found even in seemingly “innocent” food products like ketchup or salad dressing without most people even realizing it’s there.
Many people also forget alcohol contains quite a bit of sugar on its own, not to mention those mixed drinks that are so popular.
Research shows those who consume more than 74 grams of hidden sugar daily are more likely to experience abnormal blood pressure levels.
What Sugar Does to Your Blood Pressure
Sweetener increases insulin levels, which then leads to an increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Research shows if one fourth of your daily calorie consumption is made up of sugar, your risk of death by cardiovascular disease triples.
What to Watch Out For when it Comes to Sugar
It’s not the natural sugars you should be as concerned with, it’s the processed sugar found in processed foods and drinks.
Processed sugar has been broken down and re-engineered from its natural state to take on a different use as both a sweetener and preservative.
The Issue with Sugar
But the food industry doesn’t make eliminating sweetener easy.
There is so much processed food with preservatives that rely on the addition of sugar that a trip to the grocery store can be quite deceiving without most of us even realizing all the added sugar we’re adding to our grocery carts.
The companies that produce processed foods are making money because frozen meals, potato chips, and candy require little effort to prepare and sugar plays a big role in making these products so enticing.
The best thing you can do for your health is follow a whole diet, like the DASH diet.
Any sugar you consume should be in the natural form of fruits, vegetables and fat free dairy products.
Keeping It Sweet And Healthy
It’s hard to cut out syrups and processed table sugar, especially if you love to bake or enjoy coffee and tea on the sweeter side. But with a little effort and a few changes in your lifestyle, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of sugar you consume.
Instead of table sugar, use raw honey, palm sugar, stevia or fruit juice to sweeten your foods and beverages.
Less Sugar and Blood Pressure
Making a decision to consume less sugar is much easier than following through with that decision. If you’re not reading labels and selecting products based on the content, your sugar intake may be much higher than you realize.
Take the time to read labels on products before making a purchase. Foods with long lists of ingredients are likely packed with added sugar as well as added sodium.
Isn’t always labeled simple sugar on labels, also look for: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, syrup or molecules ending with “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose).
What is a Safe Amount of Sugar?
Consumption should be based on your own individual lifestyle as some can eat sugar with less affect while others may need to avoid it as much as possible.
The American Heart Association recommends the following as the maximum amount of sugar you consume:
Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
Sources of Highest Amount of Added Sugar
Major sources of added sugar include soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, processed foods, fruit drinks, dairy desserts including ice cream and many grain products.
Heart.org with a list of some common foods with added sugars.