Cut Back on Sugar to Reduce Blood Pressure

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blood-pressureFor years, we have been told to cut back on sodium for healthy blood pressure, but research is showing that cutting back on sugar may be just as important, if not more important than putting down the salt shaker.

Researchers at Louisiana State University conducted an 18-month study on 810 people without high blood pressure or the early stages of high blood pressure (hypertension). Their goal was to evaluate how exercise, weight loss and diet affect blood pressure.

The results found that cutting back on sugar would in fact lower high blood pressure. The study focused on sugary sweetened beverages, which they referred to as SSBs. After 18 months they found that that overweight adults with high blood pressure who drank one less serving of sugary soda per day had a significant decline in blood pressure. Although further studies are needed to determine exactly why this is the case, they did conclude that reduced consumption of SSBs and sugars were significantly associated with reduced blood pressure, and that reducing SSBs and sugar consumption may be an important dietary strategy to lower blood pressure.

This is important because high blood pressure is a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke, and even moderate reductions in blood pressure readings can lower that risk.

Here are four simple tips that will help lower your daily sugar intake and thereby help with lowering blood sugar.

1. Lower Your High Fructose Corn Syrup Intake

Much of the sugar you might eat can be “hidden,” usually under the name high fructose corn syrup in processed foods. This corn-based sweetener is used in thousands of foods, from ketchup and tomato sauce to soft drinks and crackers, and it has specifically been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure. Avoid processed and packaged foods to decrease the amount of high fructose corn syrup.

2. Use Natural Sweeteners

If you need to sweeten foods, add a little juice from oranges, grapes, pears, peaches or other fruits. You can also use some shredded raw or dried apples, coconuts, raisins or dates. Try sprinkling on cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg. You also may want to experiment with stevia, an herbal supplement that is now available as a sweetener.

3. Eat Several Small Meals

Start with breakfast, and include some protein at each sitting to keep yourself feeling satisfied. By eating smaller portions throughout the day, you will be less inclined to overload on sweets.  Look at your plate and think carefully about what is on there. At least half the plate should be covered in veggies and the other with lean protein. This helps with satiety and decreases sugar cravings.

4. Limit Alcohol Intake

This is a hard one for many because people don’t realize that wine, beer and liquor are all high in sugar. Limit yourself to a glass of wine per day, because there are proven benefits to wine, but think twice before you start on that second glass.

 Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2015
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