What's worse: salt or sugar? This is what I was asked on radio the next day to be interviewed about the latest research on diet and health. The research, published in Lancet, found that too much salt (sodium) is responsible for deaths related to the disease of three million people worldwide every year.
The media reports of this research highlighted the salt. But, in fact, while salt is a big problem that we should pay more attention, there were other 15 dietary risk factors examined in this investigation – and we should probably keep an eye on all if we really want to have better health .
This study was very large: it was intended to evaluate the consumption of large foods and nutrients through 195 countries and quantify the impact of its "suboptimal intake", that is, not getting enough or even death and the disability of non-communicable diseases – heart disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer.
What they found was probably surprising for zero health experts. Globally, in 2017, the suboptimal diet was responsible for 11 million deaths. The poor diet, they say, is responsible for more deaths than any other global risk, including smoking.
The greatest part of deaths related to the diet was due to high sodium intake. Hot heels were a low intake of whole grains. Low intake of fruits; low levels of nuts and seeds; not enough vegetables; There is not enough omega-3 and too little fiber.
Peculiarly, sugar intake was not specifically examined, although sweetened drinks with sugar were. Most of these sites exceeded recommended levels above recommended levels, although high consumption was much lower than the list of homicides compared to other risk factors. This way there was also a high consumption of red meat.
What does that mean? Researchers say that this means at the government level, we need better strategies around the world to reduce the risk of avoidable and non-transmissible diseases, and we need a reform of the global food system. But what about us at home in our kitchens?
For me, it emphasizes (again) that we always have to look at the general overview when it comes to food and health. If we only focus on sugar, which you could argue that we have been doing collectively in recent years, we can lose the scrub forest of salt for the trees. And we can not concentrate only on reducing salt, since we also have to boost our whole grains, nuts, seeds and pulses.
What is good, though, is that when we focus on adding more good things, it tends to release bad things. The whole foods, good quality and fiber, we eat, the foods less processed and highly sodium we usually have. The more plants there are in the dish, of all kinds: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, grains: less space is available for anything else. I like the subtle positive change in thinking that you are adding things to our diet, instead of banning them.
• Niki Bezzant is a general editor for the Healthy Food Guide www.healthyfood.com