Spring clean your pantry for a healthier you
Toss the junk food and replace it with heart-healthy staples.
Spring-cleaning isn’t just for your home. Chances are your body could use a good spring-cleaning, too, and what better place to start than your own pantry?
Pantry foods are often loaded with added sugars, sodium and trans fats, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These unsavory ingredients lurk in convenience foods and are difficult to detect.
Here’s how to identify the junk in foods and be a savvy label reader.
Lose the Sugar: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends reducing added sugars to 6 to 9 teaspoons a day. Most Americans consume an average of 20 teaspoons of sugar each day.
Dump Syrups and Sweeteners: Be aware of alternate names for sugar such as rice syrup or cane syrup; these forms of sugar might be hiding in your favorite bread, yogurt, salad dressing, granola or pasta sauce. Choose items with the least amount of sugar grams per serving, being diligent to avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners as a substitute.
Trash Trans Fats: Trans fats are found in any foods that contain fully or partially hydrogenated oils. The main sources of trans fats include fried foods, cakes, piecrusts, frozen pizza, cookies, crackers, and margarine and other spreads. Even small amounts of trans fats can increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Be Sensible with Sodium: Scan your pantry for high-sodium processed foods such as bread, snacks and canned soups. Look for low-sodium products that have fewer than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving. Excess sodium can raise your blood pressure, contributing to heart disease and stroke. The AHA recommends you consume no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Estimates show that more than 75 percent of the sodium we consume comes from processed food, not your saltshaker.
When it comes to your health, your best bet is to stock your shelves with unprocessed foods. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and plain, low-fat dairy items are all naturally low in artificial ingredients and rich in heart-healthy nutrients.