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Soda and Salt: Why Black People Should Cut One Out of Their Diet Completely and Reduce the Other By Half

Soda drinks are popular among all age groups around the world, with Coca-Cola alone saying it sells 1.9 billion servings a day globally. But there have been lingering concerns about how healthy these drinks are and the health risks they may pose to those who drink them.

New research shows soda consumption may be more damaging to your health than previously thought.

Soda has zero nutritional value and is high in sugar, Lisa Andrews, a registered dietician with Health Insiders, told Atlanta Black Star. She added that drinking soda has been linked to higher risks of weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and some cancers (such as cancer of the bowel, pancreas and breast).

New research by Harvard scientists examined 100,000 adults over 30 years old to see how soda affected their well-being. The results showed that drinking more than two servings of sugary drinks like soda each week increases the risk of heart disease even when the person is physically active. And for people who drank sugary drinks daily, the risk was even higher.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and the most common cause of death for Black people. Research shows that African-Americans are 54 percent more likely to die from heart and blood vessel disease than white Americans. High rates of chronic conditions like raised blood pressure, obesity and diabetes influence that risk. But diet also plays a major role.

For instance, salt — one of the favorite seasonings in many households — has been found to increase the risk of heart disease and other conditions when eaten in excess. Because salt is found in many foods, most people overeat it.

Soda and Salt: Why Black People Should Cut One Out of Their Diet Completely and Reduce the Other By Half
A woman and her daughter sitting at a dining table together, eating tacos at home. (Photo: Getty Image)

But Black people need to eat less of it than other races.

The recommended amount of salt for other races is one teaspoon per day. But for Black people, the amount is less because genetically they are more likely to be sensitive to it.

“As African Americans are more prone to high blood pressure, reducing the salt in their diet may reduce this and other conditions linked with high blood pressure such as heart attack, stroke and kidney disease,” Andrews said.

Too much salt in your diet can also increase the risk of conditions like stomach cancer and bone disease. But too little salt is also unhealthy — the goal is to take just enough.

“We need a certain amount of salt to stay healthy — not getting enough salt can lead to health issues like low blood pressure or brain and nerve issues,” said Dr. Megan Horsham, a board-certified physician with Sanctuary Wellness Institute.

Many doctors treating Black patients recommend reducing sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day (about ⅔ teaspoon). Even small to medium reductions have been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease in the Black community.

But we still have a lot to learn about salt, according to Dr Horsham. She recommends consulting a trusted doctor about whether or not your salt intake is appropriate if you are experiencing high blood pressure.

Healthier alternatives to soda include unsweetened homemade fruit juice, vegetable juice and green or black tea.

Andrews said, as replacements for soda, you could consider seltzer water, unsweetened iced tea, and water with a splash of lime, lemon, or other juice. These drinks can be refreshing without the added sugar or calories of soda.

While it can be difficult to find a salt substitute, Andrews advised to use dried herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, onion powder, rosemary, chili powder, cumin, thyme or garlic powder to add flavor and nutrients to your food.

If you are used to consuming larger amounts of salt and soda than necessary, stopping cold turkey could be hard. Gradually swapping them out for healthier options could help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other conditions.

Eating meals that contain less salt, while not drinking soda, can help you live with more zest and less risk of chronic disease.

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