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Is sugar really bad? + Sugar alternatives.

We tend to make a conscious effort to cut down our sugar consumption, because we intuitively feel that sugar is evil. Campaigns and advertisements constantly vilify sugar in favour of chemical substitutes.

How can we possibly eliminate sugar altogether?

Isn’t it the most irresistible thing?

But wait a minute; is sugar really bad?

In India,

  1. 93% of children eat packaged food more than once a week

  2. 59% of children aged between 14 years and 17 years consume packaged beverages or meals at least once a day.

  3. 91% of children carry a lunch box from their homes, but 40% of children consume packaged food at school almost daily. **

In the UAE,

  1. 47% of adults dine out 2-3 times a week, and 17% of adults say that they eat out/order in every single day.**

But bear in mind, packaged food is full of artificial sugars and oils that are used as preservatives.

What is sugar?

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate found in food and beverages. After consumption of food the sugar gets broken down into glucose that is used for energy. A sugar is of many types and has different functions in our body. It is important to understand what type of sugar is good for our body.

Artificial Vs Natural Sugar:

Artificial sugars are added while preparing or processing food and beverages. Eg., candy soda, diet sodas, sausages, chips, cereals, ready to eat/make packaged food. Artificial sugar is used in food to increase the shelf life. They contain no nutrients, hence the blood sugar level spikes up rapidly and drops soon. They provide empty calories. Our pancreas create insulin to stimulate the storage of blood sugar in the form of Fat or Glycogen. This makes us lazy and lethargic. Therefore, we tend to feel hungry soon after eating processed food.

Natural sugar occurs naturally in our daily food. E.g., fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy. Natural sugars are better than artificial sugars as they contain more nutrients and we benefit from the fibre content of the food they are found in. Fibre helps control the spike in blood sugar level, and helps us feel fuller for a longer period of time.

What happens if we over eat sugar?

Over consumption of sugar is linked with several avoidable heart problems, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

According to the AHA (American Heart Association), the daily sugar intake recommended for men is not more than 9 Teaspoons (35 grams) and 6 Teaspoons (25 grams) for women.

If we consider a breakfast of 1 sunny side up with 2-3 slice of bread, butter, fruit jam and a glass of packaged orange juice, we have probably exceeded our daily sugar limit. Hence, its ideal to choose food carefully.

How can we avoid buying ‘added sugar’ products?

Be aware of misleading advertisements:

Little do we know, when we read ‘100% fruit juice’, ‘No added sugar’, ‘Healthy’, ‘Zero calories’, ‘Diet cola’, ‘Heart Healthy’, ‘Sugar-Free’, ‘Fat Free’ or ‘Made with real honey’ advertised on packages are not necessarily good for health, they may contain added sugar.

We must learn to pay attention to the Nutritional Facts printed at the back of our cereals or juices, which clearly indicate the content of dietary nutrients.

Pay attention to these names of artificial sugars on the labels:

  1. Brown sugar

  2. Corn sweetener

  3. Corn syrup

  4. Concentrated fruit juice

  5. High-fructose corn syrup

  6. Honey

  7. Galactose

  8. Invert sugar

  9. White sugar

  10. Molasses

  11. Raw sugar

  12. Maple sugar

  13. Granulated sugar

  14. Sugar