02 Mar 2017
5 min read
Sugar: the basics
There is no doubt about the significance of sugar in our lives. And no, I am not just talking about how often we use it, but rather, on its role in the overall functioning of our body. We need sugar to ensure that we have enough energy to get through our day-to-day activities. Remember that day when you felt faint and a quick snack/meal or something sweet gave you some much needed kick? So, what’s the main problem? It’s the over consumption of added sugar.
As the name itself suggests, this is the processed sugar that you consume (I’m looking at you table sugar) as opposed to natural sugar, which is found in food items like fruits, vegetables, honey and dairy. Added sugar comes in various forms and is known by a plethora of names—from high fructose glucose syrup and caramel to dextrose, syrups and nectar. In other words, a quick look at your pantry, and you can easily identify the usual sugar laden culprits; the biscuits you love to enjoy your tea/coffee with, fruit juices from juice concentrates (read: sugar), ketchup, cereals and any processed ‘healthy foods’ that are flavoured, such as flavoured oats.
It is relatively better to consume sugar in its natural, purest and most simple form. That means fructose in most fruits and some vegetables and lactose in dairy produce. How is this better than processed sugars? It is so because of the other nutrients these sources provide. For instance, an apple contains fructose, but having it means simultaneously having vitamins, water, antioxidants and fiber, which helps to make us feel full faster and stabilises our blood-sugar level.
Our palate may not be able to differentiate the respective tastes of the several types of sugar, but our body can tell the difference, and it reacts differently to each. Refined/processed/added sugar is metabolised quickly, which results in an instant surge in our blood-sugar level, and consequently, we do not feel full. With its added protein (dairy) and fiber (fruits), natural sugar does just the contrary. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that at the end of the day, it matters how much sugar you have consumed. Ultimately, if you already have too much sugar in your system, your body will store the excess as fat. Thus, moderation is of utmost importance.
Take it slow: Trying to instantly cut down on your sugar intake may backfire, as you may end up craving more and bingeing. Instead, make small changes that will eventually give you significant results.
TRY: Reduce or stop adding sugar to your milk laden drinks. Remember that with the lactose in milk, your tea/coffee already has a hint of sweetness. Make it a habit to stop adding sugar, and you will get used to it.
More fruits and veggies please! It is suggested that you have them in their natural form, rather than juicing and drinking them.
Sweeten naturally: Again, I get that artificial sweeteners are the rage but several studies have shown how harmful they are. Instead, try these: sweeten unsweetened yogurt with a teaspoon of natural honey, spice up your oats with a dash of cinnamon and/or topped with fruits, instead of buying packaged flavoured oats; and stop with the sodas and ‘no added sugar healthier’ juices.
Desserts without guilt: Get your fix with better items such as dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa.
TRY: Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate sauce and chocolate milk (mix low fat milk with cocoa powder).