Recently, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver took a stand against sugary aerated drinks by announcing a surcharge on the sale of all such drinks available at his chain of restaurants across the globe. Apart from Jamie, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey, too, have time and again, spoken about just how bad excess sugar in your diet can be.
A recent study published in the journal, Neuroscience, also says that excess sugar attacks the beneficial bacteria in our guts, affecting our cognitive functioning. “Fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons they aren’t good for you,” says lead author Kathy Magnusson, professor at Ohio State University, USA.
Other studies have proven that sugar also affects children’s concentration levels. In adults, excess consumption can lead to a number of health issues such as diabetes, weight gain and even malnutrition.
While one may feel that the best thing to do in such a case is to avoid sugar altogether, that task doesn’t seem like an easy or feasible one. Alternatively, one can choose to opt for natural substitutes for sugar.
Giving up sugar
Giving up white sugar entirely won’t have any hazardous effect on one’s body. “Usually, many people think that they might lack energy and will feel dizzy, or will lack stamina. But that’s not true at all. One can very well maintain blood glucose levels without the intake of direct white sugar,” says Indrayani Pawar, team leader dietician, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W).
All food that is consumed is generally digested and absorbed as glucose by the body. If a diet is planned with enough quantities of complex carbohydrates like whole wheat, jowar, bajra, ragi and oats, it can have long-lasting health benefits. It can help maintain blood sugar levels for diabetics, blood lipids for cardiac patients, and it can also assist with weight management.A sweet compromise
Those who are counting calories can substitute sugar with natural ingredients such as stevia and agave, which are extracted from plants, and consumed in their natural form rather than the processed form. However, stevia quite often leaves a bitter aftertaste, due to which it is disliked. These make for better options as sugar substitutes rather than the artificial sweeteners available in the market.
Having said that, agave has also been the subject of dispute in the past — one teaspoon of agave has more calories than one teaspoon of sugar. But the fact that it is much sweeter than sugar and even honey means that the amount used per serving is minimal, as compared to sugar, thereby reducing calorie intake.
Jaggery and honey have similar calories (as sugar). The type of carbohydrates in jaggery is similar to that in sugar. Therefore, these substitutes are not recommended to those who are diabetic or on weight-loss programmes. Jaggery and honey are also good sources of important minerals and vitamins, unlike sugar. It is advisable to consume only organic jaggery and honey, or varieties that don’t undergo any chemical processing.
With inputs from Indrayani Pawar and Dr Manoj Chadha, consulting diabetologist and endocrinologist, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W).