How can something so sweet and so tasty be bad for you? Gulab jamun, falooda kulfi, rasmalai — is all this really bad for our health? Unfortunately yes! Too much sugar reduces your immunity. It also leads to poor memory, type II diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease — not to mention weight problems.
Researchers say that sugar is one of the likely causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s the connection. By eating too many desserts, you get beta-amyloid deposits, which are essentially protein deposits found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. The part of the brain associated with memory and learning is affected by normal ageing, rising cholesterol, increasing blood sugar, increasing body weight and all this gets accelerated by too much sugar consumption.
One of the major problems stemming from this is glycation (a combination of a sugar and a protein molecule which releases by product called AGE (Advanced Glycation End products)). These byproducts steal your memory and their formation is accelerated when your diet is low in antioxidants and when you consume too much sugar in soft drinks, mithais, desserts, etc. Monitoring and taking steps to lower blood sugar as we grow older may be an important strategy for preventing age-related cognitive decline for everyone, not just people with diabetes.
We must reduce if not eliminate, sugar from our diets. Try not to replace it with artificial sweeteners. Instead, here’s what to do:
* Eat small frequent meals: Long gaps between meals and large quantities of the main meals cause drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Due to long gaps, you end up feeling extremely hungry by meal time and therefore gorge on unhealthy food. It is ideal to have small yet frequent meals every 2-3 hours to prevent fluctuation of blood sugar.
* Protein: Make sure you eat some egg whites, soya granules, chicken, fish, dals, paneer etc. with every meal. It helps reduce sugar cravings.
* Moderate sweets: Give away those sugary devils or stash them away only to be taken out when guests arrive. Treat yourself to fresh fruits like strawberry, apple, banana etc. in melted dark (sugar-free) chocolate (it is loaded with polyphenols and bioflavonoids) for dessert.
* Sorbets: Freeze your favourite fruit juice, blend it and perk it up with lemon juice and rock salt and serve as fruit scoops. They are delicious alternatives to ice creams.
* Frozen fruit: Freeze watermelon cubes and snack on them when you have your sugar attack. You can also eat fruits like apples, grapes or papaya. Remember to chew slowly if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth. Sweeten desserts with jaggery, honey or dates.
* Eat sweet vegetables: Raw carrots are sweet and juicy and help to overcome a craving if chewed slowly enough to bring out their natural flavor. Try dry fruits like anjeer, dates, black currants etc.
* Get moving: Embark on some form of physical activity. Feel-good hormones, similar to the ones released after sugar consumption, are released after exercise. Thus, the urge to have something sweet can be managed well.
People who overcome the sugar habit experience higher energy, emotional stability, improved memory and better health in general. Many of us may find ourselves at the losing end in the battle against sweet craving; however a little self-control and some of these smart tips, may help you overcome these cravings.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre