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19

May
Sweet Poison

Sweet Poison

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Sweet Poison

Are you craving a sweet snack?

Great!! Grab those sweet crunchy red apples, sweet delicious bartlett pears or those gloriously sweet and tangy mouth- watering pineapples.

Alternatively, maybe you would rather go for some comforting sweet snacks or deserts like chocolate brownies, sprinkled doughnuts and cookies and cream ice cream.

Whichever you chose, the first or second option, sugar is sugar in all sorts of names, shapes and sizes, whether found naturally or chemically processed.

Our Modern-day food habits are filled with sugars and sweets. Keeping fast food and carbonated drinks aside, there are scores of everyday foods that have, what we would call hidden sugars in them. These foods are not sweet to taste, therefore go unnoticed as sugar contributors.

Let’s take a look at sugar; the good, the bad, and the ugly….

Sugar is a carbohydrate, which is the most important source of energy. It is made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen,

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Types of Sugar

Simple sugars are called monosaccharides and disaccharides made up of single sugar or double molecules. Examples of these are glucose, fructose (fruit sugars), galactose (milk sugars) and sucrose (table sugar).

Complexed sugars are polysaccharides like rice, noodles, bread, etc. Sugar is absolutely essential for human survival and for this very reason almost every food we eat has carbohydtres in them which is broken down to glucose ultimately before absorption, except for fish, meat and eggs.

- Good

When we eat the correct proportion of carbohydrates like rice, noodles, bread or pasta, all of which are complexed carbohydrates, our bodies break them down into simple sugars that easily traverses the blood stream and then penetrates the cell to be used as immediate energy. To facilitate this process, a very important hormone is released from the pancreas, called insulin. An adequate amount of insulin is required, for this process. Therefore eating an appropriate amount of carbohydrate is very important for immediate energy. We need this energy to function and be productive in our daily lives.

- Bad

Eating a lot of carbohydrates results in too much insulin being produced by the pancreas. If there is not enough insulin or too much insulin, this very simple mechanism of deriving energy and fuel for the body to function starts to falter. Deriving energy from food is the basis of every living species so if this process is not working well, it embarks the beginning of multiple health problems for the human system. Constant overeating of sweets and complexed carbohydrates gives rise to surplus of insulin over a long period which results in a condition called insulin resistance. At state of insulin resistance is the pre-requisite to develop chronic metabolic lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, alzheimers disease, liver disease, cancer and many more.

- Ugly

Sugar and carbohydrates are addictive just like cocaine as they share the same dopamine receptors in the brain. Excess insulin lurking around due to overconsumption of sugars gives rise to hypoglycemic situations which makes one to consume more carbohydrates or sugar repeatedly to overcome the uncomfortable feeling.

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What is the meaning of an Empty Calorie?

Sugar should always be consumed in its most natural form like fruits, vegetables and grains. Sugar has become toxic simply because it is overly consumed in many different ways today, where it is stripped of its numerous other healthy polyphenols, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

These added nutrients help the sugar to be processed slowly into the body so as to not allow an insulin spike and hypoglycemic spells which constantly is linked to sugar craving, addiction, and mood swings.

Sugar without its family of nutrients is called an empty calorie. A good example of this would be the infamous Coca-cola. A can of coca-cola is a mere 150 calories but it has no other nutrient value but is notorious to cause an insulin spike.

Similes to sugar

Sugar comes in myriad of names and versions that it is easy to confuse a someone doing their grocery shopping. In- spite of their noble attempt to make healthier / non- sugar choices, they invariably get caught in the sugar web.

Be aware of this!!!

61 Names of Sugar

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Artificial Sweeteners, what are they?

Saccharin, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose and many others. They are synthetic sugar replacements which have become more of a menace now. The so-called sugar free drinks and foods are filled with these replacers which are actually more harmful than sugar itself.

Aspartame/ Saccharine has also been linked with cancer in several studies done in the 70’s. The effects of these artificial sweeteners on the brain are rather complicated and according to Dr Ludwig from Harvard University, “miniscule amount produces a sweet taste comparable to that of sugar, without comparable calories. Overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes,” explains Dr. Ludwig. That means people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may start to find less intensely sweet foods, such as fruit, less appealing and unsweet foods, such as vegetables, downright unpalatable. Artificial sweeteners may play another trick, too. Research suggests that they may prevent us from associating sweetness with caloric intake. As a result, we may crave more sweets, tend to choose sweet food over nutritious food, and gain weight.”

The latest one is Stevia which is a more natural alternative than the others above but it does shares similar concerns.

Glycemic load

Glycemic Load (GL) is a measure of both the quality (the GI value) and quantity (grams per serve) of a carbohydrate in a meal. It is wise to choose our carbohydrates well and follow the glycemic load if we are unsure of where and how to start. For optimal health, aim to keep our daily glycemic load under 100.

Low: 10 or less

Medium: 11 – 19

High: 20 or more

To understand further on glycemic load, kindly refer to this link http://afibbers.org/resources/glycemicload.pdf. 

Juicing or blending ?

Blending is a healthier option as the fibre is retained and hence the absorption of sugar into the system is slowed down. Better than that of course is to eat the fruit whole itself.

Natural replacements.

These are healthier sweet options that are nutrient dense. We can use them instead of white sugars in baking and smoothies.

Natural honey, dates, bananas, apricots and mulberries are examples of these.

Dates are ideal for breaking fast during the Ramadhan month instead of the syrup based beverages as it is very nutritionally dense and provides the energy boost required.

Bottom line

All of us enjoy a sweet snack now and then, so fortunately, for every healthy individual, sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tend to be highly nutritious. Choice of nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and low in glycemic load carbohydrates is the way to go. Having carbohydrates with a protein and healthy fat meal at the same time reduces its absorption rate.

On the other hand, refined, concentrated sugars like (white bread, white rice and white sugar) consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, and with them, the risk for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy and since we are not living in the times of famine or food shortages and food is available around the clock, we do not need to over consume carbohydrates as storing sugar as fats has become toxic and is poisoning our bodily systems.

Eating carbohydrates in proportion to our physical activity is something all of us need to retrain ourselves to do. If we lead mainly sedentary and inactive lives, then we would not need as much carbohydrates as compared to someone with a more physically active lifestyle.

In short, The faster it is burnt and dealt with, the least problems it causes.

Contributed by:

Dr Krishnaveni Kanason

Medical Consultant in SOL Integrative Wellness Centre