Everything that soothes the tastebuds and is your go-to comfort food, can never be healthy to your body and mind. It is the probable ugly truth that the world has been coming to terms with. Unfortunately, these realisations set in after a visit to the doctor’s office or maybe when you see your reflection in the mirror as a third person might see it.
Even though we’re all for body positivity and a healthy body image, bingeing on food and drinks with high calorific value is more of a bane than a boon, something that will taste good today and possibly haunt you for days later, mostly in the form of a lifestyle disorder if precautions are not taken early on.
A high sugar diet has also been linked with depression.
As they say, everything in moderation is key. When it comes to sugar consumption — direct or through sources such as packaged juices, soda, and other food items, the lesser is always better and recommended. Did you know a glass of your favourite aerated drink contains a whole packet of sugar?
There are a few alternatives you can choose when cutting down on sugar, especially if giving it all up is more Herculean a task than simply thinking about it. Here are some of the best alternatives to sugar:
– Honey: An easy substitute for your green tea, desserts, oatmeal and other preparations
– Stevia: A naturally available sweetener, it is one of the most popular sugar substitutes and can be store bought
– Agave: Also a natural sweetener, it is atleast one and a half times sweeter than sugar and is also considered healthier than honey
How much sugar is okay to consume?
According to Harvard Health, ”If 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day is too much, then what is the right amount? It’s hard to say, since sugar is not a required nutrient in your diet. The Institute of Medicine, which sets Recommended Dietary Allowances, or RDAs, has not issued a formal number for sugar.”
“However, the American Heart Association suggests that men consume no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams) of added sugar per day. That is close to the amount in a 12-ounce can of soda,” they add.
According to National Health Service (NHS) UK, “Eating too much sugar can make you gain weight and can also cause tooth decay.”
Sugar for the brain
According to a WebMD study titled – How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body? – “Eating sugar gives your brain a huge surge of a feel-good chemical called dopamine, which explains why you’re more likely to crave a candy bar at 3 p.m. than an apple or a carrot.”
Sugar might also affect your mood by signalling to your brain that a low mood needs the sugar rush.
“Sugar is an acquired taste and it is also very addictive. Consumption of refined sugar and the excess of it affects many organs in the body. It hastens the process of ageing and is known to be the cause of most health conditions for which previously fat was blamed, namely cardiac conditions, weight gain and other ailments. It is also known to hasten the process of skin ageing and could aggravate Type 2 diabetes which can otherwise be reversed if diagnosed well in time,” says Delnaaz T. Chanduwadia, chief dietitian at Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai.
Tips to cut down sugar consumption
Follow a healthy, balanced diet and cut down the consumption of food and drinks containing free sugars
Go for water, low-fat milk, or sugar-free diet instead of aerated drinks or sugary squash. The amount of sugar in whole and low-fat milk is the same, however the latter reduces your saturated fat intake
Switch to an alternate sweetner if your tea or coffee must have some sweet content. Each teaspoon of sugar contains approximately 75 calories.
Unsweetened black coffee on the other hand, contains zero calories, and the only hot beverage to do so. In the event of increased consumption of black coffee, ensure suitable hydration for your body as black coffee also dries up the bowels, in turn causing constipation and related disorders.
Sugar for the skin
Sugar has also been found to be linked with early ageing. Excessive sugar in our diets can lead to glycation – when excess sugar molecules stick to collagen fibres and eventually cause them to lose their flexibility, resulting in sagging skin, wrinkles and deep lines.
To reverse the ill-effects, you could consider a nutritionist-approved diet like the Mediterranean diet which is rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy fats such as avocados, mackerels, olive oil, nuts and leafy greens are other options to add to your diet, along with Vitamin C foods such as citrusy foods, berries and more.