As a child I was always under the impression that when people grow up, they stopped liking sugar. To me, the sign that you were an adult was that you stopped enjoying sweet things and began liking bitter foods. So you can imagine my disappointment when, at the age of 21, I needed to reduce the amount of sugar I put in my coffee, because it was just too sweet. Slowly I began reducing the amount of sugar I put in everything. Everything was just too sweet – the power of socialisation!
So, when it was declared that added sugar was bad for our health, and needed to be cut out of our lives, it didn’t really change my life. But when the label of “no added sugar” began to pop up everywhere, I began to wonder what it was. Added sugar? Additional to what? What exactly did added sugar mean? Simply put, added sugar is the extra sweetener (as opposed to the naturally occurring sugars) added to foods during their processing. All natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and dairy have a certain amount of naturally occurring sugars in them. That’s what gives them their taste. But when you buy a box of flavored yoghurt, or a bottle of juice from the super market, there is a chance that extra sweeteners have been added (there are exceptions, of course, and they will sport the sticker that says “no added sugars”).
But what’s wrong with eating extra sugars? If sugars are naturally occurring, is it really that bad to consume some more? Well, as a matter of fact, it is. Added sugars have no nutritional value and are just empty calories. What this means is that it only adds to your weight without really benefiting you in anyway. Sugars are basically carbohydrates, so all it does is add to your daily intake of carbohydrates. It has been seen that added sugars are directly linked to obesity and heart disease. They also increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes and blood pressure problems. A lot of risk to take just to make something sweeter.
Studies have shown that India’s per capita sugar consumption is lower that the global average. However, this figure is slowly rising. With the kind of diet that we have (India’s well known for its sweets, right?) it isn’t particularly surprising. Sugar isn’t necessary for us physically but we cannot resist it mentally. Sugar consumption can be addictive, and most of the time, like any other addiction we do not want to admit it.Yet, we need to make sure that we restrict our intake of sugars. While the immediate burst of energy is definitely addictive, it isn’t good for us in the long run. According to the World Health Organisation, we should restrict the amount of added sugar we consume to 10% of our daily energy intake. A further reduction to 5% (which is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons) will have even more benefits.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you give up all things sweet forever. After all, who can resist the delicious scoop of ice cream, or the occasional Gulab Jamoon at a function? Don’t turn your face away from that one Starbucks coffee you drink every month. Just make sure you’re not loading on a Mars bar every few hours.