Sugar-A Sweet Poison!

Sugar has gained a bad reputation when it comes to health. It is found naturally in carbohydrate containing foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and honey. Having foods that has naturally occurring sugar is fine as they also contain other nutrients and fiber, which are digested slowly and lead to steady supply of energy to your cells. Consuming a good amount of fresh fruits and vegetables are associated with decreased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes as well as some forms of cancers.

Sugar refers to simple sugar or free sugar like monosaccharide's and disaccharides. Consuming more of this free sugar is associated with the risk of developing Non-communicable diseases which are the leading cause of death among the 68% i.e. 38 million of the world's deaths.

If you consume a teaspoon on sugar, your immune system goes down for the next 2-3 hours. This is not something we are looking for in the current scenario of COVID-19 pandemic. Our immunity is the defence mechanism which is going to decide whether we recover or not or how fast we recover from illness.

WHO recommends reducing sugar consumption to less than 10% of total energy intake and further reducing it to less than 5%, which is around 6 teaspoons or 25 grams per day in adults?

How much is too much?

The sugar we add in our tea or coffee is not something I am concerned about. But, the hidden sugar found in certain foods projects a health risk. Report suggest that higher consumption of sugar was associated with increased risk of obesity, and tooth decay. Sugar-sweetened drinks are observed to increase Body Mass Index (BMI) in teenagers, as this age group tend to drink more of these sugary drinks such as fruit juices, cola drinks, etc.

It is observed that we consume way too much sugar than recommended. Adult men consumes on an average 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day according to National Cancer Institute which is equal to 384 calories.

Sugary drinks are major contributor to obesity, and increased inflammation in our body. People consume these 'empty-calories' with no nutritional benefits. Plus they do not even compensate this excess caloric intake by consuming less food. These drinks contains around 34-47 grams of sugar per can.

This hidden sugar found in certain foods:-

  • Many sauces per serving = 3-16 grams of sugar

  • Fruit juices and drinks =12-65 grams of sugar

  • Dairy desserts and milk products = 6-16 grams of sugar

  • Tea & coffee drinks= 12-60 grams sugar

  • canned vegetables= 8-25 grams sugar

  • Industrial breads, hamburger buns= 8-12 grams sugar

  • Salad dressings= 3-16 grams sugar

  • Processed breakfast foods & smoothies= 16-48 grams sugar

  • Noodles= 8-16 gram sugar

  • Pre-cooked foods= 8-25 grams sugar

  • Low alcoholic beverages= 0.2-35 grams sugar

  • Vegetable soups= 8-24 grams sugar

  • Flavored water= 10-25 grams sugar

If eating 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day is considered as too much then what is the right amount for consumption? It's a bit difficult question to address, as sugar is not a required nutrient in our diet. The Recommended Dietary Allowances or RDAs, which are set by The Institute of Medicine, has not issued a formal number for it.

But, the American Heart Association suggests that men should not consume sugar more than 9 teaspoons or 36 grams per day.

Reading Food Labels is extremely important. Its one of the best ways to monitor the intake of added sugar. Look for the following names and either try to eliminate them or limit their intake.

  • High-fructose corn syrup

  • Brown sugar

  • Honey

  • Malt sugar

  • Molasses

  • Syrup sugar molecules ending in "ose" (examples: fructose, maltose, dextrose, lactose, sucrose)

  • Corn sweetener

  • Fruit juice concentrate

  • Corn syrup

  • Invert sugar

As far as possible avoid processed, refined and packaged foods. But when you buy them look at the ingredients list and sugar should not be among the first three ingredients as these are present in the largest amounts in that product. Also, note the number of grams of sugar per serving and the total number of servings and do your maths.

They will try to fool you ---It may only say 4 grams of sugar per serving, but if the normal amount is around four servings , you might end up consuming around 20 grams of sugar.

Keep a track of sugar that you add in your food or drinks like tea or coffee. Don't try to eliminate sugar completely as there are chances that you may end up reaching for other foods to satisfy your sweet cravings like refined starches-- white bread, which shoot your blood sugar levels, and comfort foods that are high in sodium and saturated fat which can lead to heart problems later. So, your intentions are very important. If you are eliminating it because you want to lose weight before your wedding then the chances are, you could find yourself indulging on desserts and sweets post wedding. Check your intentions and make conscious food choices.

P.S. If you like this piece of information then don't forget to share this article with your loved ones if you care about their health.

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