The Bitter Truth about Sugar
Forewarned is forearmed. Before you fall prey to its sweet clutches, Ishika Sachdev gives you the dirt on the festive season’s biggest villain – sugar
Diwali. Thinking of that time last year brings two things to mind: meeting a large number of aunties I didn’t know I had and not being able to fit into my favourite jeans by the end of the festival. I should have probably thought about the happiness, the lights, even the fireworks, but my most prominent memory is the alarming number of boondi laddoos I casually consumed. But here’s another year and another Diwali is coming up, and this time I’m going to do it right. I’m going to have my cake (and laddoos, barfis and halwas) and eat it too. Here’s the game plan:
Step 1: Know Your Opponent
This involved extensive Googling and talking to the experts.
What is sugar?
Highly addictive, unfortunately common and so delicious! Sugar is the ex-boyfriend that wants to hang out after the break-up, bringing only bad news masked in temporary comfort. Sugar comes in various forms, from glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose to lactose. Essentially anything that ends in ‘-ose’ is a form of sugar.
No. Sugars, like exes, have zero (nutritional) value. They contain no nutrients, no protein, no healthy fats and a truckload of remorse. The complex carbs in our diet are sufficient sources of energy. Sugar is useless; it’s empty calories that cause a spike in blood sugar.
The addiction is real.
I learned that this relationship I was indulging in is, in fact, terribly toxic. Studies show that sugar’s effects on the brain are comparable to that of addictive drugs such as cocaine. You know that feeling after you’ve had one laddoo and the entire box is staring at you, asking to be eaten, and you can’t focus on anything else until you’ve wiped it clean? Pretty close to what a drug addict feels.
Are we being dramatic?
No. Too much sugar in our diet can wreak havoc on our organs. Studies show that excess sugar can lead to diabetes, liver dysfunction, heart disease, obesity, dementia and even cancer. Dr Kousalya Nathan, a Chennai-based nutritionist and anti-ageing consultant, says, “Every time we give in to our sugar cravings, we stimulate pro-inflammatory responses like disease and ageing. Packaged foods, including Indian sweets, are highly processed and contain hidden sugars in the form of taste enhancers and preservatives. These hidden sugars can cause a molecular change, known as glycation, which results in premature ageing.” Not good!
Finally, some good news – no! Natural sugars found in whole foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts are healthier than sugars added to foods during the stages of processing or cooking. Simply put, the more refined the sugar is, the more harmful it is. But at the end of the day, a sugar is a sugar is a sugar – consume it in limited amount.
Step 2: Prepare Yourself
Let’s be real, quitting sugar this time of the year sounds crazier than the effect it has on our bodies. So what’s the solution?
- Make sweets at home. This way you know what’s going into them and you can avoid all the yucky additives. This Diwali, my mum and I are going to make papaya halwa, gajar halwa, besan laddoo and moong dal kheer.
- Eat healthier through the day (in the form of fibre-rich salads and lean protein) to make up for the calorie-rich sweets you’re going to have.
- Practice moderation and balance. Prashanti Ganesh, co-founder and head coach of Chennai-based Strength System, says, “Indulging in moderation is better than complete abstinence. For one, it doesn’t destroy your social life and cause stress and anxiety from trying too hard to stay away from sugar entirely. Stress in high doses can be worse than sugar in low doses.” Prashanti gave me a simple tip: follow the 80-20 rule. Meaning, I’m allowed to cheat 20 percent of the time. That way I get to have my laddoo and eat it too.