Soaring summer temperature brings with it an exponential surge in the availability and intake of sugar-laden beverages and coolers such as aam panna, mango juice, sweetened lassi, nimboo paani, phalsa, jamun and bael sherbets, iced teas and of course the sweet sodas, mocktails and cocktails. The need to hydrate is justified, but the baggage that comes with them — sugar — is harmful.
A single serve of any of these beverages can have anything from 4-8 teaspoons of sugar. And our sugar intake in summer is worsened by excessive intake of mangoes, sweet fruits and ice-creams.
In fact, the WHO has recently lowered the recommendations for sugar from 10 per cent to no more than 5 per cent of the total caloric intake, translating to 4-5 teaspoons a day for a 2000 Kcal diet of an average person. A single can of a sugar sweetened beverage exceeds this limit. It is not surprising that an average American takes more than 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, which means 18 per cent of the calories come from the sugar. The statistics for an average urban Indian are unlikely to be different. In general, in India, per capita sugar consumption has tripled in the last three decades, from 6 kg (1975) per annum — 18 kg (2000) per annum.
Contrary, to the belief that sugar restriction is only for the diabetic, the facts are quite different. Excess sugar can lead to coronary heart disease, obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), lowered immunity, impaired brain function and increased risk to cancer.
Sugar, in fact, has been found to be addictive in nature, which really means ‘the more you have, the more you want’. Sugar uses the same neurological pathways as narcotic to hit the pleasure centre of the brain that send out the signals: “eat more, eat more.”
Another effect of excessive sugar intake is change in microbial flora in the gut. In the long run, this can eventually lead to bloating, and may worsen gastro-intestinal problems such as heartburn, flatulence and so on.
Some ways to lower sugar intake:
* Say ‘no’ or limit sweetened beverages and fruit juices. If you must, dilute it with soda or water. Make sugar-free versions of seasonal fruit drinks and flavour them with lemon, lime, fresh mint, coriander or cucumber.
8 Exchange rich desserts and sugar-laden sweets with healthy sweets such as fresh fruits, dry fruits like raisins, apricots, figs. Other healthy sweets include honey- or jaggery-coated nuts, chocolate-coated nuts, sandesh, squeezed rasgulla or dark chocolate.
* Use less white sugar, brown sugar, honey and syrups.
* Limit intake of soft drinks, sugary breakfast cereals, candies, ice creams, sweets and desserts.
* Use approved sugar substitutes, wherever possible.
* Read ingredients carefully. There may be hidden sources of sugar even in sugar-free foods. Look out for words like brown sugar, corn syrup, maltose, fructose, dextrose, molasses, agave, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, cane syrup, and evaporated cane juice etc.
* Buy plain versions of yogurt, milk, soymilk and natural sweeteners like fresh and dried fruits.
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: “To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.”