Sugar please!


I’m not really addicted to anything in life except of course overthinking, procrastination, laziness at times, staying inside my comfort zone and the list goes on. But we aren’t discussing these superficial addictions today. I’ve grown with a massive sweet tooth. There was a time when I could gulp down multiple bars of chocolate in one sitting (won’t state a number here, it still freaks me out!). It wasn’t because I had an appetite for it or I was hungry, my mind craved it in large quantities whenever it had to deal with any kind of negative emotions in life.

So what really is sugar?

Sugar in any form (natural or refined) is a source of carbohydrate. When consumed, our body converts it into glucose and uses it for energy. Natural sugar is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and dairy. Refined sugar or table sugar is extracted from sugar cane plants or sugar beets. The sugar cane plants or sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to extract the sugary juice. The juice is filtered into syrup, further processed into sugar crystals by extracting molasses and undergoing a chemical refining process to give it the super white color.

What happens to the body when we consume sugar?

Natural sources of sugar contain other nutrients such a fiber in fruits or protein in dairy which slows down the digestion process and gives our body time to convert sugar into glucose. Refined sugar on the other hand is empty calorie devoid of any nutrients. When consumed, our body digests it in no time without making the stomach feel full. By the time we are full, the damage is already done as we end up consuming huge quantities of sugar. Once sugar passes through the blood stream, our pancreas secrete a hormone called insulin which is responsible for allowing the body to use glucose from blood for energy. When we consume large quantities of food containing refined sugar, our body metabolizes sugar quickly and causes a sudden spike of insulin and glucose. Depending on the amount of sugar already in the bloodstream, excess sugar is stored in body as fat (future source of energy).

Why does the mind crave sugar when we are stressed?

The reason behind this goes back to evolution. Food was a scarce commodity in the primitive times. Food, especially the sweet ones, owing to it’s high energy content triggers the pleasure point in our brain. When we eat sweet food, our brain neurons release a chemical called “dopamine” which activates the “reward system” in our mind signaling a positive event. As we eat sugar, our body also secretes the hormones called serotonin and endorphins which are associated with happiness.

So why should I stop eating sugar?

Below major ill effects are associated with excess consumption of artificial or refined sugar/ based products

  • Weight gain leading to obesity
  • Increased risk of heart ailments, Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver
  • Speeds up skin and cellular aging process

How much is too much?

According to the World Health Organization, adults and children should limit their daily intake of added sugar (anything that isn’t naturally occurring such as fruits or vegetables) to 10% of the total energy intake. They also say that a further reduction to 5% or roughly 25 grams / 6 teaspoons per day will greatly benefit our health.

Sugar does give a huge surge of dopamine as opposed to fruits or vegetables leading to after lunch/dinner cravings. As the blood cells absorbs sugar, there’s a sudden drop in energy as well as the feel good element causing us to continue eating sugar to continue activating the reward system in our brain.

That was a lot of information! I’m not sharing this to scare you off from sweet food. I still prefer sweet over any savory food, hands down. We need to be aware of what we put inside our body before it starts controlling us and it’s too late to correct our mistakes. I’m trying everyday to switch to healthier options, eat more natural sources of sugar like fruits and vegetables. Jaggery is my savior, there’s also honey and coconut.

The body is our true life companion, let’s treat it well when we can so that it treats us well when we can’t! Knowing what the food we consume does to our body can be a good start to a healthier, fitter life!

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