Let’s celebrate = Chalo kuchh meetha ho jaay
Sugar and Slavery are curiously related. Post industrial revolution, Europeans found sea trade routes and deployed cheap slave-labour economies over sugarcane plantations. Sugar itself causes a natural urge to ask for more and more sugar and enslaves humans to itself. Sweet as it may taste, it is vital to question consumption of processed sugar. In any case, sugar is not a health food. It does not nourish.
Sugar is a natural biological molecule and human body needs sugar. But it is important to know which sugar, because sugar comes in many forms. Sugar is a family name for a group of molecules that share a similar structure; glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose, maltose and so on, are all sugars. Sugars naturally occur in biology and in most foods, even if in traces. Sugars basically fall in the group of “carbohydrates” like starches – potatoes or rice, fiber – whole grain husks and cellulose – shells, barks. Sugars are a type of carbohydrates, but all carbohydrates are not sugars.
So Which Sugar Is Good? How Much Is Fine?
Since sugar comes in different forms, it is good to know how human body treats them. Most carbohydrates get broken down into simpler sugars in the process of digestion, but their rates of digestion are different. The more complex a molecule, the more difficult it is to digest. Sugars – the sweet tasting type – are simpler molecules and get digested quickly. Starches and fiber are bigger, and more complex molecules and take longer time to breakdown – and that is why eating more fiber makes us feel fuller longer. There is no mathematical answer to how much sugar is good. Human bodies are made differently and each person has a different level of sugar that brings satiety. It is more important to understand the effects of sugar and settle with acceptance limits.
Does Sugar Cause Obesity?
In previous two hundred years, the average per capita sugar consumption in developed world grew from less than 2 kg/year to more than 40 kg/year. In the same period obesity has grown as a problem.
The important thing to note here is that no single thing causes obesity. Metabolism is a complex process and many factors work together to contribute to a consistent calorie surplus which ultimately leads to fat gain. But yes, sugar is one of them. Even if sugar is not alone, sugar acts as a gateway to fat gain.
- Sweet foods increase body’s energy intake (read more about glycemic index)
- Sweet foods are processed and highly palatable – most often they prove to be too addictive
Since high sugar foods are refined and highly tasty, they are “hard-to-stop-eating”. We digest them and absorb the energy (calories) in them quickly and easily. Worse, they overstimulate brain’s pleasure centres and they are easily overeaten. The easily digested sugar molecule releases ready energy, while the fat consumed takes longer to burn away and release its energy packets. This fat then can only accumulate and cause obesity. The urge to eat more sweet further worsens the problem. Cholesterol has taken a beating over the last few decades, but it must be told that sugar industry is a strong lobby that keeps diverting the attention to consumption of fat.
Eating Sugar? No Papa!
The white crystals we add to our coffee is sucrose. This is one form in which sugar consumption can be consciously limited. Processed foods bring undesirable amounts of sugar. Even so called “health foods” like yoghurt and juices quietly do that. It is easy, at least, to identify such food items to begin a self-control regime. Since carbohydrates are necessary, the choice needs to be made by preferring fibre over starch and by putting starch above simple sugars. Choosing unprocessed complex sugars will be the key. A balanced diet of peas, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole-grains, starchy vegetables is what is needed. Enslaved to the sweet tooth? Jaggery and fruit score heavily over processed white sugar.
You may read an elaborate article covering the “truth about sugar”..
Author: Ashutosh Pradhan
31st October, 2017
Note: This article is a part of an ongoing series clarifying common
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