Sunday, January 10, 2016

Indians and the Risks of Consuming a High Sugar Diet

Sugar is present in a variety of foods not just sweets

A spoonful of sugar........makes the calories sit on your waist!! Are you noticing that you are slowly gaining weight even though you aren't eating junk food? Sugar might be the culprit.Have you ever given a thought to how much sugar you consume in a day?
We Indians consume way too much sugar every day without realizing the health problems associated with it. The general mindset is "eat and drink today for we are healthy" as a result of which tomorrow you will end up with a host of health problems!
Many of us associate sugar control to diabetes and believe that if they are not diabetic then they do not need to keep a watch on the sugar intake. This is not true. Diabetics definitely need to be more cautious as it tends to increase their blood glucose levels but non-diabetics also need to curb excessive sugar consumption.
This brings us to the question: Is sugar such a terrible food that we need to take it in limited amounts? The answer is that anything in excess is not good.
Here's what you need to know about sugar:

  • Nutritionally the only thing you get when you eat sugar is just calories (1 tsp/5g of sugar=19 calories). It has no other nutrients unlike a nutrient dense food like say for example nuts. Nuts will give you protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre and good fats (polyunsaturated) along with calories. These kind of foods are called nutrient-rich foods whereas candy and sugar are classified as nutrient poor foods.
  • More often than not, we tend to choose a sugary snack or drink instead of a fruit or other healthy foods and end up piling up on calories. This can lead to  dental caries and weight gain, which then increases the risk for other health problems like certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes among others.Considering that Indians are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, this higher consumption combined with the resulting weight gain could trigger it off at a much earlier age. 
  • Eating a sugary snack fills you up for that moment, but since there isn't much fibre you end up feeling hungry again. This results in another snack which just increases your calorie count without offering your body other nutrients.
Most people feel that they don't eat too much because they rarely add sugar to anything. But what they don't realize is that while they might not add sugar into foods, they do have foods that already have sugar. Everyday foods and drinks like tea,coffee, biscuits, juice, soft drinks, breakfast cereals, jams, ketchup, ice creams, cakes and other sweets all have sugar. What we don't realize is the amount of sugar in these-a can of soft drink/aerated drink easily contains 8-10 teaspoons, while your tea or coffee can have anything to 3-4 teaspoons. Add these through the day and you could easily be having anywhere close to 20-25 teaspoons per day!! That's a whole lot.
Should we avoid sugar completely or is there a cut-off range? How much sugar?
While there is no need to completely avoid sugar, there is no safe range either. The WHO (World Health Organisation) and the American Heart Association recommend limiting sugar intake to:
Men= 9 teaspoons or less
Women= 6 teaspoons or less
Preschoolers= 3 teaspoons
4-8 years= 4 teaspoons
9-Teenagers=5-6 teaspoons

How much sugar do you consume? Keep a note-if it is over the recommendations, then you need to reduce it.

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