Choose from a range of non-artificial sources to give you that extra boost of energy. MALATHI MOHAN
*Sugar, my pretty sugar/Every pound that makes you round, I idolise./Sugar, my pretty sugar,/Put that sugar back, the love back in your eyes’I'm absolutely certain that such flattering praise, like the above Nat King Cole song, caused the high incidence of obesity in women! Men appreciate a woman who is an armful. The thin twiggy types are all right for the modelling ramp. What exactly does sugar do to you that you have to consider other sweeteners?
There is no doubt that sugar adds sweetness to our food and drinks, which make them more palatable and tempting, thereby increasing consumption. Slowly the pounds start making us *round’ And then uninvited guests like obesity, diabetes, high BP arrive. *Pleasure often brings on pain’.
Let us start with the most commonly used table sugar, made from sugar cane, and also known as sucrose. The whiter it is, the more refined it is. Brown sugar has a negligible amount of molasses, which gives it the colour, but it is also just sucrose. We then have desi jaggery, which is also crude cane sugar, unrefined. It is rich in iron, which is lacking in purified sucrose. Honey, collected by bees and stolen by us, is a naturally occurring sweetener with medicinal properties. Corn sugar and beet sugar, also sucrose, are available in western countries, but not in India. Sugars that are an integral part of certain foods are: fructose in fruits; lactose in milk; maltose in malted products like germinated cereals and pulses.
Foods that can be used to sweeten some dishes are dried and fresh fruits, fruit juices and sweet vegetables like beets, carrots and sweet potato.Actually, some are made from natural products but, as they are processed chemically and are concentrated sources of sweetness without the benefit of supplying energy or other nutrients, they are classified as artificial. Some of them do have a calorific value, much less than sugar and many leave an after-taste of bitterness. The commonly known examples are: aspartame, saccharine and sucralose. These come under various commercial names and therefore, consumers should read labels to recognise the contents.
The FDA, considered to be the highest authority to classify man-made foods, terms some safe products as: GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe), if research is not conclusive. These are classified as safe or not, after further research. So some products are advocated, in the beginning, to be removed from the *GRAS label at a later date, based on adverse reports and brought back again if the negative results are disproved! Saccharin is one such product. It is now being allowed, and Aspartame is presently under a cloud!
Stevia is a sweetener made from a plant which has sweet leaves. The sweetness is very high — 250 to 300 times that of sugar — and it also has a low calorie count. It is made in India and is thought to have a bitter after-taste. Tagatose, a product that resembles sugar, has 90 times the sweetness of sugar and 1/3rd its calories and is made from dairy products, mostly from whey.
Since the last two sweeteners are truly natural products, they are safer to use. With the above reasoning in mind, most dieticians are not happy to recommend any sweetener in particular. If you are advised to avoid sugar, do try to manage without sugar or sweeteners, as much as possible, or use natural sweet foods as sweeteners. In this regard, it is better to avoid sugar-free sweets and drinks, as they contain sweeteners and give a false sense of comfort. They still contain calories from carbs and fats which contribute to the calories. Life has to be naturally sweet for all of us and not with artificial props.
Malathi is Dean, Academy of Fitness Management, FitnessOne India Ltd.
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