Consumption of sugar has increased manifolds in the last few decades. With our modern and fast paced life, our kitchen and pantry shelves are filled with packaged food more than ever before. Sugar is in the top three ingredients of most of the packaged and processed foods. Excess sugar in our diet not just spikes our body fat, but also makes us prone to obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, hormonal disorders like Thyroid & PCOS, increases insulin resistance and inflammation which further leads to arthritis, High blood pressure and other diseases. Even though we are much more health conscious than any generation that lived on the planet, the occurrence of the above listed issues has been skyrocketing.
The daily intake of added sugar recommended by WHO is less than 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar a day (This doesn’t take into count the naturally sweet foods like fruits). While, we are unlikely to hit even 3/4th of this threshold if we eat home cooked food, just a can of soft drink is enough to make us go overboard. After all, we do not eat gulab jamuns, cakes or payasams every day.
Let us see where does the hidden sugar in our diet comes from and which are the foods that might wreak havoc in our body, without our knowledge.
- Breakfast cereal and Snack bars– All breakfast cereals are highly processed, devoid of nutrients and are loaded with sugar, salt, cheap oil, and other additives. They spike the sugar levels right at the start of the day.
What is so special about the ‘Special’ cereals endorsed by actresses who look super fit? Their sugar levels and price are higher than the regular varieties.
For those of you who are wondering what is high fructose corn syrup, it’s a cheap sweetener which is genetically modified and has several health implications
Alternative – Flattened Rice flakes/avil/poha, puffed amaranth/millets
- Soft drink/bottled juices – Soft drinks are nothing but a mixture of carbonated water, sugar/high fructose corn syrup and cancer causing additives like artificial colours and flavours. Just 350 ml (12OZ) of any soft drink will make you go over and above the 25 gm sugar limit.
This does not mean fruit juices have all the goodness of fruits, (even though some tag lines suggest it). Most fruit juices are water, sugar and added colours with fruit concentrate and flavour .
How about the 100% fruit juice? Fruits and vegetables get oxidised easily when exposed to air, meaning the nutrients vanish in the air. Since they don’t have any amount of fibre, they spike the sugar levels too. This does not happen when you consume the whole fruit. Read more about juices and smoothies here.
Alternative – Freshly squeezed lemon juice, coconut water and plain water can quench thirst & hydrate, and fresh fruit for a sweet tooth fix without piling on the pounds.
- Ketchup,jams, dressing, spreads – If dosa, idli or chapathi has to packed in lunch, most kids demand and most moms yield to squeezing jams or ketchup into the box . ketchup, jams and dressings are not just sugar laden but also filled with additives such as artificial flavours and colours that are known to be harmful to brain and cause ADHD.
Most of us consume more empty calories from the ketchup we use as a ‘Side’ for the pizza, than the pizza itself.
Alternative – Home made chutneys and powders, filled with goodness of protein, fibre and love. Real Italian pizzas are neither loaded with cheese, nor served with ketchup .
- Bread, biscuits/cookies – Even the best protein biscuit has 29.8 gm of sugar for every 30 gm of protein, for which we pay a very high amount.
Need less to say all other digestive and cream biscuits have similar list, labels and numbers for sugar. As grown ups, if we decide to switch to the low fat chips/cookies, we are heading for even more trouble as those foods contain more sugar than the regular ones.
Bread is a convenient food, not a healthy one. Watch my video about the healthiest bread.
Alternative – Chapathis/rotis, Home made snacks, even if deep fried will not have the additives and sugar and are healthier and fresh than store-bought packaged ones. Home made phulkas or rotis have only three ingredients – flour , water and a pinch of salt.
- Fruit Snacks and flavoured yogurt – Snack bars , fruit bars , fruit snacks and so are the names. All they have is high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial colours & flavours and so on.
Why buy a flavoured yogurt which is sugar laden and has artificial flavour ?
Alternative – Plain home-made yogurt and fresh whole fruits instead of processed and packaged ones.
I can hear most moms cribbing that my child/family wont have food without flavour or the sweetness. Well, that’s because their taste buds and brain are tricked to like these flavours with the additives in these packaged food. Moms know Miracles don’t happen overnight, especially in case of kids. Constant , steady changes and educating the family about food and nutrients will help them to make better choices even if they are alone.
And for grown ups like us, lets learn to understand what is real food and what it does to body. Priority matters.
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