Indian culture is one that prides itself on sweets, and its use of sugar in various delicacies across the country. The use of sugar in the culinary culture of India is thought to be irreplaceable, but there are definitely healthier options when it comes to consuming sweeteners.
Why look to replace sugar?
Sugar causes a reaction in the body which triggers the release of opioids and dopamine, which trigger the sensation of addiction. Craving and binging on sugar are actual effects of high sugar consumption, and can cause complications of varying degrees. According to an article, there are several chronic problems that high sugar intake can cause:
- Headache and fatigue
- Obesity (increased insulin and fat storage)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Chromium deficiency
- Heart problems
- Tooth decay and poor oral health
- Implications on digestive tract
The debate on artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are chemically altered substances that are incorporated into food and beverages to make them taste sweet. They are much more intense in flavour compared to table sugar, that the amount required is much less when compared to sugar itself. They also carry less calories because of this.
According to an article by Healthline, artificial sweeteners are claimed to increase your risk of cancer and it also harms gut health and blood sugar levels. It might promote weight gain in some individuals, since it increases appetite, but there are also studies that say otherwise. Effects may vary from individual to individual, but when it comes to health, it is always better to go the natural way.
Natural sweeteners – the safe way to go
Refined sugars are never considered better than their natural variants. The refining process results in loss of nutritional value of sugar and natural sweeteners. Natural variants of sweeteners provide health benefits that we can only get on consuming the raw product. These natural sweeteners are what can reduce our consumption of unhealthy processed sugars and artificial sweeteners.
- Unprocessed Honey: A tablespoon of raw honey carries approximately 64 calories, and is rich in antioxidants. According to an article by MedicalNewsToday, raw honey may also have a protective affect against diabetes, and could help improve cholesterol levels. Honey is antibacterial and antimicrobial in nature, which help it kill harmful bacteria and fungi.
- Dates or date sugar: again, rich in antioxidants, it is also rich in potassium. Dates act as an absorbent for Carbohydrates, fats and proteins. They reduce the risk of stroke, since they bring down cholesterol levels in the body.
- Coconut sugar: In India, especially towards the south, coconut is used as a staple ingredient. It is flavourful and easily available, and also high in nutritional value – iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. It does not affect the blood sugar levels, which is an added bonus.
- Maple syrup: It is not the most common item in an Indian household, but it is definitely something every household should consider. It contains zinc, iron, manganese and potassium, and has more antioxidants than honey, according to healthline. It also has a flavour of its own, adding to the variety of its uses.
Natural sweeteners also have to be consumed with moderation but when it comes to making the healthier choice, they are definitely better than processed table sugar we consume so regularly.