Is no-sugar diet really healthy?

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Published: Thu 25 Feb 2021, 5:04 PM

We all love sugar, but there are two truths about sugar that cannot be overlooked. First, it is delicious. Second, consuming it in excess can lead to weight gain. But is cutting off sugar entirely from your diet a solution then?

By Deepshikha Agarwal

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No, sugar is not a health food, but it need not be dreaded either. We often hear how we should cut down on sugar, but what experts actually mean is have it in moderation.

Getting rid of sugar completely can impact a person’s mental health and physical stamina, as glucose, the building block of sugar and our body’s only energy reserve, is essential for the functioning of the brain and other cells of our body. Did you know that one requires to have at least 15 gms of glucose to overcome hypoglycemia? Any food, when consumed in excess, is bad for the body. Excess of sugar can lead to inflammatory problems, weight gain, diabetes, acne and other metabolic dysfunctionalities. But that does not mean one should eliminate it altogether.

All sugars are not ‘bad’

Added sugar is different from natural sugar and this natural sweetness comes with a host of antioxidants and other essential nutrients. To put it quite simply, added sugar is white refined sugar while natural sugars are found in fruits as fructose and in dairy foods as lactose. Natural sugars are anti-inflammatory, help stabilise blood sugar levels and have high satiety value, which means you tend to feel full after consuming them. For example, one donut has 20 gms of refined sugar while one cup of fresh strawberries has seven gms of natural sugar. There is not only a vast difference in the amount of sugar but nutritionally as well it varies a lot. The sugar in fruits and vegetables are in the form of complex carbohydrates – which is required to give energy and fuel to our body. It also comes with a lot of essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, magnesium and selenium that help in promoting bodily functions and build immunity. Complex carbohydrates are also loaded with fibre, which is necessary to maintain our gut health.

Grabbing a handful of dry fruits, like dates, prunes or a bowl of mixed fruits like kiwis, grapes and any kind of berries early morning can be an excellent idea to boost our endorphins. These foods will uplift the mood without increasing our weight.

In fact, for marathon runners or for those who participate in any other endurance sport, glycogen (a form of glucose) is recommended, as its reserves ensure you are never out of energy. They are advised to have complex carbohydrates during the training period to optimise their performance and keep some raisins or glucose-based energy drinks handy to boost their energy levels.

Avoiding sugar is also not a good idea because it would mean cutting off fruits and vegetables, basic glucose, which is quite unhealthy for our body and may lead one to suffer from gastrointestinal distress, stamina breakdown, low blood sugar levels, cranky moods.

Instead, be smart about your consumption and prioritise getting your sugar in the form of fruits and vegetables. Try getting 85 per cent of sugar requirements of your body by having natural sugars, while the remaining 15 per cent can be obtained from refined sugar. For example, an average adult is recommended to have three servings of dairy per day, three or four servings of fruits per day and four servings of vegetables per day. While in case of simple sugar, one can have two teaspoons of white sugar per day or one teaspoon of honey a day.

Remember, proper nutrition is about balancing all food groups and not eliminating any one entirely.

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