Is sugar digging your grave?


As dramatic as the title sounds, that wasn’t my intention. Just stating facts.

Being an Indian, living in Germany with a young Indo-German child; I decided to compare sugar consumption in the two countries and I am apalled.

My son will be kept off sugar until one year of age and then some; but him discovering it is inevitable. Sugar is in places you expect it to be as well as those you wouldn’t even dream of!

The WHO recommends sugar intake not to be more than 5% of total calorie intake per day, that is approximately 11gms. They say it should NEVER exceed 25 gms. One look at the following top 10 sugar consuming nations tell a different story.

1. United States: 126.40 gms

2. Germany: 102.90 gms

3. Netherlands: 102.50 gms

4. Ireland: 96.70 gms

5. Australia: 95.60 gms

6. Belgium: 95.00 gms

7. United Kingdom: 93.20 gms

8. Mexico: 92.50 gms

9. Finland: 91.50 gms

10. Canada: 89.10 gms

Phew! At least one of the countries I call home, didn’t make the list. But my relief was short-lived. I recall visiting several places in India with my then 4 month old and having well intentioned relatives and friends rushing to put sugar in my baby’s mouth as a sign of welcoming and celebrating this little  newperson. Its called Muh mitha karna, literally sweetening your mouth or figuratively, celebrating.

No festivity in India is complete without sugary delicacies- laddus, pedas, burfis– be it Ganesh, Diwali, Eid or Christmas. Many families have a customary sweet after every meal. This research paper here shows that Indians are not only closely tied with sugar, but also now alarmimg levels of Diabetes, Heart disease and Obesity.

History shows that sugar was first discovered in South-east Asia and perhaps even in India. Funny how this is an instance of the west aping the east. None of the 10 countries on that list come from the eastern side of the world.

That however does not change the pressing matter of sugar digging us all an early grave. You probably think you can solve it by just avoiding sugar. Think again. Sugar is EVERYWHERE. It goes by various names: fructose, glucose, corn syrup, honey, and sucrose (to name a few) and finds its way into the most unlikely places. Ever thought of reading labels of the groceries you buy?

These foods often contain way more sugar than you think:

  1. Granola & protein bars/powders
  2. Yogurt
  3. Breakfast cereals
  4. Bread
  5. Tomato sauce
  6. Soups in cans or boxes
  7. Nut & seed butters
  8. Salad dressings
  9. Sports drinks & fruit juices
  10. Frozen & instant/microwavable foods

So why all the fuss about sugars? How much harm can they really cause? Sugars are linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, poor dental health, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity to name a few of its effects. Not to mention, how addictive sugar is. You and I are addicted. Try going a day without sugar in any of its hidden, unnatural forms and see how you feel.

Going on a sugar detox is one of the best things you can gift yourself. You don’t need a fancy place and plenty of money to do it. Just follow these 3 easy steps:

Sugar Detox for a month:

  1. Drink water instead of sugar-laden sodas, iced coffees, or juices.
  2. Choose whole grains instead of refined, or “white”, carbohydrates. Whole grains take longer for the body to break down and do not increase blood sugar levels as quickly as processed carbohydrates.
  3. Read nutrition labels. Avoid processed foods with more than 22.5 total sugars per 100 grams. 

Once you’re done, just bite into a simple carrot and see what a sugar rush you get! You’ll taste flavours and textures you never knew, because sugar masks it all. That’s the bittersweet reality.