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Written by Shalu Chandran,
in Food & Nutrition
Sugar may easily be called the most dangerous food in our modern diet and lifestyle. Consuming too much sugar is the leading cause for many serious ailments including abdominal Obesity, Diabetes, Cholesterol (decreased HDL and increased LDL) increase in triglycerides, and high blood pressure and more. Consuming large amounts of sugar can also lead to fatty liver.
White sugar contains a lot of calories and offers no essential nutrients. Sugar is also known to cause insulin resistance which is extremely essential for our body. Insulin allows glucose or blood sugar to enter our cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. People who consume a high-carb, high caloric diet and remain inactive can result in excess glucose in the body which further leads to ailments like obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.
Ayurveda considers Sweet as the most important taste among the six tastes and suggests that it must be consumed the most. The Sweet taste is cooling, heavy, oily, and sticky and brings softness and stability. The taste coats the tongue and throat and facilitates elimination of bowels. Sweet taste alleviates thirst, pacifies Pitta and Vata, and nourishes the mind. However Ayurveda recommends natural sweet foods that include milk, ghee, rice, wheat and other grains and legumes, as well as sweet fruits, dates, honey, jaggery and sugar.
This is because consuming sweet, helps nourish the mind and body, controls hunger and thirst, increases tissues and improves the immune system. It builds ojas (glow) because it nourishes the sap or blood plasma of the body. It is also known to bring happiness, calmness, cheerfulness, love and satisfaction when consumed in appropriate amounts.
However like with anything else, anything is excess is harmful. In excess, the sweet taste is known to increase Kapha imbalances and disorders such as heaviness, laziness, and dullness, colds, obesity, excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, cough, diabetes and abnormal growth of muscles. The harmful sugars which must be avoided at all costs are sugar-laden processed foods like soft drinks, condiments, cereals, chocolates etc, which also contains added additives, food-coloring and other preservatives.
It is important to choose natural, unprocessed sweeteners and make them part of one’s daily diet. From honey in your cereals or daily cup of tea to home-made cakes made using palm jaggery, whole grains and ghee, there are several healthy alternatives to sugar which that will allow you to consume all your favorite foods. Here are some of our recommended alternatives to white-sugar:
Honey is one of the best and most easily available substitutes for white sugar. It is sweet and heating and is known to ‘scrape fat’ from the body. Honey pacifies the Vata and Kapha while increasing Pitta in the body. It is a natural source of carbohydrates and is rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins. Honey is also known to purify the blood as well as maintain blood pressure levels. Honey is also used as a natural healing ingredient for sore throats or cold and cough. It also provides instant energy due to its fructose level. Honey is also used for various skin and hair care treatments as it is known to fight with free radicals which are responsible for ageing.
Palm Jaggery, also known as karuppatti in Tamil is made from the extract of Palm Trees. It is extracted without using any chemical agents and hence all the natural mineral salts are retained without adding any preservatives of chemicals. It pacifies the Vata while increasing Pitta and Kapha doshas. It is also known as medicinal sugar as it cures health issues like constipation, indigestion and cough. It’s also consumed during winters to keep the body warm.
Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia Rebaudiana, making it a natural alternative to sugar. It is recommended for those who are looking to lose weight or for those suffering from Diabetes. Stevia has zero calories, and is considered 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is also used as a treatment for burns, tooth decay, colic, stomach problems and high blood pressure.
Maple syrup is taken from the sap of maple trees- a juice that is the very nutritional lifeline of the tree. Maple Syrup is nourishing as it digests more slowly than other sweeteners. It is known to pacify Vata and Pitta dosha but is known to aggravate the Kapha. It is rich in minerals, including manganese, zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants.
Made of Kharjura (or Dates), which are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and sugar, Ayurveda lauds this fruit for its various nourishing properties. Based on principles of Ayurveda, the madhura rasa in dates helps increase the moistness of tissues. It is heavy to digest and acts as body coolant. It balances pitta and vata but persons with high kapha and diabetes should consume them cautiously.
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