Sugar is made by extraction of sugar juice from sugar beet or sugarcane plant and then different types of sugar can be produced. According to the adjustments in the process of cleaning, crystallizing and drying the sugar & varying the level of molasses, different varieties of sugar are available in the market. Sugar colour is determined by the amount of molasses remaining or added to the crystals. Heating the sugar also changes the colour or flavor.
Natural sugar is naturally occurring & is of two kinds one is fructose which is found in fruits & other is lactose found in dairy. Glucose is simple sugar found in all foods that have carbohydrates. Consuming natural sugar is completely healthy. When we consume it, it is full of important nutrients like fiber in the case of fructose & protein in the case of lactose. These nutrients help to stabilise the blood sugar level & prevent us from feeling hungry.
Processed sugars are natural sugars that are modified, combined & processed for eg; sucrose which is half glucose and half fructose and is complex sugar. It is also called added sugar. These sugars are empty calories & contains no proteins, vitamins & minerals. They are added to certain foods when they are being made. The top sources of added sugar are soft drinks, fruit drinks, cookies, cakes, candies & processed food, soups, bread & ketchup.
The humans are born with the sweet tooth from birth. The new born baby smells & tastes the milk of his mother. But as he grows up, the taste for processed food increases and when it comes to refined sugar it is intoxicating and addictive. It is lethal whenever ingested because it provides nothing good instead gives rise to bundle of diseases. It depletes body cells & suppresses the immune system.
Sweet food has been found to induce positive feelings in the short term & people with low mood may eat sugary food in the hope of alleviating negative feelings. But high intake of this food is likely to have the opposite effect on mental health in the long term. When we consume the sugar, we have two options either burn it from energy or convert it to fat & store in fat cells but problem is that we have lot more space for fat storage and less space to burn the sugar as energy. This all ends up in the bitter side of sweet sugar in the form of various diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, liver disorders, obesity and cancer.
Health Hazards of Processed Sugar
1. Impact on liver
The higher the intake of sugar, greater the risks for liver diseases. High amount of sugar overloads the liver as it metabolizes the sugar & converts it into glycogen which is stored to liver until we need it. If the liver is full of glycogen & we are eating more & more sugar, the liver will be forced to convert this extra sugar into fat and this process can lead to fatty liver. This is more harmful for inactive people.
2. Insulin resistance
Eating too much added sugar results in metabolic dysfunction as insulin stops working when the body is loaded with sugar. This is the leading cause of type-II diabetes.
The metabolic problems associated with sugar consumption lead to cancer of different body organs like breast, pancreas, gall bladder, stomach & ovaries.
4. Poor lipid profile
The large amount of fructose can raise triglycerides, LDL & causes high BP & heart diseases.
5. Tooth decay
Sugar has high acidic content & it provides energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth & results in tooth cavities.
When we consume sugar, it attaches itself to the proteins. These new molecular structures contribute to the loss of skin elasticity & premature wrinkling.
People who consume the high amount of sugar are most likely to become overweight or obese. Eating sugar containing products stimulate our brain to release dopamine which causes sugar craving and can make us to over eat. The obesity further becomes the mother of the other fatal diseases. It is highly addictive.
8. Anxiety disorders
Sugar can cause rapid rise of certain neurotransmitters responsible for anxiety and hyperactivity with loss of concentration of mind.
Processed sugar is unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs. However, the fact is that there are taste buds for sweet and still there remains a desire for something sweet to be consumed so there are healthy alternatives to refined sugar.
Healthy Alternatives to Processed Sugar
1. Raw Honey
It is a true super food. It is packed with enzymes, antioxidants, iron, potassium, calcium & phosphorus. These essential nutrients help to remove free radicals, while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
These are loaded with potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and vit B6. These are easily digested and help to metabolize proteins, fats & carbohydrates. Dates also help to reduce LDL & cholesterol in the blood.
3. Maple Syrup
It is a thick sugary liquid made by cooking down the sap of maple tree. It is an outstanding source of manganese and contains calcium, potassium and zinc. It is rich with antioxidants and helps to neutralize free radicals.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the leaf of flowering plant. It contains zero calories. It is safe to use. It has been shown to lower blood sugar & blood pressure levels.
It is a sweet brown liquid made from boiling down sugarcane or sugar beet juice. It contains handful of vitamins and minerals and several antioxidants. Its high potassium & calcium content benefits bone & heart.
These are some other sugar substitutes that are totally chemicals. These are artificial sweeteners and are calorie free. They also provide a sweet taste, but after consumption they do not increase blood sugar levels. Most common sweeteners are Aspartame, Sacharin, Sucralose, Acesulfame potassium neotame. One of the most disturbing claims against artificial sweeteners is that they can cause weight gain and also carry side effects.
It is best to avoid added sugars as they deliver vast amount of fructose & glucose at once and do not specify the ratio of glucose to fructose they used to get the fuel that the body needs. Always take the purest and simplest form of carbohydrates from fruits & vegetables. It will prevent overdosing of sugar & deliver the required nutrients.
Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners
• Blurred vision
• Sleep disturbance
• Breathing problem
• Skin Rash
• Intestinal problems
• Bleeding gums
• Swelling of lips & tongue
• Shortness of Breath
• Weight gain