Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Is Artificial Sweeteners a Good Option for Sugar?

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We all love a sweet treat but it must be known that excessive amounts of sugar can wreak havoc on our health. In fact, sugar is also referred to as “white poison”, and can lead to obesity, skin aging, and diabetes, among various other health issues. However, having sugar in limited amounts is acceptable, and natural sugar that is available in fruits and other food items can, in fact, be beneficial for you. As such, in this article, we decode the amount of sugar you can safely consume in a day, if artificial sweeteners are a good alternative to refined sugar, and also decode the nutritional benefits of sugar you get from fruits.

Sugar

Speaking with indianexpress.com, Dr Eileen Canday, HoD, Nutrition at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital said, “Excessive amounts of sugar consumption can cause various chronic disorders such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, aggravate acne, rapid aging, and dental cavities among others. Many individuals rely on highly processed food items which may contain hidden forms of sugar; this usually contributes to the major source of sugar consumption”.

Agreed Ushakiran Sisodia, Registered Dietician and Clinical Nutritionist Diet and Nutrition, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital and said that limiting sugar intake is imperative to overall health, as excessive sugar can lead to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease. “It’s not merely about the calories, but the disruptive effects of sugar on metabolic health,” she stressed.

So, how much sugar can you eat in a day?
According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women. “However, less is always better when it comes to sugar,” Sisodia said.

“As per the World Health Organization, adults and individuals should reduce the intake of sugar to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake,” added Canaday.

Should you replace sugar with artificial sweeteners?
Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners might not be a good idea. WHO recommends against the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) to control body weight and reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, etc. NSS includes all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners, like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives.

“While it may seem like a smart move to replace sugar with non-sugar sweeteners, it’s not necessarily a healthier choice. Some studies suggest that these sweeteners can lead to sugar cravings and dependency, potentially interfering with the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake,” said Sisodia.

What about the sugar in fruits?
This is the kind of sugar you must not deprive yourself of. Fruits are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients. Apart from giving you energy, unlike refined sugar, they improve your immunity, digestion, provide hydration, among other benefits. “Fruits like mango, lichi, and dates contain natural sugars, which are part of a healthy diet. Unlike added sugars, these sugars come with fiber, water, and various beneficial compounds. So, the fruit is far from being equivalent to a sugar-sweetened beverage or a candy bar,” explained Sisodia.

Fruits contain natural sugars from fructose and are also high in soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Dr Canday added, “Fruits contain natural sugars from fructose and they are also high in soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and other phytonutrients which are beneficial for health. If fruits are consumed in appropriate amounts with a good source of fat or protein, they can help stabilise blood sugar levels”.

Tips to limit sugar consumption
Sugar can be very addictive, said Dr Canday, sharing some tips to limit its consumption.

– Ensure you are consuming healthy, small frequent meals to avoid any sugar cravings.
– Foods can be sweetened with natural food items like dates, date syrup, figs or other fruits.
– Opt for minimally processed food items
– Opt for plain yoghurt instead of flavoured ones
– Swap sugar containing milk chocolate with sugar-free dark chocolate
– Check the food labels carefully for any hidden form of sugar

“Remember, moderation is key. Rather than seeking to completely eliminate sugar, aim to create a balanced and sustainable diet. And most importantly, make mindful eating a habit, as it will help you make healthier choices in the long run,” concluded Sisodia.

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