Saying no to sugar

Saying no to sugar

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Saying no to sugar
Among the many lifestyle disorders on the rise today, child obesity is definitely a disconcerting one. While several factors contribute to children’s weight problems, excessive sugar consumption tops the list. Let’s take a deeper look at this problem.

Parents, especially mothers, are inclined to overfeed their children. A common
misconception is that baby fat is good. A slim child is considered weak and even malnourished, whereas a plump kid is viewed as prosperous and healthy.

Moreover, children are carefree about weight concerns. So, they select their food strictly going by their taste buds. Therefore, when it comes to sugar, children see no reason why they should not have more of it. This practice can make children highly susceptible to weight gain coupled with an increased risk of developing a number of diseases at an early age.

Every calorie counts

A recent study published in the journal Obesity argues that sugar is not just bad because it makes you gain weight, but it can bring about other, more sinister metabolic changes to the body. The researchers studied the effects of sugar restriction on 43 obese children, aged nine to 18, who had at least one metabolic problem, like high blood pressure or high triglycerides (blood fat) or markers of fatty liver. For nine days, they ate a sugar-restricted diet, but their calories were kept as constant as possible, by substituting in starches and carbs for the sugars.

At the end of the nine days, the kids’ average diastolic blood pressure decreased by 5 Mm Hg; their triglycerides were lowered by 33 points; their LDL (bad cholesterol) went down 10 points; insulin levels were reduced by a third, and fasting glucose and liver function tests improved. Researchers concluded that ‘a calorie is not a calorie.’ Where those calories come from determines where in the body they go.

Supporting the findings, an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that one of the damaging effects of a diet high in sugar and other refined carbohydrates is that it puts you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, whether it is type 1, type 2 or gestational, too much sugar in your diet can prevent you from keeping your blood sugar levels within a healthy range.

Sugar calories are worst because they lead to weight gain, abdominal obesity,
decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure. This increases your risk of heart disease. What’s more, sugar can overload and damage your liver. Also, all types of sugars can cause tooth decay.

Moreover, if you have the habit of eating sugar at every meal, it means that your immune system will be functioning at half-capacity for most of the day. According to a classic study cited in USA Today, in 2009, eating too much sugar can seriously compromise your immune system’s ability to fight viruses, bacteria and parasites.

If you cannot avoid sugar completely, try to limit its intake and find healthier
alternatives. Thanks to scientific advancements, we have artificial sweeteners to the rescue. Quite a few brands are available in the market today, which offer low to zero calorie content to help you manage your weight issues. And they are not just for diabetics who struggle with sweet pangs. Regular use of these substitutes is also recommended for better oral health. As they have no sugar, there is no risk of tooth decay; yet you have enhanced flavour. It is a win-win situation.

Besides this, you should swap your sugary drinks, biscuits and cakes with healthier snack options. For instance, always keep naturally sweet fruits such as dates, bananas, grapes and litchi or nuts handy. Not only will they satisfy sweet cravings, but you will also gain rich fibres, vitamins and minerals.

Eating at regular intervals of two-three hours also helps in restricting sweet cravings. Avoid processed foods; instead consume more whole foods. Increase your consumption of healthy fats, such as omega-3, saturated, and monounsaturated fats. Add more fermented foods such as curd, idli and dhokla to your meals. The good bacteria in these foods support digestion and provide detoxification support, which helps lessen the burden on your liver. 

Making healthy choices is easier than you think. But you need to do is begin now to stay fit.

(The author is a fitness expert from Bengaluru)
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