Sugar is an essential component of various cuisines and a regular constituent of our diets. But fitness gurus across the world have spread word about the pros and cons of consuming sugar and this has led to varied notions regarding the same. It would be wrong to say that sugar is totally bad and should be cut down from the diet if we wish to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Likewise, it would be wrong to say that sugar is the best sweetener available. One needs to look at this issue with a broader understanding of why we need to consume sugar and why certain substituent may have an advantage over the natural counterpart. But to be able to do that, one would need to know the inherent properties of these items.
Though sugar is essential to meet the energy requirements of the body, it is ‘empty calories’. Other sources of glucose like corn starch or sugarcane juice have an inbuilt content of minerals and vitamins that accompany the sugar intake. The concoction of nutrients always works better because that is what the body has learned to process better. Due to this reason, traditional foods insist the use of sugarcane extracts in their unprocessed forms. Ancient Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda have documented the advantages of the unprocessed extracts over the processed forms. Sugar, being the ultimate product of the processing, has its disadvantages in terms of excluding all other nutrients and roughage. Traditional knowledge also suggests the use of honey over sugar itself as it is closer to nature than processed sugar cubes.
The human body has devised umpteen number of ways in which it can digest the incoming nutrients. Insulin is an enzyme the breaks down the sugars and converts it into other forms that can be used by the body or stored for future use as glycogen. Consuming sugar is not bad for the simple reason that the body is capable of breaking it down into usable forms. At the same time, it is also important to consider that the body cannot deal with the overdose of any nutrient. Therefore, if one shovels down large quantities of sugar every day, it would do more harm than good. High contents of sugar leads to a dramatic increase in blood sugar level which damages the arteries. To counter this, the body produces high levels of insulin, which leads to hypoglycemia. This would eventually reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin and diabetes becomes a near future possibility.
Many people see artificial sweeteners as a way to counter the problem posed by sugar consumption. Fitness experts and gym trainers insist on replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners in the diets because they lack calories. Therefore, they can help satisfy the taste buds without contributing to weight gain or flab. But what they have forgotten to take into account is that since most of these artificial sweeteners are products of laboratory experiments, they need not necessarily be biologically suitable. Although they have structures that are complimentary to natural sweeteners, they lack the particular chemical bonds that the enzymes of the body recognize so as to be able to break it down into usable forms. That is a key feature of these artificial sweeteners and therefore they do not get processed in the body and get stored as macro-molecules, causing damage to several visceral organs like the liver and the kidney. Damage caused to the organs is just one part of the story; these artificial agents are more often than not harmful to the intestinal flora which is known to aid in the process of digestion.
Having explained the pros and cons of both, natural and artificial sweeteners, it is now an apt moment to discuss which of them is better. But the above mentioned reasoning is suggestive that neither of them is actually better than the other. It is a matter of need. Man originally evolved in an environment which is not very rich in glucose or other sugars. Therefore, the mind cannot resist the urge to consume the maximum we can when we get large quantities of it. For example, when we see a bee hive, we immediately wish to consume the honey within and we go to great extents to achieve this. And once we get a little, we crave for more. Thus the pleasure we derive from such excessive consumption leads to ill effects.
This does not mean that we restrict ourselves from consuming sugars completely. Sugar has a role to play in many of the important body processes. The neurons in the brain need sugar for their effective functioning, the energy needs of the body are met with by the consumption of sugar and the blood pressure is also maintained by regular sugar consumption. The best way to lead a healthy life would be to restrict the over consumption. Given an option between natural and artificial sweeteners, choose the natural option. If possible, use unprocessed jaggery to cook foods and adapt to cooking styles that do not use a lot of sugar. Consumption of sweets is healthy but only if it is done once in a while. When going for parties and celebrations, restrict the consumption by picking up small portions of cakes, pastries and other delicacies.
The ideal diet is one that has balanced quantities of all nutrients, including proteins, sugars, minerals, vitamins and roughage. And with modern life styles turning extremely unhealthy, it is important to keep a check on the nutrient intake. It would be ideal to replace spicy cooked delicacies with raw nutrient rich diet. Raw foods have one major advantage; they retain their roughage. If given an option, one should choose naturally sweet food items like fruits and certain vegetables to entertain the taste buds rather than adding sugar to food. And on consumption of food, make it a point to work out proportionately, thus ensuring proper metabolism.
In conclusion, both natural and artificial foods have their advantages and disadvantages. It is the user who has to choose the best option thereby deciding the quality of his lifestyle. But remember, eating right isn't everything. A balance of good diet and exercise will keep you fit and healthy. Be sure to check out our selection of fitness bands and exercises to help get you in shape!