SUGAR AND ITS IMPACT ON SOUTH ASIAN DIET
When we talk about sugars we are referring to the term “free sugars”; which means sugar added to food and drinks.
Mithai and desserts are extremely popular among South Asian people. Though mithai is usually consumed on special occasions, desi desserts are a part of everyday meals for most families. A meal is not considered complete if there is no dessert.
These mithai and desserts are extremely high in sugar. One jalebi can have as much as 4 teaspoons of sugar, and the number of jalebis consumed at one time is generally much more than that.
Desi chai is also extremely high in sugars and part of the South Asian culture.
Having too much sugar will contribute to weight gain and tooth decay. Being overweight can then increase the risk of different health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
High Sugar South Asian Foods
- Barfi, Jalebi, Laddo, Gulab jamun , rasmalai , halwa , kheer etc
- Rus (sweetened drinks)
- Sweetened Lassi
5 tips to reduce sugar intake
- Portion Matters.
All mithai can be consumed as a treat, keeping the portion size in mind. For example, having 1 jalebi rather than 3. Having 1 gulab jamun and not 2 extra.
- Change Your Cooking Style
Though we don’t have much control over the mithai we eat, desserts made at home can have reduced amounts of sugar. Putting ½ of what we normally use can make a significant difference.
- Reduce or limit intake of gurr/jaggery.
- Train Your Taste Buds
Research suggests that we can train our taste buds; reducing the amount of sugars slowly and gradually until we train our palate to have less sugar. It can take 6-8 weeks depending on the person, but a slow reduction in our drinks / lassi, will make the transition easy.
- Challenge Yourself.
For instance, if you are putting 2 teaspoons of sugar in your tea, challenge yourself to have 1 ½ teaspoon. Slowly, within weeks you’ll realize that your taste buds are trained to have just 1 ½ teaspoon; then again give yourself another challenge
Amount of Sugar Women and Men can have:
There is no difference in the amount men and women may have.
It is recommended that free sugars should not constitute more than 5% of our calorie intake in a day. This is approximately 30 grams of sugar (5-7 teaspoons of sugar).
This may seem a lot, but it includes mithai, desserts and sugar /gurr as well as honey, syrups, fruit, vegetable juices, smoothies etc.
‘No Sugar’ ‘Diet’ – drinks
‘Diet’ and ‘No sugar’ drinks use sweeteners and there is a lot of scare around them. There is strong evidence to suggest that sweeteners are safe to use. Particularly people with Type 2 diabetes can use them without raising their sugar levels.
Tips for children
- Encourage your children to go for water, low fat milk, diet or sugar free drinks rather than opting for fizzy drinks or squashes. Allow them to have up to 150 ml of fruit juice in a day.
- Try keeping foods high in sugar out of sight and make healthier foods visible. If the only food available as a snack is fruit, vegetables and yogurts they are bound to have them.
- Go for unsweetened cereal and for sweetness add fruits such as bananas or berries.
- Always read labels. Sometimes some things may seem healthy but reading the nutritional information can give real insight into the product.
- Don’t reward a child with chocolate and cookies. That will develop a habit of having foods high in sugar every time they achieve something; rather reward them with a sticker, a toy, a day out or even a hug.
A teaspoon of jaggery has the same number of calories as a teaspoon of white sugar. Jaggery has magnesium, manganese and iron but to get the benefit of these nutrients, it must be consumed in large quantities, increasing the calorie intake. In other words, Jaggery is in no way better than white sugar.
Brown sugar is also sugar. A teaspoon of white sugar has 16 calories and so does brown sugar. Brown sugar is made when some molasses is retained while processing sugar, and it holds more moisture. Because of its molasses, it does have certain minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium but they are found in extremely small amounts making no difference whatsoever.
In other words, brown sugar is in no way better than regular white sugar.
I am Fareeha Jay, a registered Dietitian. I have a passion and desire to spread knowledge and awareness about healthy eating and lifestyle. The information I provide is based on scientific evidence but explained in a very non-scientific way. I want to break the myths around diet and food. I never want to give diet plans rather I want to empower people on their food and lifestyle choices, so that people can make their own diet plans for the rest of their lives.