In today’s era of packaged and processed foods, sugar is just unavoidable, it is in everything you eat from breads to sauces, from snacks to beverages. It is now high time to shift on healthy alternatives of sugar for kids. Bread is one of the most staple foods in every household for kids.( What happens when you eat too much bread?) Other common sources of sugar are white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, cookies, candy, donut, cake, canned drinks, packed juices, bottled shakes and smoothies, granola bars, sauces, jams and many others. Everything that the child picks up to eat today has strains of added sugar in some form or the other. The food industry has understood the formula to entice more and more kids towards their products- ADD SUGAR!
However, sugar has many positives and contains healthy nutrients, if you take it in its natural form. In processed form, large intake of sugar can harm the growth and performance of a child. Sugar damages the protein in our body, resulting in ageing of organs, which further compromises immunity, growth and functioning. Kids often fall sick, heal slowly, are physically unfit and become lazy. Kids love to enjoy meals with high sugar content. Here are some reasons why too much sugar is harmful.
Effects of Added Sugar:
The first and the most significant risk of excessive sugar intake is weight gain. According to a study, a diet high in fat and sugar, especially sugary drinks can lead to leptin resistance, a hormone that regulates hunger and tells your body to stop eating. (How to fight Obesity?)
Causes tooth cavities:
Sugary foods cause tooth decay which may lead to cavities. When sugar is consumed it comes in contact with bacteria within the plaque to produce acid. This acid causes tooth decay and it slowly dissolves the enamel which leads to cavities in the teeth. ( why it is important to brush your teeth at night?)
If you eat more sugary foods and drinks, you will miss the chance to absorb important nutrients from nutritious foods. Such intake on a regular basis can deplete four of the best bone-friendly nutrients from your child’s body. Consumption of sugar increases an enzyme that degrades vitamin D and thereby also results in reduced absorption of calcium by the bones. Vitamin C helps to make collagen and also delays the decaying process of bones. Sugar intake restricts the absorption of this vitamin into our body cells resulting in weaker bones. Magnesium works on keeping the bones strong. Sugar strips the body of magnesium too by releasing it out through urine. (Which nutrients a child needs on daily basis?)
Risk of acne:
A diet rich in added sugar has been associated with the risk of having acne. Foods with high sugar contents cause your body insulin level to spike which increases the production of oils in the skin and causes pores clogging, which results in acne. ( some home remedies for acne)
consuming a diet high in refined carbs and sugar leads to the production of AGEs (advanced glycation end production). AGEs damages collagen and elastin, which helps the skin stretch and keep it youthful and when collagen and elastin damages the skin becomes loose and begins to sag.( How to protect your skin from ageing with foods?)
foods with high sugar contents especially fructose increases the risk of fatty liver. Unlike other types of sugar fructose is exclusively broken down by the liver. If the food has a large amount of fructose, your liver becomes overloaded and leads to many fatty liver diseases. (What is fatty liver and how to prevent it?)
Spikes blood sugar level:
High sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance leads to an increase in blood sugar level and also raises the risk of diabetes.
Sugar is present naturally in all the foods that contain carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables and grains, and consuming sugar in its natural form is okay, but problems occur when you consume too much added sugar. Our body runs on energy which is derived from Protein, Fat and Carbs. 50-60% of daily energy comes from carbs (Fiber + Sugar). Today, the majority of the energy (calorie) from carbs is derived from added sugar intake. Whereas, for our kids to have a balanced healthy growth, we need the energy (calorie) to come from natural sources of carbs (sugar) along with protein and fat.
The solution here is to shift focus to natural sweeteners. These alternatives to added sugar are extremely nutritious. Apart from making a dish sweet, they also load it with required nutrients. Natural sources of sweetness are also rich in antioxidants which help in building our immunity and also keeping our body young. Such sugar from natural sources doesn’t increase the blood sugar level in our body. Below are some natural sugar substitutes.
Health Sugar Alternatives:
These sugar alternatives are a healthy mix of fructose and fiber (and also other nutrients). It is important to consume sugar along with other nutrients. This slows down the sudden rise in blood sugar levels. Consuming large quantity of simple sugar increases the blood sugar levels in the body. Constant increasing of blood sugar levels lead to signs of diabetes in kids (a common concern these days, and also on a rising trend). When sugar is consumed, the blood sugar level rises.
To manage that, insulin is released and the liver works on lowering the blood sugar levels. Imagine, when this happens at a constant basis. Soon the body stops reacting to insulin too. Liver is overburdened with this task and eventually becomes weak in its performance. Overall, this creates a mess for the body. To be able to manage this well, sugar must be consumed in limited quantity and also with other nutrients in its natural form (example whole fruits instead of fruit juices).
Date sugar is made by drying and powdering the dates. It is an easier sweetener to add to baked goods like cakes and cookies, and also to porridge and oat meals. Apart from making the dish sweet, it is a powerhouse of antioxidants, iron and fiber. It is one of the most common alternatives of sugar (Recipe for one pot dark chocolate dates cake)
Black strap molasses:
It is made after the third boiling of sugar cane juice. The majority of sugar (sucrose) from the original juice has crystallized and been removed. It is considered a dietary supplement. 1 tablespoon can give up to 20% of daily recommended intake of several vitamins and minerals. The taste of this is strong but can blend well with other ingredients in smoothies, shakes, cakes and cookies.
Coconut sugar is extracted from the sap of the coconut palm. This also contains nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium, as well as antioxidants. It also has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar, which may be partly due to its inulin content. It can be used in place of sugar for baking, and making any sweet dish or beverages.
In its raw form honey has many health benefits, it has antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral and antifungal qualities. But it should be used in moderate quantities as it has a high fructose level. You can buy local or unprocessed honey rather than the one easily available in store which are highly processed. ( recipe for honey turmeric balls, good for immunity)
Stevia is one of the Alternatives of sugar made up of the leaves of a stevia plant, a kind of herb, it’s extremely sweet and safe in its natural form. It has no carbohydrates, calories or any artificial ingredients and a very low glycemic index, so does not spike your blood sugar level. Stevia in powder or liquid form is easily available in supermarkets and health-food stores.
Monk fruit sugar:
This sugar is extracted from the monk fruit, a small and round fruit grown in Southeast Asia. It has no calories and no effects on blood sugar level. Monk fruit contains natural sugars, mainly fructose and glucose. It is high in unique antioxidants called mogrosides, which make it 100–250 times sweeter than regular sugar.
Maple syrup is the most loved sugar substitute because of its flavorful taste. It contains many antioxidants and a lower score on a glycemic index. Also rich in minerals like calcium, zinc, potassium and iron. Maple syrup is made by boiling the sap of maple trees and is easily available in stores. So next time when you make something sweet for your kids use these sugar alternatives. (Recipe of chocolate Twix bar)
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