What does that mean?
It may seem quite straightforward. You eat a diet without adding sugar to it. But you’ll be surprised at just how many different foods sugar is there in.
A lot of us think of sugar as an enemy, as an unhealthy food, I should not be eating sugar at all. That’s only true of some kinds of foods that have sugar in them.
Let me tell you a little more about this.
You see, sugar - glucose is a fuel for the body. The energy that we need comes from glucose. The body makes it from the glucose that we eat. Whether that glucose is eventually healthy for us or not depends on all the other nutrients that are there in the food along with glucose. Every time we consume food, the glucose gets digested, absorbed, distributed to all the cells of our body.
Every cell has an organelle called mitochondria, which is like the engine, the powerhouse of a cell, which burns glucose to produce energy. But in the process, it releases dangerous free radicals, kind of like sparks and smokes from all the fat burning which damage the cells, set off a chain reaction, damaging different parts of the cell.
There are molecules called antioxidants present in the food we eat, which can protect our body from this damage. When we consume foods that have just sugar, like white sugar, it’s not just white sugar, white sugar, Brown sugar, Jaggery, honey many of these foods that are free from fiber whether they’re processed or, most likely processed forms. When we consume them, we get a lot of sugar.
We get a lot of glucose and some fructose, sucrose. But we don’t get the antioxidants that our body needs to protect us from the damage caused by that sugar. It doesn’t mean going off all sweet foods. No, quite the opposite actually.
We can now discover a whole new world of delicious dishes made using naturally sweet whole plant foods. The healthiest sweeteners that have been found by scientific research are the date syrup and dry dates powder black strap molasses.
You can have fruits and dry fruits. There are so many, many of them. All of these are healthy simply because they are whole foods that come from plants. When you consume dates syrup, for example, it’s one of the easiest, and it’s one of my favorites because it’s so easy to make and it’s delicious.
All you need to do is soak dates for a couple of hours and then grind them in your mixie. That’s it! You can store it in the fridge for up to a week. No problem. Add some lemon juice to it, to keep it even fresher.
Use a couple of spoons in your herbal tea or spiced tea. Use a couple of spoons in that. You can add it to your sambar or your gravies to make it slightly sweet. You can make kheer or payasam out of it.
One tip that I’d like to share is to add quite a lot more of the date syrup than you would add dates or than you would add sugar or jaggery in the beginning, to make it really sweet. And then, as you eat more and more date syrup, one thing that you will find is that your tongue starts getting resensitized.
The dull sharp sweetness of sugar makes your tongue a little duller to other natural tastes. For example, if you eat a cup of mango ice-cream, immediately after that, the sweetest mango in the world is going to taste sour because the ice-cream is so sweet.
So as you switch more and more to natural sweeteners, like date syrup, you’ll find that you need less and less of it to satisfy your sweet cravings.
So try this out today, make some dates syrup at home. Just the way we do at our Sampoorna Ahara plant-based kitchen. We use it in plenty of sweets and desserts. We use it in our gravies and Karnataka style Sambars. We add a little of it in our salad dressings in our pickles in a whole wide range of uses.
If you’d like a recipe, we have one up on Nutrition Science.
I hope you find that useful.
I wish you all the best on your sugar-free health journey.
Dr. Achyuthan Eswar