Sugar – the new God

We were in Vizag as part of the ShikshaDaan Yatra and we stayed at a really nice hotel called Green Park. The breakfast spread was lavish and they had cut fruits as well as the fresh fruit juice. I asked the server whether there was sugar in the fruit juice and he beamed to say “yes ma’am”. His face fell when I asked him if we could get fresh juice without added sugar :). I love muesli even though it confuses the body … but I couldn’t eat muesli even for a single day at the hotel because it was also mixed with loads of sugar and milk. Then we spoke to the restaurant manager and suggested that he could keep the sugar bowl right next to the fruit juice station and the muesli rather than adding it and what he said just blew me off – “ma’am guests tell us to add sugar and keep otherwise, they feel they have to do the extra work of adding sugar. There are very few guests who have asked for sugar free juice!!”. We are truly addicted to sugar, the new God.

There are advertisements showing how sugar helps a mother be the best mother to her child … really?? The worst thing that we can do to a child, is to load it with white sugar. Fruits have natural sugar which comes with its own processing agent – thats how nature has made the fruits, but artificially produced sugar is truly dangerous. The earliest know sugar was produced in India from sugarcane juice that was sun dried or heated in open pots to solidify it. Then the refining and processing of sugar started to happen in the West and the white sugar as we know it came into existence about 150 years back. The refined white sugar is what quickly became God. Sugar is omnipresent, its in everything that you pick off a store’s shelf. Don’t believe me? Just read the label – all kinds of bread has sugar, biscuits have sugar, cookies have sugar, soft drinks have sugar, preserves, jams and sauces have sugar, toothpaste has sugar, everything that you touch in a departmental store has sugar or the even more dangerous thing – a sugar substitute.

Just read about the American breakfast that is truly a dessert – Its time we call American Breakfast what it really is – Dessert. And India, the land with 200 options for breakfast is aping America in their breakfast habits too. Look where it had led us – we have become the diabetic capital of the world, and consequently heart disease. People having heart attacks at 40 and check their pantry  … good chances that it is filled with sugary food. People who exercise religiously, die on the treadmill due to stress and I suspect the stress is also fuelled by sugar. Childhood obesity is on the rise and when we were at the Green Park hotel in Vizag, we saw three young children – all obese and all gorging on sugary muffins and sugary fruit juice!! I know obesity is also because of low activity levels but 70% of obesity is because of the food we eat. White sugar is just empty calories and sugar substitutes are chemicals whose side effects haven’t been understood fully. White sugar in moderation is no problem but moderation is difficult in these times because anything that is bought from a store has sugar – the inexpensive preserver of food.

I read somewhere that the sugar lobby blamed fat for obesity and happily contributed to people’s obesity while the fats battled it out trying to find a place in people’s diet. The human body needs fats, sugar, carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals and water … but in moderation and from natural sources. With all the food industrialisation and a generation hooked on comfort, we have forgotten “natural” sources of food.

We have been off sugar for the past year and a half – not completely but consciously avoiding food or drink that is heavily loaded with sugar. While it hasn’t had a dramatic impact on our weight, what it certainly has done is reduced the number of anger episodes I have had and cleared the skin rash (probably eczema) that Krishnan has had on his leg for a long time. Sugar crept into our lives even when we were very conscious of its terrible side effects – Dr. Vijaya Venkat had always told us to stay away from sugar and dairy. We started using honey for tea but when we wanted to drink coffee, sugar seemed to be the only alternative till we found out that coffee tastes even better with jaggery!!

Just like all the Gods of the past haven’t helped mankind to stay sane, this new God also doesn’t help you stay healthy or sane. Diabetes is not hereditary, its a lifestyle disease. My grandparents did not have diabetes, but some of my aunts and uncles got diabetes because of their lifestyle and food habits. Don’t believe in the new fangled wisdom about food that serves the interests of different lobbies – sugar, dairy etc. Watch what happens to your body when you eat a lot of sugar or a lot of cheese etc and if you dont have the patience then just speak to a friend who has diabetes or is overly obese. Find out what he/she eats everyday and you will get your answers.

Buddha spoke of the middle path – tread the middle path of moderation when it comes to food and keep the sugar bottle in your prayer room, not the kitchen.

Suggested Reading –


9 thoughts on “Sugar – the new God”

  1. i agree . If you have to rank addictions according to the level of harm it causes , first will be sugar , followed by nicotine, then alcohol and least marijuana

    • Wow – I didn’t know Sugar addiction is stronger than Marijuana !! Scarier because sugar is considered food and is added even to the milk and other things that babies are fed.

  2. Bindu, I’m so glad you wrote about this. I, too, have noticed that sugar is added to almost all processed food in the US, and it’s getting worse. I recently bought a can of tomatoes to which sugar had been added. Salt is another over-used preservative. Even ants stay out of refined sugar, which I only use to feed hummingbirds.

    I’ve long believed that Americans are sub-clinically malnourished, and they over-eat because their bodies are craving nutrients that are removed in food processing. That’s maybe a big reason, too, for obesity and diabetes. Merely looking at what people buy in the grocery store is an education in what not to eat.

    Thanks for an excellent blog. I hope you will write more on this and on nutrition generally, and I plan to do it, too.

    • I certainly intend to. I am actually very worried about the sugar consumption in India – and childhood obesity. Indians are genetically pre-disposed to heart trouble and this sugar fixation leading to obesity is just pushing us over the edge. Sweets were made of jaggery and only at home. Today there are sweet shops at the end of every street, nearly :(:(. Its so easy to gobble up a whole pack of sweets and then eat a whole meal because the sweet is not filling. No wonder obesity is rising.

      • I don’t know what jaggery is, but I grow stevia, a perennial herb that is 25 times sweeter than fructose. I don’t know about its diabetogenic properties but do know the processed form has become fashionable and the FDA has approved it for corporations like Coca Cola.

      • Katharine jaggery is what you get when sugarcane juice is sundried or reduced to a lump by boiling it. Its dark brown in colour. Jaggery is also processed now, but you still get it unprocessed and jaggery was used to make all the sweets back in my grandmother’s time. She would never use refined sugar because bones are apparently used while processing jaggery into white sugar granules and my grandmother was a vegetarian.

      • Thanks for the explanation. I use raw brown sugar in coffee, because it contains minerals that are removed in refining. I guess molasses is pure syrup, but it’s too bitter for me. BTW, I meant to write “sucrose” rather than “fructose” above. Fructose is fruit sugar.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: