May 17, 2010

The search for sugar-free

I am sorry if this blog is becoming too health focussed or sounds like one of those anti-establishment green ones...but I have to talk about sugar..

Around the time I started avoiding milk, actually a few weeks prior to that, I had also stopped taking sugar with coffee etc.

Again, this was not driven by any particular health concern - I had actually checked for diabetes (blood sugar) a month or two prior to that and it turned out ok. I am not over-weight or otherwise unhealthy. As Donal Rumsfeld put it so elegantly, I am one of those guys that simply does not know what he is going to die of.

Still I had always felt no particular interest in adding lots of sugar to drinks. This was the case for as long as I can remember.

I had also read a lot about the harmful effects of sugar on our body, about how the 'industry' gets us addicted to sugar and develop a sweet tooth that stays for life and troubles us, about how there is anyway sugar (glucose/sucrose) in so much of what we eat even without adding it as sugar and so on...

So why not try and avoid it?

I would say it was quite inconvenient not because of the craving for sugar, but because this is something so hard to avoid as an ordinary shopper or diner or drinker. I don't know about God but sugar is everywhere and anywhere.

I divide my time between Singapore and India and I will talk more about Singapore because it is easy to avoid anything if you are in India.

Firstly all of the drinks that I used to enjoy - Soya bean, Green tea, Fruit juice cans etc., were loaded with sugar. It was a revelation when I started reading the labels. Often they had more than 5-7 tsp of sugar each without even counting the sugar already in the fruit.

Finding sugar free versions of them was tough if not impossible. I could only find one - Pokka Green tea brewed without sugar. Most others had 'reduced sugar' versions that were still full of sugar. I am not a big fan of Coke, Pepsi etc., so it did not matter that Coke Zero, Diet Coke etc., were available easily.

For all the rest (Chinese tea, Green Jasmine tea, fruit juice, soya bean) I had to get them fresh from hawker stalls where you can ask for sugar-free versions. Strangely, in Singapore hawker stalls, they add sugar even to sugary fruit like papaya when they juice it for you. You have to tell them not to. Now, I sincerely hope it is sugar syrup they are adding, not some synthetic (and more harmful but cheap) stuff like HF Corn syrup...but it is good to ask for a drink without 'it' whatever it is.

While it is easy to drink fruit juice without sugar, drinking soya milk takes some practice and may be particularly hard or even impossible if you have sweet tooth. Thankfully I don't so it was hard but do-able.

As for hot coffee, tea etc., it is easy enough because they are anyway added later. But if you are adding condensed milk remember that it has tons of sugar already. Anyway, I started avoiding milk soon enough so that takes care of that...

Some 'conveniences' are also out of the door - such as those three-in-one's you mix with hot water and consume. Because one of the three is sugar. The other is usually cream or non-dairy creamer which in turn has many artificial stuff.

One ready benefit I can state - my appetite for decent breakfast is much better since I do not load up with milk and sugar in the name of drinking coffee early in the morning. Secondly my weight is in control and has even dropped by 2kg or so, without any cutting down on other stuff I like...

Talking of stuff I like, I should clarify I have kept my balance - I have not avoided sweets like chocolate or Indian sweets etc., because of this no-sugar policy and I continue to enjoy them, of course in small quantities.

It is just that avoiding added sugar where it adds no value gives you extra room to indulge in sugar where it is a must....may be that is one good way to encourage and get ourselves into that habit.

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