“Akara was served again. It was a sunny Saturday morning in secondary school. Saturdays came with a lot of ecstasy. It was not just about the “weekend euphoria”. Our breakfast – round and crispy Akara balls fried with Palm oil usually held our feelings high and brought so much joy to the weekend. The weekend had come with a great start, I had looked forward to the treat, (unless) the problem this time was that I couldn’t chew well; my second premolar tooth was decaying. The excruciating pain and the deep black hole brought about me much contemplation on eating. That day, my choice not to eat was obvious, after all, no matter what I ate, the food stuck in the tooth hole.”
Later in the month, I was sitting across the dentist, “you’re removing this tooth today!” He said, after taking a good look at it. Asides the fear, I had to deal with the guilt of my love for sugar – chewing gums, sweets and chocolate. “I wish I had been more watchful” I told myself.
Since losing my almost indispensable molars to tooth decay, I have had a love-hate relationship with sugar. It made me review the volume of sugar I consumed per time. Have you considered the adequate amount of sugar needed in the body per day? When you hear people trying to live healthier options and reduce their sugar intake, what does it really mean and do they have better options? Countries like America, Germany, Ireland etc. are avid consumers of sugars. Americans have an average individual sugar consumption of 126grams per day, which is about six times the recommended amount to consume daily! Whew!
Regardless, it is important to note that while we don’t consume as much added sugars as they do, we eat a lot of carbohydrates which are broken down into simple sugar in the body.
Sugar is a natural carbohydrate found in plants, fruits and nuts, which are commonly used in food. Basically, we have monosaccharides which are the simplest forms of sugar consisting of one molecule. Disaccharides which is a combination of two monosaccharides; it includes Lactose, Sucrose and Maltose. The popularly consumed disaccharide is sucrose. The one we consume as white and brown sugar is sucrose and it is extracted mainly from sugar cane and beet sugar. Sugar cane is popularly known here in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern part of the country. It grows in warm temperate regions. Of all the sugar produced in the world, sugar cane is responsible for 79%, while the rest is mostly made from beet sugar. Sugar beets also grow in temperate regions. One reason both are the major sources of sugar is that they have the highest amount of sucrose of all plants. Sugar is produced by extracting the juice from either sugar cane or sugar beets, boiling the juice to get the concentrate, crystallizing and purifying processes until it is ready to be packaged. Sugar colour and type depends on the amount of molasses (which is a syrupy brown product from refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar) left in the crystals. Hence, apart from white granulated sugar, we have other sugar types like light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, etc.
Health Consequences and Benefits
There are health benefits in consuming sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate and it makes it a major source of energy in the human body. Natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables and milk sugar (lactose) are relatively good for us. The bulk of the problem with sugar consumption comes from added sugars; these are sweeteners and syrups, and they are found in drinks such as cola, chocolate, ice cream, etc. Harvard health reports too much sugar as one of the greatest threats to cardiovascular diseases. Others may include diabetes, dental problems, obesity. Remember when people say they want to reduce their sugar intake? These are the things that they really should be reducing. A can of coke contains 36 grams of sugar (35 grams is equivalent to 7 teaspoons of sugar)! We cannot deny that we or our friends conveniently drink two or more bottles of coke a day. Even as women, we know how we take chocolates, ice cream and all forms of sugar until we’re close to ‘that time’ of the month and then we reduce our sugar intake again to avoid cramps. Can you see how a lot of people are setting themselves up for “quick deaths”?
Asides white sugar, there are other options to replace added sugars with. After being a victim of a tooth decay and removal, I believe (though not practicing in full yet) we should seek healthier ways of consuming sugar. This, of course, is asides the carbohydrates that we consume, which decomposes to become sugar in our bodies. Below are some alternative options.
- Coconut Sugar
Honey and Dates are commonly found in Nigeria and we can substitute them with white sugar in cooking, baking and using on the everyday table.
Ultimately, sugar or the alternatives should be embraced in moderation. Perhaps you have been consuming probably more than one drink per day, you should start by reducing to one drink daily until you can finally do without it in a day, week or even stop entirely.
I found this quote from Amy Klobuchar to be true.
People don’t become obese overnight. Allowing our children to have treats in moderation – as in trick-or-treating – is one thing, but good nutrition involves discipline that must be learned and practiced on a daily basis.
Remember, your body responds to you the way you treat it. My sincere advice is that we are careful of our consumption of sugar.
Wishing y’all a healthy and sugar-free week!