India is a land of cultural diversity and colorful festivals with September-December being the most important months in the calendar cutting across all religious communities. Each festival has its own rituals for celebration. But one thing is common with all of them – the mandatory menu of sweets.
No festival, religious ceremony, wedding or even the culmination of a business deal in India is complete without the mandatory mithai. A wide variety of sweets and fried foods consumed during festivals are full of calories. Though festivals are loaded with joy and fun, it disturbs diet schedules of many people.
The sweet poison
A high intake of sugar has been the cause of a number of poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Junk food joints have become hang out points not only for college students, but also amongst young professionals, who go for a quick bite to save time. Indians already have a food culture which indulges itself in rich food which is fried in ghee, or foods as sweetmeats etc. This along with the addition of junk food to our diet and reduced physical activity has translated into increased heart risks.
Unlike in the West, where sweets are usually served as a dessert, in India they find their way into breakfast tables and lunch boxes and are also used as a filler in between meals or as a snack. A research found that during festive season, Indians gain two to three kilograms. As the consumption of sweets increases, more people suffer from heart disease and hyperactivity apart from diabetes and hypoglycaemia. Indeed, the numbers of heart disease-stricken Indians is rising at an alarming rate.
Extensive evidence ties sweets and sugary drinks to an epidemic of obesity and related health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Sugar contains no vitamins, minerals or fiber. There is no nutritional value whatsoever in sugar. Sugar can contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety and lack of concentration. Sugar an also cause free radical formation in the body, and may contribute to migranes and high blood pressure.
Sugar provides quick energy. But what does it do for health? The list of hazards is long. For one, the simple sugars in processed foods are much easier for the body to absorb than the complex carbohydrates in whole foods, which have to be laboriously broken down in the digestive system. Easy to absorb means fast into the bloodstream, a spurt in blood sugar, and a consequent release of insulin by the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone which helps control blood sugar. Regular floods of insulin in the blood not only encourage the storage of sugar as fat, they also have a damping effect on the immune system — making you more prone to infections. Long-term high blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, eventually to diabetes. And if you are gaining fat, you are raising your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Heart Disease and diabetes
Diabetes occurs for the same reasons as risk factors for the heart such as obesity and high blood pressure. Diabetes affects all the arteries of the body, but since the size of the heart arteries is smaller (1.5-2mm compared to the 5-6 mm of the arteries in the kidney) clots in the heart happen faster making it more susceptible to damage. The elevated levels of sugar in diabetic patients have an adverse effect on the arterial walls and endothelium making them more prone to cholesterol deposition and clot formation.
Here are few tips for a low fat diet:
- Cut down on sugar in all foods and avoid sweets and cakes
- Switch to mithais made from chenna, which is rich in protein.
- Go for jaggery-based mithais over sugar-based ones.
- Eat dry roasted nuts and dry fruits in their natural form.
- Use skimmed milk to prepare shrikhand, kheer, phrini, Bengali sweets etc.
- Eat plenty of fruits.
- Eat plenty of fibre-rich, unprocessed, oils/ghee-free food.
- Adopt a detoxification plan
- Have honey, garlic and beet juice.
- Take a spoon of tulsi juice with honey on empty stomach
- Track the amount of calories you consumed during festivals
“Chocolate is like medicine – but as with medicine, the key is the proper dose. Don’t overdo it”. Yes, proper dose is the key to stay healthy and this will let you enjoy your favourite sweets for a longer time.
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