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Does All Sugar Kill?

By Nandisha Gupta, April 22, 2021

How many of you believe brown sugar is better than white sugar? Do you think honey or jaggery are better alternatives? Let’s open this debate with a brief descriptive about these sugars. Glucose as a by product of photosynthesis is present to varying levels in the fruits, vegetables and nuts. Most abundantly it is present in some fruits like sugarcane. Thus, the sugar is extracted from them. The process of making sugar consists of a couple of operational processes before it can be exported to the supermarkets. The juice of the sugarcane plant is heated and is made to go through a process whereby it is converted to raw crystals. This is the white sugar, available in different grain sizes. The amalgamated form of white sugar is brown sugar. The brown sugar is formed when the white sugar crystals are incorporated with molasses. Molasses is a by-product obtained from the extraction process of sugar from sugar cane and beetroot.

Jaggery is the unrefined version of the sugar produced from sugarcane juice. It is obtained from boiling sugar cane and solidifying this frothy liquid which is cut into jaggery blocks at the sugar mills. Honey is a sweet, thick food substance that is secreted by honey bees. Closing our discussion on the composition and extraction of sugar. Let us open our discussion on the health benefits of these sweeteners, which is the main debate! Which is better and why is it better? When it comes to health, what are the factors we are looking at? Why do we choose something over the other?

From a lay man’s point of view, the calorific content of all the types of sweeteners is very high. But nutritively they differ in value. White Sugar/Brown Sugar being obtained through refinement processes wherein all the nutrients are removed and what is left to consume is only “empty calories”, have zero nutrient value. Jaggery and Honey are richer in nutrients and have little nutrient value. Taking jaggery and honey as supplements have proven to heal “run-of-the-mill” ailments. However, for patients with Obesity or Diabetes, excess consumption of any of these may be extremely detrimental. These ‘added sugars’ are exponentially more damaging than natural sugars which are present in fruits and other raw food. Risk of heart problems, liver problems, blood pressure etc is all the more when we consume these sugars without watching how many teaspoons of added sugar we put in our tea/coffee. We must have a look at stevia as an alternative to all these added sugars. It’s made from a leaf related to popular garden flowers like asters and chrysanthemums. It is good to replace sugar in small quantities in drinks and mid-sized meals. But it may not work in some places like baking as it does not have the exact chemical properties of sugar. This product has gained immense popularity in the market and studies are being conducted to find out more about this product. To close this essay with a personal comment, I would advocate consumption of natural sugar in preference to added sugar to whatever extent possible. Taking each individual’s health in mind one must watch their personal consumption pattern regulating sugar intake accordingly. And to mention, I love using honey, jaggery and fruits wherever I can, not compromising on texture and other elements of food.

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