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What's In Your Drink

Akshay Shetty

The National Sugar Awareness Week ended recently on 26th January 2020. The week-long campaign held from 20th – 26th Jan aimed to bring awareness about the ill effects of sugar. This years theme focused on the excessive use of sugar in all types of drinks. From packaged fruit juices to aerated drinks and cocktails, everything contains a high amount of sugar. Most of us don’t pay attention to the labels and instead fall for the marketing gimmicks of big companies. But how does sugar affect your health?

The White Addiction

It’s no news that consuming excessive amounts of sugar harms our body to a great extent. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggest keeping the daily sugar intake between 25 – 35 grams for adults and 12-25 grams for children. Yet most of our drinks are loaded with added sugar. For instance, a 12 ounce can of soda contains nearly 46 grams of added sugar. The average American consumes 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars in one year! A pound of sugar is equal to 120 tablespoons. If you do the math, that’s way beyond the recommended intake.

All our food contains sugar. However, eating added sugar gives our brain an immediate rush of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical our body naturally produces, which acts as a messenger between our brain cells. Drugs like cocaine, heroin or even nicotine spike your dopamine levels which makes you crave for more. Whole foods like fruits and vegetables release the sugar slowly, which is why you don’t get the same hit. So, eating sugary snacks like cookies or drinking milkshakes can leave you craving for more.

The high intake of added sugar has adverse effects on your mind and body. Studies show that consuming 75 to 100 grams of simple sugars can suppress the body’s immune responses considerably. One of the significant problems associated with sugar is obesity and an increased risk of heart disease. Consuming excess sugar also increases the risk of cancer. Other issues related to high sugar intake are mood swings, depression, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, decaying of the tooth, acne and early ageing of the skin.

The Sugar In Your Cocktails

We all enjoy a drink or two over the weekend. If your poison is something along the lines of a whiskey on the rocks, a gin and tonic, or a martini, you’re in luck. These drinks usually contain low amounts of sugar. But if you like sipping on those delicious cocktails, then you are in for trouble. For instance, a Mojito often includes 30 – 35 grams of sugar in it. Cocktails like Long Island Iced Tea, Sex On The Beach and Pina Colada have between 40 – 60 grams of sugar. So if you are ordering a round of those you already exceed your daily recommended intake.

With the growing consumer demand bartenders around the world are introducing low sugar cocktails. Many are also experimenting with sugar substitutes like honey to provide customers with a more healthier option. Moreover, the growing health trend has led to a massive demand for alcohol substitutes. Companies like Seedlip and Ceder’s are already catering to a niche yet growing market. An added advantage of such alcohol substitutes is they are sugar-free. So if you are looking for a drink which won’t give you a terrible hangover the next day and also keep your sugar intake in check, you should definitely try those.

How Can You Cut Down?

There are many different ways to cut down sugar. But it all starts with eating healthy food. Most packaged food found in supermarkets contains high amounts of sugar; be it cereals, chocolates, jams or healthy fruit juices. Avoid eating canned fruits and vegetables; instead, opt for fresh ones. It’s advisable to check the ingredient label to ensure whatever you buy has low sugar content. If you can’t resist having a drink on the weekends, try classic cocktails like an old fashioned perhaps instead of a long-island iced tea.

Cutting down on sugar have many long-term health benefits. For those addicted to it, may sometimes feel a lot of mood swings and fatigue. But giving in to your cravings will only make you feel good temporarily.

You can visit actiononsugar.org for more info on sugar awareness week and tips & tricks to cut down sugar.

Akshay Shetty