Health & Lifestyle

Refined Sugar: white poison?

Sugar – Generalised name for sweet. Usage of sugar in medicine was mentioned at the time of the Acharya Sushruta in the period of 6th century BC. The Sugar is called as ‘Sharkara’ in Ayurveda. It is having medicinal properties like, it cures fever, vomiting sensation, thirst, bleeding disorders. It is a coolant in nature and has harmonising effect. But nowadays sugar has been linked to obesity and it is said as a cause in the occurrence of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, tooth decay, hyperactivity and sugar addiction. Now the question is where the problem lies?

Naturally Sugar is present in all fruits like Apple, Banana, Apricot, Grapes, Fig, Pineapple and in vegetables such as Beetroot, Onion, Sweet potato etc. Some of the plant products such as Brown rice, whole wheat it is present as unrefined carbohydrates. Most ingested carbohydrates are converted into glucose during digestion and it is in the form of sugar that is transported around the bodies of the animals in the blood stream. Then what is FreeSugar? The sugar which is found in processed foods like White bread, Junk food, Sugar candies, Syrups, Artificial sweeteners and all form of sweets is called free sugar.

Sugar is considered as source of energy whenever a body extracts this energy from the foods which are rich in carbohydrates. Then, what is the role of Free Sugar or Crystalline sugar? White sugar is made by processing sugar cane or sugar beets. It is pure carbohydrate food. One Sucrose molecule made out of one glucose and one fructose molecule, they can be absorbed directly through stomach walls without digestion process. The process called glycolysis turn sugar to energy, water and carbon dioxide. If Free Sugar or refined sugar is taken directly then, for its breakdown, elements like vitamin B1, vitamin E and some enzymes plays a major role. Since the sugar is having zero nutritional value, body may end up with more usage of required elements, which will lead to deficiency of those elements in the body.

Whereas whole unprocessed food which contains sugars in the form of carbohydrates also contains minerals, vitamins and enzymes that are naturally present which are required for glucose to turn to energy. The glucose, fructose and galactose are various forms of sugars. So this is definitely a healthy way of gaining energy. So, why Sugar is mentioned as a medicine in Ayurveda? If we look to the whole process of extracting sugar from sugarcane or sugar beet, it undergoes the steps like
1. Refining
2. Crystallisation

The obtained raw sugar after the process of the crystallisation is light brown in colour because it retains vitamins and minerals present in raw materials and this is having medicinal value. Medicine is the one which is having more potency when taken in doses.The brown sugar is potent with its medicinal values.Nowadays for better appearance and preserving for a longer time it is treated with many chemicals which are used in industries for various purposes. These chemicals are used to bleach the sugar. Refining industries often use bone char(calcinated animal bones) for decolourising. This appears to be the real culprit for the various health problems along with extra intake of Free or refined sugars. So go for natural and stay healthy.

Photo by Uwe Hermann

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About the author

Dr. Archana Arun

Dr. Archana Arun

MD, Ayurveda doctor working in Udupi

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