Daily Sugar Intake should be on the basis of the Satvik diet for holistic health and wellness. Ayurveda holds a lot of importance to all six tastes and the sweet taste is considered as the most important of all the six tastes. In the Ayurveda context, we should include sweets in our daily diet but from the naturally sweet foods including milk, ghee, rice, wheat, and other grains and legumes, as well as sweet fruits, dates, honey, jaggery, and shakkar not refined sugar.
We all have a love-hate relationship with sugar. We crave it, we avoid it, we even make deals with ourselves over it. With so much conflicting information available, how do we know what level of sugar intake is best for us?
An Ayurvedic Approach: Daily Sugar Intake
Let’s understand the Ayurveda perspective, ancient wisdom on daily sugar intake, and the importance of sweet taste in our daily diet.
Ayurveda recommends a yogic diet approach for holistic living. Sugar-reduction, sugar elimination is never a good choice to make. Ayurveda holds a lot of importance to all the six tastes and the sweet taste is considered as the most important of all the six tastes, and it is suggested that it should be eaten in the largest quantity.
As per Ayurveda, the Sweet taste has a positive effect on the body and mind. It nourishes and invigorates the mind, relieves hunger and thirst, increases tissues, and improves the immune system. Moreover, it is associated with the positive emotions of happiness, contentment, calmness, cheerfulness, love, and satisfaction when eaten in appropriate amounts.
Daily sugar intake, in the Ayurveda context, means eating naturally sweet foods including milk, ghee, rice, wheat, and other grains and legumes, as well as sweet fruits, dates, honey, jaggery, and shakkar not refined sugar.
If you adhere to a Sattvic diet you will naturally be avoiding sugar-laden processed foods including soft drinks, condiments, cereals, candies, etc. You also probably tend to have less fruit and juice and mostly eat home-cooked meals made from whole grains, legumes, vegetables, spices, and healthy fats/oils – all low fructose and low glycemic index.
When you are looking for something sweet, Ayurveda suggests going for natural and unprocessed sweeteners, for example, honey, gur, shakkar. Go for homemade sweets that are made with whole grains and spices (fiber), and ghee (fat), which, in turn, slow down the metabolism of sugar. And, if you add a good dose of cinnamon, it will help to regulate blood sugar levels.
The Ayurvedic View on Sugar
Your daily intake of sugar should be from the less processed sugars like jaggery, honey, mishri, and maple syrup that are considered more Sattvic, than from the highly processed sugars like white sugar and synthetic replacements.
Raw Honey brings a rare quality of warmth. It has the specific effect of ‘scraping fat’ from the body, and it pacifies Vata and Kapha while increasing Pitta.
A little honey in a cup of spiced(ginger/cinnamon) tea at the end of a meal makes the tea a healing tonic, offering sweet pleasure as well as digestive support.
Coupled with warm, drying herbs and spices(tulsi, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric), honey can be used to clear excess Kapha in the lungs and soothe the respiratory tract.
Honey taken with warm water enhances bile production, supporting regular elimination.
If Mixed with warm milk(not hot milk), honey calms Vata and builds Ojas.
While raw honey is deeply healing, it’s also a sticky sweet and it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Use a teaspoon at a time, up to a tablespoon a day, for Kapha and Vata, and much less for pitta. Think of it as an embellishing accent to your meals and beverages. It promotes the gentle strengthening of Agni.
Honey and ghee are often combined, creating a powerful rejuvenative that can serve as a tonic for all of the tissues in the body. Always combine your honey and ghee in equal amounts by volume. For example, take one teaspoon of honey with one teaspoon of ghee. This will provide a safe, nourishing, and lubricating carrier substance.
The simplest way to incorporate honey’s sweetness into your routine is to mix a bit into your tea or eat it directly from the spoon.
Jaggery is sweet and cooling has a heavy, strengthening effect on the body, and pacifies Vata while increasing Pitta and Kapha. The mention of gur or jaggery is found in ancient Ayurvedic texts and is an important component in Ayurvedic medicines, especially those made in the liquid forms – Arishtas and Asavas.
Research Paper: (PDF) The benefit of Indian jaggery over sugar on human health
Regular consumption of washed and cleaned jaggery decreases Kapha dosha and serves as a diuretic.
Unrefined jaggery on the other hand balances Vata and pitta doshas besides serving as a natural blood purifier, boosting strength, and working as an aphrodisiac.
Dhauta gur or washed jaggery flushes out toxins and balances pitta doshas.
However, Ayurvedic practitioners strongly recommend using old jaggery – which is at least one year old for promoting digestion, cleansing the gastrointestinal tract, urinary bladder, boosting heart function, and beating anemia.
Note: Brown-colored jaggery may contain impure particles in large amounts whereas a golden hue indicates more purity.
Is Jaggery Better Than Sugar?
Weight watchers and Diabetics always are curious to know if jaggery can be substituted with sugar. Gur surely can be a good replacement for sugar. Jaggery is an amazing source of iron with a whopping amount of 11 mg for every 100 grams and meets 61% of the daily recommended intake.
It is also a rich source of magnesium, potassium, manganese with negligible amounts of fat.
Jaggery unlike sugar is available in various forms – big blocks, small cubes, and even grated.
It is an excellent alternative to sugar to be used in your hot coffee/teacup. Another healthier alternative to sugar is palm sugar which is strongly recommended for those suffering from diabetes owing to its lower glycemic index.
Adding this sweet component to your regular diet regularizes blood sugar levels and is very low on glycemic index when compared to sugar. Palm jaggery is the best bet for those suffering from gastrointestinal issues as insulin, the dietary fiber in this product stimulates digestion, improves gut flora or good bacteria, and aids the small intestine in the better absorption of nutrients.
Jaggery is your must-have in the diet plan if you are looking forward to losing weight. Eating jaggery triggers metabolism and burns that stubborn belly fat. Craving for something sweet, grab a piece of jaggery to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Jaggery overall has many health benefits.
- Jaggery unlike sugar does not trigger sudden spikes in sugar levels and is also loaded with iron, magnesium, and potassium.
- A piece of jaggery with little ginger helps in expelling mucus and clears airways.
- Eating jaggery triggers metabolism and burns that stubborn belly fat.
- Pure quality jaggery is good for gut health. Flushes out toxins promote digestive flora and support small the intestine in better absorption of nutrients. Good amounts of magnesium help in smooth digestion and avert acidity.
- Eating pure jaggery daily in little amounts helps to balance hormones and regularize the menstrual cycle.
- Jaggery is an excellent source of plant-based iron and it boosts hemoglobin levels naturally.
- Mix ½ tsp carom seeds with a spoon of jaggery and eat it twice a day. The pungent nature of carom seeds and the detoxifying properties in gur expel these worms from the body keeping the intestinal tract clean. For better results eat it on an empty stomach or an hour before lunch or dinner.
- Women above 30 should eat jaggery at least thrice a week to prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
- a small ball of groundnuts mixed with jaggery and pure ghee, soon after lunch for promoting immunity and digestion.
Recipe: Groundnut, Jaggery Chikki
Rock sugar (Mishri)
Mishri is made with raw sugar crystals processed in water and milk. It contains none of the chemicals used to manufacture conventional white sugar. According to Ayurveda – Mishri is highly regarded in Ayurveda for its cooling nature and ability to balance Vata and pitta dosha. The rock sugar also improves vision and helps to balance acid levels in the blood. It removes tiredness, improves strength and seminal fluid in males. Also, help as a laxative, and can help to treat vomiting and nausea.
On the other hand, modern-day sugar does not bear resemblance to the above-mentioned sweet taste.
White Refined Sugar
White refined sugar, on the other hand, is sweet, heating, and has a stimulating effect on the body aggravating all of the doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). This conventional white sugar creates various health imbalances.
In fact, it has qualities quite the opposite. The main reason these sugars are bad for us is that they form glycation bonds with the hormonal receptors proteins in our body. As a result, our response to hormones like insulin slows down and results in diabetes and obesity.
Thus importantly, less processed sugars like jaggery, honey, mishri, and maple syrup are considered more Sattvic, having a peaceful effect on our minds. Highly processed sugars like white sugar and synthetic replacement sweeteners, on the other hand, are Rajasic and Tamasic – creating strong outward-seeking desire combined with dullness, depression, and ignorance in the mind.