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09Oct2011
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Sugar-Free Mithai: The Myths And Facts Of Low-Calorie Sweets

Come festival season and you are inundated with these wonderfully marketed low calorie or sugar-free sweets that promise to help you manage your weight. Registered Dietitian, Preethi Rahul, helps you understand the myths and facts of low-calorie sweets.

One of the major highlights and key attractions of a low calorie sweet is that they can help you satiate your sweet-tooth. Once your sweet craving is satisfied, the body releases feel-good endorphins and you feel happy and stress-free whenever you have these sweets.

The common misconception people have is that they need not be watchful about portion sizes when they consume sugar-free sweets. But whatever you eat, you need to be careful about the amounts you consume and have everything in moderation.

Low-cal sweets make you feel guilt-free because you are reducing the fat and the sugar content. A sugar-free sweet by itself will not prevent weight gain, but if you have a healthy lifestyle you can enjoy a few and enjoy their benefits.

The benefit of low-calorie mithai is that it positively impacts your oral health as it does not contribute to decay, and can be relished by diabetics as well.

Some of the drawbacks of sugar-free or low-cal sweets are that they are highly-priced with misleading claims of weight control.

They may have fewer amounts of fats and sugars, but the triglycerides in the refined flour used to make them can block arteries in the long run, leading to heart attack or stroke.

Artificial sweeteners used in the preparation of these sweets could also have adverse health impacts if consumed over a period of time and in excess.

Sugar-free or low-cal does not mean “No calories”.

Sugar alcohols, one of the types of sugar substitutes can cause abdominal bloating, diarrhoea or cramps if consumed excessively, as they are only partially absorbed in the intestine.

Some sugar substitutes, when consumed excessively, can even cause cancer. If you need to consume them to manage your weight, do so in moderation.

Another disadvantage is that these sweets can affect your appetite and prevent you from realizing your true hunger signals. They create a feeling of fullness, which may be because of gas production or the empty calories they contribute.

Certain artificial sweeteners can even affect your fertility.

For example, aspartame (Nutrasweet, Sugar-Free, Equal) consumed in excess amounts, and when heated, get converted to formaldehyde in the body, which can be poisonous for your foetus.  Artificial sweeteners may even affect your kidneys.

Many artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and are implicated in causing bladder cancer. Considering the pros and cons of low-calorie sweeteners, I would suggest that you stick to natural foods. Occasions like Diwali do not come every day, so enjoy the festival foods in a natural form.

Don’t blame Diwali or the festive season for your flabby tummy and waistline, when you’re the one who has to exercise self-discipline and create positive change. Your best option is to balance a healthy diet with a continuous exercise regime to stay trim and fit all your life.

Popping in a low-cal sweet once or twice during Diwali will not cause much health impact, but don’t fool yourself that continuous or excessive intake is ok. Moderation is your secret key to keep you healthy.

Read the nutrition labels on sweets and choose products that contain whole grain flour, minimal fat, no artificial colours and preservatives. Enjoy the beautiful festival of lights with sweets and savouries but remember: there is no short-cut to staying fit and healthy.

Preethi Rahul is a Registered Dietitian with over 4 years of experience in the field on nutrition.  She is a life member of the Indian dietetic association and moderator of the Indian Dietetic Association on Linkedin. She graduated in Nutrition, Food Service Management and Dietetics and holds a diploma in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics from Chennai University.

Writing has been her forte and passion and she has been writing on diet, health and nutrition for various health portals like Femina, Rediff, TimesWellness, Complete Wellbeing, Mother and Baby, Just for Woman, and newspapers like Times of India, Hindustan Times. Her specialities include childhood nutrition, nutrition for weight loss, diabetes and cardiac diseases.  Visit her blog at http://preethiscorner.blogspot.com

Sugar-Free Mithai: The Myths And Facts Of Low-Calorie Sweets

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