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Ayurvedic Perspective on Sugar

November is the month of family gatherings and dinner parties. So this month, we will focus our blogs on diet and hopefully come out with the least amount of impact to our a digestive agni’s despite the rollercoaster of routines. Sugar, whether you love it or hate it, it is hard to go through the holiday season without indulging. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the Sweet taste is considered the most important of all of the six tastes, and it is suggested that it should be eaten in the largest quantity. But by Sweet, Ayurveda means naturally sweet foods including milk, ghee, rice, wheat and other grains and legumes, as well as sweet fruits, dates, honey, jaggery and sugar. Ayurveda considers Sweet a taste, made up of elements and qualities which all have an effect on the body and mind.

The main difference between the Ayurvedic view and the western view on sugar intake is that Ayurveda acknowledges the differences between sugars. For example, honey is sweet and heating, has the specific effect of ‘scraping fat’ from the body, and it pacifies Vata and Kapha while increasing Pitta. Jaggery is sweet and cooling, has a heavy, strengthening effect on the body, and pacifies Vata while increasing Pitta and Kapha. White 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).

Per Ayurveda, the Sweet taste nourishes and invigorates the mind, relieves hunger and thirst, increases tissues and improves the immune system. Importantly, it is associated with the positive emotions of happiness, contentment, calmness, cheerfulness, love and satisfaction when eaten in appropriate amounts. If you follow the principles of Sattvic diet from Ayurveda, you will naturally avoid sugar-laden processed foods including soft drinks, condiments, cereals, candies etc and focus more on less processed sugars like jaggery, honey and maple syrup.

The impact of white sugar on such an individual can be devastating to the adrenals. Each time sugar is eaten it stimulates an adrenal-type energy rush gradually leading to adrenal exhaustion, especially if combined with caffeine. As the adrenals become increasingly exhausted, the urge to eat sugar grows stronger in response to the need to “get some energy”. From an Ayurvedic perspective it is important that you get to know your sugars! Whenever possible, choose more natural sugars over their highly processed counterparts. We need to consider long-term moderation combined with well-timed and precise restraint when it comes to indulging in sugar!

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