How can you possibly give up your favorite barfi or the satisfaction of gulping an entire gulab jamun in just one bite? Be relieved. In this case, you can have your laddoo and eat it, too.
Food is an integral part of celebrating any culture. Without the zest and aromatic presence of flavorful South Asian delicacies, celebrations would just not be the same. Most of all, South Asian sweets are embedded in the very essence of festivals – in the capacity of a dessert and even as an exchange of gifts between families. Laced with recipes passed down from generations, sweets are more than just food. Being at center life’s many millstone celebrations, these traditional sweets contain memories, stories and bonds of love with every bite.
That said, the reality of what we consume extends beyond its symbolic meaning. The sweets we consume without a second thought are contributors to growing health problems. A study conducted at the University of British Columbia suggests an extremely high prevalence of diabetes within the South Asian population, propelled mainly by biological and cultural factors of high sugar and caloric diets. In fact, people from South Asian communities are known to be up to 6 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than the general population. Given these statistics, it is important to question not only the management, but the prevention of such health complications. While exercise and a well-balanced diet are solutions, regulating sugar intake remains the single most effective method to truly improve your quality of life by treating your body better.
But how can you possibly give up your favorite barfi or the satisfaction of gulping an entire gulab jamun in just one bite? Be relieved. In this case, you can have your laddoo and eat it, too.
Raman Deol, founder of Sweet Souls, points to a healthier alternative, rooted in her business that offers plant-based and organic Indian sweets, with just the right amount of natural sweetness. Partnered with her co-founder, Karthik Chatapuram, Deol offers delicious, plant-based Indian-inspired sweets and snacks through her website, sweetsouls.ca. Customers can offer specialized festival boxes and celebration cakes. Now having been vegan for 8 years, Deol recalls growing up accustomed to a particular flavor palette, filled with the unique Indian flavors that she absolutely enjoyed. When she made the switch to a plant-based diet, Deol realized she could no longer have a lot of the Indian sweets she grew up eating.
When she googled the availability of vegan Indian sweets, she found no options, especially here in the Lower Mainland. As such, Sweet Souls was born, with the aim to provide mindful Indian sweets and snacks that leaves you feeling nourished, light, and satisfied. Deol says, “I’ve always been very health conscious and refrained from integrating refined sugar into my diet. I want to make sure that the person eating feels just as good or better after having the sweets as they did before.”
When it comes to refined sugar, which is a key component of regular Indian sweets we find in the market, addiction is inevitable. Deol outlines that white sugar is physically addictive, which is why it is used in many processed foods like sauces and chips to encourage repetitive buying behaviors. Many experts claim sugar to be more addictive than cocaine, leading to continual cravings.
Not surprisingly, South Asian desserts top the list of the world’s most fattening foods. Over time, the accumulation of fat, which is plentiful in these sweets, leads to longer term risk of heart disease. Other side effects include weight gain, acne, and skin aging. Interestingly, a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out that sugar can even weaken your immune system. Approximately 75 grams of sugar (less than two sodas and less than two cupcakes) is all it takes to send your white blood cells into a temporary coma, lowering the immune system for about 5 hours, independent of how physically active a person is.
Deol emphasizes that it is important to recognize that your body has an addiction to the sugar in order to break the cycle, “People simply haven’t experienced taking sugar out of their diet. I recommend that people do a 30-day cleanse and try a minimal or no-added-sugar diet. When you do that, you realize that, after a certain point, you’re not addicted anymore. Once you do take out refined sugar from your diet and then reintroduce it, you also see the effects it has on your body right away. Energy crashes, headaches, and reduces focus are some changes that I noticed.”
Reduced sugar intake and doing away with refined sugar offers many advantages:
With no more ‘sugar rush’ or ‘sugar crash’ in the picture, more consistent levels of energy are reported, fueled by more nutritional foods that have a positive impact on the body and brain.
Better Mood and Focus:
Sugar is linked to anxiety and depression. When we keep consuming sugar to ‘feel better’, we open the pathway to more mental health issues, stress eating, tiredness and just general bad eating habits. Those that make healthier choices report increased mental clarity.
Weight Management and Reduced Inflammation:
Sugar is the go-to source for empty calories that provide no nutrition. A low or no-sugar diet helps take and keep the weight off, alongside reduced inflammation that assists in managing chronic pain, headaches and even food allergies. Given that a healthier alternative to sugar exists when it comes to Indian sweets, it’s time to make the switch – not just as individuals, but also as a community. The best part is that you won’t have to compromise on the tradition or the taste. “We’ve had a lot of people tell us that they like the sugar-free sweets better than the original version. You can taste the flavors better as there are no artificial colors, nor processed sugars and flours; only fresh ingredients are used,” mentions Deol. As you dive into the holidays, be mindful of what you eat and spark the beginning to a healthier lifestyle. Enjoying a dessert does not always have to be filled with guilt. Check what you eat and explore better alternatives. Indulge responsibly.