June 21, 2024

As the scorching summer heat intensifies across India, many turn to refreshing beverages like sugarcane juice, fruit juices, and chilled coffees for relief. However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued a stern advisory, cautioning against the excessive consumption of these popular thirst-quenchers. 

According to the body, “Sugarcane juice, which is extensively consumed in India, particularly during summers, is high in sugar and hence its consumption should be minimised.”

“Soft drinks are not substitutes for water or fresh fruits and should be avoided,” it added. Instead the ICMR recommends alternatives such as buttermilk, lemon water, whole fruit juice (without added sugar), and coconut water.

This advisory comes as a wake-up call for health-conscious individuals seeking to beat the heat while maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet.

Health risks associated with the high sugar content in sugarcane juice

Shubha Ramesh L, chief dietician at DHEE Hospitals, agrees with the guidelines saying that sugarcane juice is rich in natural sugars, posing several health risks, especially during hot weather. Some of the risks involved are:

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Dehydration: High sugar intake can lead to increased water loss as the body needs more water to metabolise the sugar. This is particularly problematic in summer when the body already loses significant water through sweat.

Blood Sugar Spikes: The rapid absorption of sugars from sugarcane juice can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, increasing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. 

Weight Gain: Excess calories from sugary beverages contribute to weight gain, which can further complicate health issues like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

sugarcane juice, ICMR High sugar intake can lead to increased water loss (Source: Freepik)

Main differences in nutritional benefits between consuming whole fruits and fruit juice

Kanikka Malhotra, consultant dietician and certified diabetes educator tells indianexpress.com, “Whole fruits contain nutritional fiber, which is eliminated during juicing. Fiber keeps you fuller for longer, assists with digestion, and regulates blood sugar levels. This makes entire fruits a more environmentally friendly source of energy.”

Fruit flesh and peel frequently include vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that might be lost or reduced when juicing. Chewing whole fruits increases saliva production, she adds, which not only facilitates digestion but also regulates the pace of sugar absorption.

Soft drinks as substitutes for water

Soft drinks, both carbonated and non-carbonated, Shubha asserts, are inadequate substitutes for water for several reasons. Firstly, soft drinks often contain high amounts of added sugars, leading to increased calorie intake and potential weight gain. “Many soft drinks contain artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives, which can have adverse health effects over time,” she says.

Additionally, the caffeine and acidic content in soft drinks can have a diuretic effect, leading to dehydration. This is especially dangerous in hot climates like in India, where maintaining hydration is crucial.

Recommended strategies for managing caffeine intake from tea and coffee

“Be mindful of how much coffee and tea you consume daily,” Malhotra cautions. Consider caffeine content variations (brewing strength, cup size).

Space it out: Avoid cramming caffeine intake in a short period. Spread it throughout the morning and early afternoon.

Choose herbs: Opt for herbs such as cinnamon / turmeric and flowers such as chamomile/ jasmine / hibiscus tea later in the day.

Listen to your body: If you experience jitters, anxiety, or sleep issues, cut back.

How to stay hydrated as India grapples with heatwave and rising temperatures?

Shubha recommends taking the following steps to ensure that you are healthy and properly hydrated this summer:

Water Intake: Aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily, adjusting based on activity level and heat exposure. 

Electrolyte Solutions: Use homemade or commercially available electrolyte solutions to replenish lost salts and minerals. 

Hydrating Foods: Incorporate water-rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber, and oranges into your diet to boost hydration.

Avoid Alcohol and Sugary Beverages: These can increase the risk of dehydration and should be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether.


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