Health Benefits of Jaggery: A Winter Delicacy
Jaggery is an ancient South Asian food which has a reference in Vedas and ancient traditions across India, Sri Lanka and even across South Asia. Jaggery found its way to Europe through Portuguese trading community. The history lesson apart, jaggery could be one of the most important foods in your kitchen, especially in the wake of our need for sugar alternatives. Read on to know about the health benefits of jaggery!
Jaggery known as ‘gur’ in Hindi, is unrefined sugar made from the sap of sugarcane, coconut or palm trees. Molasses is a by-product of the production of jaggery. It is also sometimes called ‘country sugar’, as it is prepared in rural households.
Some say that jaggery originated in Eastern India, some say that Portuguese brought it here. So the exact point of location is debatable. But, jaggery production was predominant in regions with high sugarcane growth. One can say that jaggery was produced in places with high sugarcane growth, viz. the Indian subcontinent, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Jaggery is a quintessential food ingredient which is part of many Indian recipes, reflecting the culture and taste of India. It is also beneficial to health according to Ayurveda.
Did You Know?
– Arguably, the best form of Jaggery comes from the fishtail palm variety or the Kithul tree from Sri Lanka and yes, it is the costliest too
– It contains up to 50% sucrose, 20% invert sugars and 20% moisture, with the remaining made up of other insoluble matter such as wood ash, proteins and fibres
– Mujjafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, India is the largest jaggery market in the world
In South India, jaggery is an integral part of “sambhar” and “rasam”, to add sweetness and in order to balance the spicy, salty and sour components. In Maharashtra, it is tradition to eat “tilgur” (a mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery) during the festival of “Makar Sankranti”. Jaggery made from dates is mostly used in West Bengal, to make sweets during winter like “notun gurer payesh” and “notun gurer sandesh”.
Whereas, in Tamil Nadu, people use jaggery exclusively as a sweetener. It is an ingredient of the dish “chakkarai pongal”, which is made during Pongal, a festival held when the harvesting season begins. It is mixed with other ingredients such as, peanuts, condensed milk and coconut to produce several locally marketed delicacies and is the most loved drink served to guests.
In North India, jaggery is a staple food during chilling winters, where they eat gur with fresh millet chapattis and ghee for boosting immunity and for keeping the body warm.
In Myanmar, the harvestation of jaggery occurs from the toddy palm syrup. The translucent white syrup is boiled until it becomes golden brown and then made into bite-size pieces. It is sweet in taste and is a favourite among children and adults alike.
Is Jaggery better than regular sugar?
White sugar is refined sugar, which undergoes chemical crystallization process that results in complete loss of all nutrients. Jaggery is unrefined sugar that has essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, among others.
This high nutritional value is responsible for strong teeth, bones and muscles, making it a better choice than white sugar. Zinc and selenium present in it help in building strong immunity. Dietary fibres in jaggery help in improving bowel movements.
Jaggery also contains iron, which helps to cure anaemia. Proteins present in jaggery aids in the overall functioning of the body. It contains simple carbohydrates, which provides instant energy to the body. Our body absorbs it immediately after consumption and provides a quick burst of energy.
Jaggery is a common ingredient in Gujarati food, where they put jaggery in tea, dal and even eat them with hot chapattis. They believe that jaggery helps in digesting the food efficiently. It is an unrefined sugar but unfortunately, the high glycemic index white sugar is slowly replacing it.
Health Benefits of Jaggery
Let us further have a look at some of the important health benefits of jaggery.
Jaggery has digestive stimulating properties, which helps in boosting digestion and appetite. The digestive stimulation occurs due to the conversion of jaggery to acetic acid in the stomach. It helps in correcting enzymatic activity in the stomach, which aids in proper digestive function and improves appetite.
Jaggery contains magnesium which helps in strengthening the intestines. This improves peristaltic movement of intestines, which helps in the smooth movement of faecal matter. Thus, the bowel movement gets better and relieves you from serious constipation problem.
Reduces menstrual discomfort
Jaggery helps in providing relief from menstrual cramps. It has high levels of selenium which relaxes muscles and nerves. This, in turn, have a soothing effect on the walls of the uterus and provides relief from menstrual cramps.
Cures coughs and cold
One of the major health benefits of jaggery include preventing and curing common cold and cough. Jaggery produces heat in the body, which is why people generally people consume it in winters. The warming effect in jaggery makes it an amazing sweet that can treat cold and flu.
Jaggery contains minerals such as zinc and selenium which help prevent free radical damage and boost resistance against infections. The high-calorie content of jaggery may also boost your energy levels when sick.
Jaggery is also an effective antioxidant. It acts as a powerful natural fighting agent against free radicals in your body. This helps you protect against the harmful effects of free-radical induced DNA damage thus preventing cancer.
Promotes weight loss
Jaggery helps in weight loss when eaten daily after each meal in moderation. It contains fiber which absorbs into the blood and destroys fat cells, which gradually helps you in losing weight.
How to use jaggery as a natural remedy?
Jaggery has an old connection with Ayurveda, where a simple piece of it was used to treat many health problems. In many Indian households, jaggery works as a natural remedy that helps cure body pain or common cold.
Here we bring you a few of the simple natural home remedies Using jaggery.
- Consume a small piece of jaggery every day after a meal. It gives you instant relief from bloating and acidity.
- Crush jaggery, mix it with dry ginger powder and eat this mixture with warm water, to get rid of hiccups.
- Eat a mixture of crushed jaggery, dry ginger powder and black pepper, three times a day after a meal, to get relief from cough and cold.
- Eat jaggery with ghee (clarified butter) to get relief from ear pain.
- Experts recommend drinking “Gur Sharbat” (jaggery soaked in ice-cold water) during the summer months to keep the stomach cool.
- Drink hot milk with jaggery to improve urine flow.
- Drink a mixture of jaggery and water for about 15 days. Then again repeat it and do it for 3 months to get rid of low blood pressure.
- Make a paste of jaggery, curd and multani mitti (fuller’s earth) and apply it on your scalp twice a month before shampooing to get healthy and lustrous hair.
Thus, next time you drink tea or want to make something sweet, add jaggery instead of refined sugar. It is a healthier and tastier alternative which is a must-have! Do you know any other health benefits of jaggery? Let us know about your views in the comment box below.
Disclaimer: People who are diabetic or are on a weight loss regime should keep track of their jaggery consumption. Excess consumption can lead to weight gain and fluctuations in the blood sugar levels.
100gms of Jaggery (cane) contains 1480 calories.
Carbohydrates-93g, (Sugar-88g), Protein-2g, Fat-0.16g (Saturated fat -69.23mg, MUFA-21.67mg, PUFA-33.1mg), Sodium-25mg, Potassium-488mg
And a percentage daily value of Iron-4%, Calcium-9% Magnesium-11% (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).