Jaggery is commonly recommended as a healthy alternative to white sugar. Have you ever wondered why? Read on to know more. The article also touches upon some practical tips on how to choose the right quality of jaggery. If you are buying jaggery for health reasons, you might as well buy the best that’s available.
1. Why is jaggery considered to be better than white sugar?
Jaggery is prepared from the juice of plants like sugarcane and date palm. Hence the plant source of making jaggery is same as that of sugar. It is the process that makes the two different, in terms of their impact on our body and health.
The traditional method of making jaggery involves boiling sugar cane juice till it starts becoming thick and solidifies into jaggery. Typically, the sugarcane juice is first kept in a container, such that the impurities settle at the bottom. Then the juice is placed in huge, heavy bottom pans and boiled. The impurities are constantly skimmed off the top in the process. Sometimes plant based additives may also be used to clarify impurities. For example, a species of lady finger, locally called “sukhlai”, is made into a solution with water and added to remove impurities. The process of making jaggery is chemical free vis-a-vis the process of making refined sugar.
Both sugar and jaggery are processed foods, none of them are ‘whole’ natural foods. Making sugar involves many steps, read our blog White sugar – A quick roundup through FAQs to know more. Lesser processing is involved in converting sugarcane juice into jaggery vs converting it into white sugar. Processing depletes the nutrients and hence the nutrient profile of jaggery is richer than white sugar - Jaggery retains the nutrient rich molasses which are removed in making white sugar. It is rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium and phosphorous.
Sugar is absorbed almost instantly in your body, jaggery is absorbed more slowly. Thus, it doesn’t increase blood sugar levels as rapidly as sugar.
Jaggery is rich in alkaline minerals while sugar makes our body acidic and hence toxic.
Jaggery is eco-friendly –According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), sugar industry pollutes air, water and soil. While jaggery is produced by cooking sugarcane juice in an iron vessel, sugar undergoes various treatments, purification, crystallisation which not only wastes several gallons water, but also pollutes natural water source, where the wastewater is dumped! Jaggery is greener.
2. Can one assume that if we are buying jaggery, it will be chemical free & totally natural?
The traditional method of making jaggery, as discussed above, is completely chemical free. However, due to large scale commercialization, chemicals do find their way into jaggeryto give it a more acceptable colour or texture. Hence it is important to be aware about the source / brand of jaggery. One can enquire about two things with the vendor:
Has organically grown sugarcane or palm or coconut been used to make jaggery? This will help in gauging the excessive use of chemical fertilizers.
What is the process of making jaggery? This will help in gauging if it has been prepared the traditional way and is totally chemical free or not.
Asking the right questions will help you make an informed choice.
3. Are there any established brands that fit the bill for choosing good jaggery?
There are many branded as well as unpackaged / open varieties of jaggery available in the market. It is difficult to assess the quality of the unpackaged options, unless you know the vendor and can see how he makes it. We can only look out for some of the generally believed indicators of purity - like the colour should be dark brown and not yellow or orange, it should not taste too salty or bitter and should preferably have no crystals. However, these may be subjective and confusing!
In case of branded options, the manufacturers often provide specifications which we can use to make an informed choice. Details of some common jaggery brands available in stores and online are compiled below. These brands mention use of only organically grown sugarcane. Some brands also specify that they use traditional process for making jaggery, i.e. without use of chemicals. These brands are easily available in popular online stores like Amazon, Flipkart, Nature’s Basket etc.
(per 500 gm)
24 Mantra Organic
Jaggrut Jaggery powder
Organic Tattva Jaggery powder
Dhampur Green Organic Jaggery Powder
* approximate prices
4. Can jaggery be consumed in summers as well as winters?
There is a general perception that jaggery has hot potency or taseer. This means that heat is produced as jaggery is metabolized in the body. During winters, the blood vessels get constricted due to cold weather. Jaggery helps in dilating the blood vessels, which improves blood flow. It therefore makes complete sense to have jaggery in winters!
But it is also commonly known that jaggery mixed with water (as in gur ka sharbet) has a cooling effect! Hence, one can consume jaggery, at least in this form, in summers too. Other than that, we must listen to our body and act accordingly.
A diet rich in high water content foods such as raw fruits and vegetables has a cooling effect on the body. It is likely to make up for any heating effect of jaggery, when eaten in moderation. There are many people who follow regularly use jaggery instead of sugar, in all seasons and feel comfortable about it.
5. Can jaggery be eaten guilt free?
Jaggery is a healthier choice as compared to sugar as it has more vitamins and minerals, and no or less chemicals. However, both jaggery and sugar, are calorie rich and have the same amount of calories. 1 teaspoon of sugar or jaggery contains 60 calories. The link between calories and weight gain is well known. Having said so, we should not get bogged down with tracking calories. Focus should always be to listen to your body and include a variety of whole natural foods in the diet. Anything we over do, has a negative impact on our health. Hence, it’s best to enjoy jaggery in moderation.
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