Jaggery is a traditional Indian sweetener and a staple in Indian households. Jaggery sweets are a standard offering to God in various parts of India. It is healthier than refined white sugar, a product of raw and concentrated sugar cane juice. Sugar contains the ominous empty calories dreaded by all. On the other hand, jaggery contains various plant-based minerals and nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Therefore, more and more people are consciously replacing white sugar with jaggery in their daily diet.
As per Ayurveda, one should eat a small amount of jaggery daily after meals, as it helps in improving digestion by generating heat in the body. During COVID times, jaggery tea has become extremely popular because of its immunity-boosting properties. Jaggery tea is not only healthy, but it also tastes fantastic. Jaggery tea with ginger and tulsi helps in improving immunity and keeps the common cold and allergies at bay. So all the tea lovers, go ahead and enjoy your perfect cup of jaggery tea without guilt and worries.
Many people avoid jaggery due to its raw appearance and the lack of knowledge about its various qualities. However, buying good quality jaggery is not that difficult. Quality jaggery is golden yellow, hard texture, crystalline structure, sweet taste, and low in moisture. India is also the largest producer and consumer of jaggery. India’s major sugarcane producing states are Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, contributing to around 80-90% of jaggery production.
How is Jaggery Prepared?
Juice Extraction – The first step in jaggery production involves the extraction of the juice.
- Juice Clarification – The extracted juice collects in a large tank, where it rests for a few minutes to let the impurities settle down. In addition, the juice is further clarified by boiling using lime (calcium hydroxide).
- Cooling – After the juice clarifies and reaches the perfect consistency, it is taken out of the fire. The hot jaggery syrup is transferred into wooden or aluminium moulds for cooling.
- Moulding – During the process of cooling, the jaggery also moulds itself into the shape of the pot it is transferred. Therefore, the shape of the solid jaggery may vary from round balls to square lumps.
- Storage – The cooled jaggery is then stored in wooden, metal or earthen pots. Moisture content should not exceed 6% to maintain the quality of the jaggery. Equally important to note, to improve the shelf life, one needs to store jaggery in air-tight containers.
Types of Jaggery
India produces 6.89 million tonnes of jaggery annually. Jaggery is mainly available in three forms, solid, liquid, and granular.
1. Sugarcane Jaggery
This is the most common form of jaggery that is available across the country. It is prepared by boiling sugarcane juice and is very sweet in taste. The quality of the jaggery depends on the quality of the sugarcane. It comes in various colours from light golden yellow to dark chocolate brown.
2. Date Palm Jaggery
It is made by boiling the sap of the date plant. It smells like dark chocolate and has a soft melt-in-mouth texture. It is a winter must-have in West Bengal.
3. Palmyra Jaggery
This fruit looks like coconut but is much darker in colour. Palmyra Jaggery is prepared by boiling the sap of Palmyra palm. The jaggery is mostly off white to yellowish-white in colour. It is also a speciality from West Bengal.
4. Toddy Palm Jaggery
This jaggery is made by boiling the sap of Toddy’s palm. Mostly golden brown in colour, this jaggery comes in solid form. It is a speciality of Myanmar.
5. Coconut Jaggery
It is made by boiling the coconut sap. It is sold in pyramid shapes and is common in South India. It has a deep brown colour and is a part of many Goan delicacies.
Nutritional Facts of Jaggery
In comparison to white sugar, the nutrition content of jaggery is quite high due to the presence of molasses. Molasses is the by-product of the sugar-making process and is full of micronutrients. It is usually removed while making refined sugar.
100 grams of Jaggery may contain:
- Calories: 383
- Sucrose: 65–85 grams
- Fructose and glucose: 10–15 grams
- Protein: 0.4 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
- Iron: 11 mg, or 61% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 70-90 mg, or about 20% of the RDI
- Potassium: 1050 mg, or 30% of the RDI
- Manganese: 0.2–0.5 mg, or 10–20% of the RDI
However, one must keep in mind that the sugar content of jaggery is close to that of white sugar. Though jaggery is rich in nutrients and is a healthier substitute for white sugar, overconsumption of jaggery can be harmful.
10 Health Benefits of Jaggery
1. Jaggery Prevents Constipation
Jaggery activates the digestive enzymes in our body.
A small piece of jaggery consumed post meals can improve digestion, stimulate bowel movements and relieve constipation.
2. Jaggery Purifier Blood
Jaggery has the ability to purify blood in the body.
Hence, it cleanses the blood of any impurities and protects the body from diseases.
3. Jaggery Detoxifies the Liver
Jaggery cleanses the body. It also cleanses the liver by flushing out all the harmful toxins from the body.
4. Jaggery Boosts Immunity
Jaggery helps in improving the hemoglobin count in the blood.
Furthermore, it is packed with antioxidants and nutrients like zinc and selenium. They boost immunity and fight infections.
5. Jaggery Treats Cold and Flu
Jaggery is consumed in winters because it produces heat in the body.
This heat-producing effect helps in treating mild colds and flu. Add a teaspoon of jaggery in tea or hot water and say goodbye to your flu.
6. Jaggery Prevents Anaemia
Jaggery is rich in iron, which helps in maintaining the right hemoglobin count in the body.
It is great for people suffering from anemia and even for pregnant women to maintain their red blood cell count.
7. Jaggery Prevents Premenstrual Symptoms
Women suffer from premenstrual symptoms and they are hard to deal with.
Jaggery is full of nutrients that effectively ease menstrual pain and symptoms. Daily consumption of jaggery leads to the release of endorphins in the body. Endorphins relax the muscles and prevent PMS.
8. Jaggery Relieves Joint Pain
Jaggery consumed with hot milk or a piece of ginger helps in strengthening the bones.
It also helps in preventing arthritis and joint pains.
9. Jaggery Aid Weight Loss
Eating a small piece of jaggery every day can aid in significant weight loss. Additionally, it also takes care of sugar cravings.
Jaggery is rich in potassium, which helps in building muscles and boosting metabolism. So, jaggery also reduces water retention in the body and makes you slimmer.
10. Jaggery Boosts Intestinal Health
Jaggery is rich in magnesium, which boosts intestinal strength.
Eat a small piece of jaggery daily to keep your intestines healthy.
Jaggery vs. Sugar – Which is healthier option?
Numerous health professionals recommend replacing sugar with jaggery to obtain greater nutritional values from a sweetener. While both may be processed, sugar is mainly in the form of translucent, white crystals while jaggery can either be golden brown or dark brown in colour.
The former undergoes rigorous industrial processes, such as treatment with charcoal, due to which its nutritional value is lost. On the other hand, the latter undergoes no excessive treatment except the boiling of sugarcane syrup.
This ensures the retention of traces of iron, mineral salts and fiber in it. These minerals and plant phytochemicals are useful remedies for several ailments.
This natural sweetener is an effective way to boost immunity, regulate body temperature, enrich the skin, improve digestion and cure joint pain, apart from a number of other mind-blowing health benefits.
Jaggery vs. Brown Sugar vs. Honey
Jaggery is prepared by natural means without the use of any chemicals, preservatives or synthetic additives. Therefore, it contains a number of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Many people often consider this golden brown sweetener and brown sugar to be the same thing.
However brown sugar is produced either directly from cane juice or by refining raw sugar. Both cases require the addition of a variety of molasses, syrups, and demerara. Hence, brown sugar contains unnatural additives as well.
Adding brown sugar is certainly better than adding refined white sugar, but jaggery is a much better alternative. Another way to make your desserts or everyday snacks healthier is by adding honey.
It is rich in Vitamin B, C, and potassium while jaggery is rich in copper, iron, and magnesium. Hence, the decision to add either of these two to one’s diet depends on their taste.
Is Jaggery Good for Diabetes?
Diabetic patients often get sweet cravings and turn to various forms of sweeteners.
Though these patients might consider jaggery a better alternative than sugar, the truth is that it too contains high levels of sugar.
There is almost 65%-85% of sucrose in 10 grams of jaggery. Therefore, people with diabetes are advised to not consume it regularly. Furthermore, even Ayurveda does not recommend its consumption for diabetic patients.
Jaggery for Weight Loss
After considering the sugar content of jaggery, many believe that it’s fattening.
On the contrary, it facilitates quick digestion since it is rich in nutrients. Moreover, it flushes out toxins from the body and cleanses the blood as well.
The nutrients help to maintain electrolyte balance, thereby improving metabolism and the presence of potassium enables water retention, through which one can effectively manage their weight.
Therefore, consuming this sweet nutrient-packed food in monitored amounts daily can greatly aid weight loss.
Healthy Recipes Using Jaggery
Jaggery is extremely beneficial for the body and is always a better alternative than refined sugar.
Loaded with essential nutrients, it can help keep your body healthy and free from diseases. If you do not like eating raw jaggery, try these easy recipes using jaggery.
They are super easy to make, take a few minutes to cook and are very healthy for your body.
Recipe 1 – Jaggery/Gur Roti
This is a very popular dish in North India.
Cooking Time – 20 minutes
Ingredients (For 6 small roti):
- Jaggery powder or grated jaggery – ½ cup
- Water – ⅛ cup or 2 tablespoons
- Whole wheat flour – 1 to 1.25 cups
- Fennel seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Ghee or any neutral flavoured oil – 1 tablespoon
- Ghee (clarified butter) as required, for roasting
- In a bowl, take ½-cup jaggery powder and ⅛ cup water. You can also use grated jaggery instead of jaggery powder.
- Mix well and keep aside for 30 to 45 minutes or until all the jaggery dissolves.
- In another bowl or pan, take 1 to 1.25 cups of whole-wheat flour. Also, add 1-teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf) and 1-tablespoon ghee. Mix well.
- Then begin to knead and make a smooth dough. The dough will be slightly sticky due to the jaggery in it. If the dough looks wet, then you can add some more whole-wheat flour and knead.
- Take a medium-sized ball from the dough and roll it to the size of a poori.
- Place it on a hot tawa and roast it. Apply ghee on either side.
- Press the edges with a spatula. Cook well.
- Serve hot with butter or curd.
Recipe 2 – Sweet Pongal with Jaggery
- Rice – ½ cup
- Yellow Mung dal – ½ cup
- Jaggery (grated) – ½ cup
- Water – 3 cups
- Cashews (Chopped) – 4-5
- Raisins – 8-10
- Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
- Ghee – 1tbsp
- Dry roast the rice and mung dal in a pressure cooker till fragrant
- Add 2 1/2 cups of water and pressure cook for 3 whistles
- Dissolve jaggery in the remaining half cup of water and add to the cooked rice and dal mix along with cardamom powder
- Cook for a minute till creamy
- Heat ghee in a pan, fry the raisins and cashews till golden brown and add to the Pongal
- Serve hot
Jaggery has various health benefits. It is a natural sweetener and can be used in place of refined sugar. However, excess of anything is bad. Gur can definitely improve health if consumed in a regulated manner. The nutrients in it can increase immunity and consequently, can protect you from various diseases. According to the experts, a person should not consume more than 10 grams of jaggery/gur in a day.
Also, while enjoying that sweet piece of jaggery, do keep in mind that at the end of the day, it is also a form of sugar. Eating too much of it is not a good idea. Always buy good quality jaggery that contains more than 70% sucrose. So go ahead and enjoy this naturally sweet treat. Make different recipes, eat it, drink it or just smell it for that sugar rush!
Jaggery – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Can we replace sugar with jaggery?
A. Jaggery can be used as a substitute for refined sugar in preparing various sweet dishes and as additives to tea and coffee. Jaggery and refined sugar have the same caloric value. However, sugar is a simpler form of sucrose, whereas gur is made of sucrose, fibre and a longer chain of mineral salts.
Q. How much jaggery should one consume in a day?
A. 10- 15 grams of jaggery consumption on a daily basis is the recommended limit. It is a form of sugar. The immune system tends to get weaker with excessive sugar intake on a daily basis. Since gur is a complex form of sugar and is nutrient-dense, it contains several health benefits. However, moderation is the key to using gur.
Q. Is jaggery good for weight loss?
A. Jaggery contains antioxidants. It also helps to flush out toxins from the body. It improves digestion. Gur also contains potassium, which reduces water retention in the body. Therefore, gur can play a role in aiding weight loss, together with a controlled diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Q. How to store jaggery?
A. Ideally, Gur can be stored in a dry and airtight container. You can leave it at room temperature for 3 to 4 months. Storing it in a refrigerator will increase its life to 6 months. It is best to break the jaggery into small pieces before storing it. It makes it easier to use it as per your requirement. This avoids any contamination.
Q. What are the different types of jaggery?
A. There are three types of jaggery. Namely, sugarcane jaggery, date palm jaggery, and coconut palm jaggery. All three varieties are fit for consumption. They are packed with nutrients and vary only in terms of fructose and glucose.