BENEFITS OF JAGGERY
The benefits of jaggery include its ability to cleanse your body, act as a digestive agent, sweeten your food in a healthy manner, and provide good amounts of minerals. Before we go into the details of the benefits of jaggery, let me tell you that all good things do not come in nice, good-looking packages. This is true for foods as well, particularly when we talk about jaggery.
Most of you might not find its look very interesting or attractive as a food item, because the dark yellow color and its amorphous and sometimes gooey look is more than enough to keep some of you away. Of course, there are probably some daring dieters who say that jaggery’s color and appearance is far more appealing and interesting than that monotonous, white, crystalline sugar. After all, color is all around us, and one of the best parts of the visual experience of life! Live a little!
Jaggery often sticks to your hands and lips while eating, which can also be a nuisance. In Myanmar, the native country of jaggery, people don’t notice this, since they have been eating jaggery since childhood and it is a mouth watering sight for most of them. Furthermore, if you hear about the way it is manufactured and stored and the standards of hygiene there, you might never think of eating it, but it is far-far better than those frozen meats and so called hygienically packed food items with chemical preservatives in them that are stored for weeks or months before reaching the consumer. In fact, in some cases, the jaggery blocks may contain some particles of sand or ash that flies in from the oven, but I don’t think they are unhygienic in any way. We eat a multitude of dust and pollutants every day while we breathe and talk. Still doubtful? Well, let’s alleviate the rest of that doubt with the spectacular health benefits of jaggery.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF JAGGERY
SWEETENING AGENT: There are plenty of natural and artificial sweetening agents available on the market, with good old white sugar right at the top. However, almost all of them are just plain sweeteners. How nice would it be if such magnificent sweeteners could add some extra burst of taste as well? The answer to that question can be found by eating jaggery. The first benefit of jaggery is that it is a colorful, taste explosion when consumed, and secondly, it is a sweetener. You can experience the difference yourself. Taste plain sugar and jaggery one after another, and it will be very clear to you. That was only the sugar cane jaggery, a single flavor. Now you should taste the Date Palm Jaggery, Palmyra Jaggery, or one of the other flavors available.
ENERGY FOOD: We know that carbohydrates, consumed in our food, give us energy upon oxidation. The simpler the carbohydrate, the sooner the energy released. On one hand, this simplicity comes as a blessing for athletes and people suffering from serious fatigue because they need instantaneous energy and can find quick relief. Therefore, sugar and glucose is the proper carbohydrate for them, because they are very simple and are absorbed in the blood stream almost instantaneously to fill them with a sudden burst of energy.
But on the other hand, studies show and doctors advise that this sudden rise in sugar or energy level can be a major threat to the integrity of internal organs, particularly in the case of diabetics. In the long run, this may even give rise to diabetes, since the fluctuating sugar levels may affect the pancreas, to the point where the pancreas may lose its capacity to release large amounts of insulin at once to counter the quick increase in the body’s sugar level. This sudden uplift may cause severe damage to kidneys and eyes, can raise blood pressure, and create a number of other problems in the related organ systems. Jaggery is a more complex form of carbohydrate than plain sugar. When you eat jaggery, it is digested and absorbed gradually and releases energy over an extended period of time. This can provide the eater with warmth and energy for a more extended period without harming their internal organs.
JAGGERYDIGESTIVE AGENT: This may sound strange, but in India, it is recommended to take a few grams of jaggery after a heavy meal or after eating meat because it facilitates digestion. Jaggery activates the digestive enzymes and itself changes to acetic acid in the stomach, thereby speeding up digestion and making the process go very smooth, reducing strain on the intestines and digestive tract.
CLEANSING AGENT: You may not normally connect sweeteners and sugars with “cleansing the body”, but that is actually one of the well-proven benefits of jaggery. Jaggery effectively cleans the respiratory tracts, lungs, food pipe, stomach and intestines. It pulls out dust and unwanted particles from the body, while also giving relief from constipation, perhaps due to presence of fiber in it. Reducing constipation and stimulating the movement of the bowels further cleanses the body of the toxins which jaggery just cleaned out and prepared for excretion.
SOURCE OF MINERALS: Unlike sugar, jaggery is rich in minerals, mainly iron with traces of other mineral salts. While most of the iron in jaggery comes through its processing in iron vessels, the other minerals come directly from the sugar cane juice, since the juice does not undergo refinement or bleaching of any kind. Therefore, jaggery is a very good source of minerals for the body.
OTHER BENEFITS AND USES OF JAGGERY
JAGGERY SEASONING: Jaggery (sugar cane variety) is often used as a lining for the inner walls of earthen ovens and is meant for seasoning the materials cooked inside.
JAGGERY AS A BUILDING MATERIAL: Even a few decades ago, jaggery was in use (and still is in use in some places) as a building material, particularly in those places where cement was not readily available. It was mixed with lime, sand and clay and used as cement for joining bricks. Jaggery, which is predominantly sucrose, upon reacting with calcium carbonate in lime and silica in clay, forms strong bonds and became very hard on drying. Some examples of such buildings can still be seen in West Bengal and in other parts of India if they are still standing.
JAGGERY IN TOOTHPASTE: Low-quality jaggery, mixed with the dust of tobacco, is used as tooth paste in many parts of India. It is so widely used that government earns a handsome revenue out of it. It is very popular and very addictive at the same time. Some people, who appear to have nothing to do, can be seen rubbing this stuff on their teeth the whole day and night, very lazily. It is a common sight in villages. Suffice to say, this is not a healthy or good way to treat dental health, or to pass your free time. It is not recommended, as tobacco can be carcinogenic.
JAGGERY FOR CATTLE FEED: Jaggery of low-quality is often mixed with cattle-feed to add taste and make the cattle eat more. It also sweetens the milk of the cattle.
JAGGERY USED AS HUNTING BAIT: There are instances where jaggery has been used as bait for hunting wild animals. It is dumped in the open so wild animals will be attracted by its smell to taste it and fall prey to the hunters. Since jaggery contains salt, besides being sweet and having a strong aroma, animals like to lick it.
RELIGIOUS USAGE: Among Hindus, it is customary to take a bite of jaggery after attending a funeral, along with Margo leaves, crushed black pepper and to touch fire and iron, as it is said to purify. In some places, in certain religious ceremonies and rituals, small idols of jaggery, rice paste and turmeric are prepared and offered to local gods and goddesses.
JAGGERY AS FISH BAIT: Jaggery is also used as fish bait. Jaggery, mixed with a number of ingredients including ant eggs, ghee, edible oils, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder, mace, poppy seeds and a variety of other things, forms an excellent bait mixture. Fishes cannot resist its smell and are pulled to the gaming spot where the hooks are waiting!
In shoty, that is the story of jaggery. It seems so simple, yet so mysterious! There are innumerable fables and folk tales in which jaggery can be found.
In some cases, jaggery is less likely to give you a bad reaction to acidity when compared to normal white sugar. There is no good explanation for this, but this is frequently seen. Even doctors suggest switching to jaggery for sweetening purposes when someone is having an unexplainable acidic reaction.
Basically, it’s not too late! You should switch to jaggery today. Add it to your meals for a few days and feel the difference for yourself!
WHAT EXACTLY IS JAGGERY, ANYWAY?
Jaggery (pronounced jag-uh-reey) is a hugely popular sugar in South and Southeast Asia, but do you know exactly what it is? Why are Americans, who are always on the hunt for alternatives to refined white sugar, in the dark about this tasty, unrefined sugar? Slightly less sweet than maple syrup, a little thicker than honey and boasting a rich, brown sugar-like flavor, jaggery is worth getting to know. It’s like a cross between spicy molasses and buttery caramel. Interested yet?
Jaggery typically comes from the sap of palm trees, which might explain why it’s relatively unheard of in the United States. Palm trees grow in tropical environments, and unfortunately for us, most of the United States doesn’t quite count as tropical. There are many different kinds of palm trees, and jaggery can come from date palms, coconut palms or sago palms, Wise Geek explains. In Myanmar, jaggery is made from toddy palm trees. The sugar is tapped from the trees and can be boiled down to be used in a variety of ways, just like maple syrup.
Jaggery can also come from sugar cane juice. After sugar canes have been crushed to produce cane juice, the liquid is boiled down and reduced to make jaggery. (Boiling sugar cane is also how you make molasses.) Jaggery might be labelled according to type — whether it’s made from palm trees or sugar cane — but not necessarily. Cooks Info explains that because jaggery doesn’t require “expensive refining,” it can be produced by anyone, including small producers where labeling may not be used at all.
Whether it comes from palm tree sap or sugar cane juice, the boiled and reduced liquid is only the starting place for many different products. The syrup might be cooled and cut into candies, or mixed with ingredients like nuts or coconut. In Myanmar, it’s common to eat jaggery candies by themselves, or to roll the sticky syrup with tamarind into little balls that are then coated in sugar.
In addition to tasting delicious, jaggery is also said to have medicinal properties. According to The Washington Post, it “is used to treat respiratory infections” in Ayurvedic medicine. Because it is unrefined, it retains more of its vitamins and minerals than refined white sugar does, WiseGeek says. Purported health benefits aside, the subtly spicy, rich flavor of jaggery is enough motivation for us to seek out this Asian treasure.
A HEALTHY TWIST TO JAGGERY
Producers’ preference for synthetic additives as clarificants has also affected organic sugar cane growers.
Sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydrosulphite and phosphoric acid are some of the chemical clarificants that you would be consuming while you savour a nutritious jaggery recipe. The strange combination of healthy nutrients and harmful chemicals in jaggery is made by producers to please the consumers who have an eye for bright colours. An unmindful preference for light yellow-coloured jaggery has resulted in the indiscriminate use of chemical clarificants, much above the permissible level, during production. This practice not only makes this nutritious sweetener unhealthy, but also affects its taste and storability.
Producers’ preference for synthetic additives as clarificants has also affected organic sugar cane growers. “The struggle to get our turn at the alemane (jaggery-making unit) was more tedious than growing the crop organically,” says Sanganagouda Patil, a farmer in Mudhol taluk. He explains how difficult it was to persuade alemane owners to process sugar cane without chemicals. After all the effort, if they didn’t find a suitable market, they had to sell it at the regular market. But the situation has changed since 2013 thanks to the Organic Jaggery Technology Park, better known as Organic Jaggery Park, that has been set up in Mudhol.
This jaggery-processing unit is one of the three units — the other two are in Mandya and Sankeshwar — set up by a collaborative project, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), of the State and the Central Government in 2013. The main intention of the Park is to ensure hygienic, chemical-free processing of jaggery. “The unit works just like a mill. Farmers bring their sugar cane, pay a nominal fee and get it processed. Marketing is their responsibility,” says C P Chandrashekhar, head of the Park. But farmers know that it’s not just that. The Jaggery Park is supporting them in multiple ways. Be it creating a network of farmers, developing sugar cane varieties suitable for jaggery, or facilitating market linkage, the Jaggery Park has made a promising beginning.
The popularity of the Jaggery Park is the result of its continuous efforts to support better-quality jaggery production since the project was initiated in 2010. A team led by Chandrashekhar studied various jaggery-making units of Karnataka and Maharashtra and brought home solutions for most of the problems affecting the jaggery industry in the region. “We incorporated better technologies to ensure that the process is hygienic and efficient. This results in high-quality production,” says Chandrashekhar. They have installed fuel-efficient furnaces, designed by the scientists of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, which has reduced the fuel requirement considerably. The traditional belt-driven crusher is replaced by energy efficient gear-driven crusher. A four-stage filtering of the juice removes most of its impurities. The unit has state-of-the-art facilities like a roofed storage space for sugar cane, high-quality stainless steel pans and utensils, a hygienic store room for jaggery and a well-equipped lab. Natural lime, herbal clarificants like ladies finger mucilage and edible oil are used in the process, ensuring the safety of the product.
The Park has a storage space where farmers can keep the product and sell it as and when there is a demand. Preference is given to organic farmers. If the jaggery-processing unit is unoccupied, farmers who apply chemical inputs are allowed to access it. But the Park maintains its policy of chemical-free jaggery production. “There are three types of jaggery — chemical jaggery (chemical inputs are used at all stages), chemical-free jaggery (the crop is grown with chemical inputs while the processing is free of chemicals) and organic jaggery (free of chemical inputs at all stages),” explains Chandrashekhar.
CALORIES IN INDIAN JAGGERY
Nutrition Facts Indian – Jaggery
Sodium 27 mg
Total Fat 0 g
Potassium 453 mg
Saturated 0 g
Total Carbs 85 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Monounsaturated 0 g
Sugars 85 g
Trans 0 g
Protein 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.