Jaggery and its Health Benefits

Jaggery is an unrefined sugar which is commonly used in India, Africa, the Carribean and Latin America. It is an Indian name for unrefined sugar. It is also known as Gaur, Bellam, Bella, Gur and Gul.

Jaggery is manufactured from sugarcane, date palms or from the sap of the coconut and sago palms. It is made by boiling raw sugarcane or palm juice in iron pans. Afterwards, it is formed or made into blocks.

Unlike refined sugar, jaggery does not go through additional processing, therefore it retains some natural vitamins and minerals. However, as a result of the boiling process, some of the vitamins and minerals are depleted.

Even though both of them, refined sugar and jaggery, originate from the same source, that is sugarcane, there are a lot of differences between the two.. Refined sugar is white in color, whereas jaggery, depending on the base ingredient and to what extent the jaggery has been cooked, can vary from golden-yellow to golden-brown or dark brown.

Another difference is the texture. Refined sugar is in the form of crystals, which are solid and hard, as opposed to jaggery, which is semi-solid and soft. It is also amorphous, meaning it does not have a well-defined shape or form. It has no specific or definite shape. The reason it is softer and lacks definite shape (considering it is sticky and can stick on the fingers and lips) is because impurities and molasses are not removed during the the manufacturing process. This is not the case with refined sugar.

Health benefits of jaggery

Jaggery has a lot of health benefits as opposed to sugar. The following are the three benefits of jaggery.

a) Cleansing agent

Jaggery helps in cleansing respiratory tracts, esophagus, lungs, stomach and intestines. As stated by Organicfacts in the article titled ‘The Benefits of Jaggery,’ “It pulls out dust and unwanted particles from the body. It also helps in giving relief from constipation, perhaps due to the presence of fiber in it.”

b) Rich in minerals

Jaggery is rich in minerals as opposed to refined sugar. It is very rich in iron since it is processed in iron vessels. Apart from iron, other minerals come from the juice of sugarcane. Considering it does not undergo refining it retains most, or a large percentage, of minerals and vitamins. “Since no preservatives or chemicals are added to it during its preparation and also because it is made in iron vessels and retains a large amount of the element, it is thought to be far more nutritious than refined sugar,” states About.com article ‘Gud-Jaggery.’

c) Eases digestion

As noted by Organicfacts, in India it is recommended that a few grams of jaggery be taken after a heavy meal or after eating meat. This is because it helps digestion. “What happens is that jaggery activates the digestive enzymes and itself changes to acetic acid in the stomach. This speeds up digestion.”

As a result of its health benefits, coupled with sweetness, jaggery is used in cooking and can be added to savory dishes. Jaggery is found in block forms so it can be eaten alone in small pieces as a dessert.

Jaggery also contains a high quantity of protein wjhich does have its disadvantage. It is high in carbohydrates and fats. It is sugar, after all, therefore having it all the time can lead to obesity and diabetes. It should be taken in moderation especially by diabetics.