When given an option to choose between refined sugar and unrefined form of sugar – jaggery, which one would you opt for and why?
Sugar in any form is carbohydrates which when broken down by the body is converted to glucose. This provides energy to the body but the effects it causes depend on the natural or the refined form of sugar you are consuming. Natural sugar like fructose is found in fruits and lactose is found in milk and milk products. These sugars are important for the body as they give essential nutrients to the body and also help the prevention of certain diseases, especially cancer. However, the refined sugars are the more notorious one.
Refined sugars are processed from sugarcane and are in the form of sucrose which is a combination of fructose and glucose. This form of sugar available as white and brown sugar is widely used to sweeten our day to day food. Since the consumption is so high there is an addition of chemically manufactured sugar to food items like yoghurt, salad dressings, low-fat foods, biscuits, cookies, muffins, tomato sauce, processed foods and many more. Refined sugars are a slow poison and provide only empty calories. Constant use also leads to health issues like obesity and diabetes.
Jaggery, on the other hand, is an unrefined and non-distilled form of sugar. This is made from the sap of the plants like sugar cane, palm and date palm. It is also termed as non-centrifugal sugar because during its processing it is not spun and the nutritious content is intact. Jaggery is widely made in the Asian countries, with India producing almost 70% of the world’s production.
When compared with refined sugar, jaggery does not have empty calories. Half a cup, approximately 100 grams of jaggery contains:
- Calories: 383
- Fructose and glucose: 10-15 grams
- Sucrose: 65- 85 grams
- Fat: 0.1 Grams
- Protein: 0.4 grams
- Iron: 0.5 mg
- Potassium: 48 mg / 1 Tsp
- Calcium: 4-5 mg / 1 Tsp
- Magnesium: 48 mg / 1 Tsp
- Manganese: 0.2–0.5 mg
- Small amounts of minerals and vitamin B
While the same amount of sugar (100 grams) contains only 400 grams of calories which are often considered as empty calories. Other than calories it is not believed to have any nutritive value. The sucrose chains are longer in jaggery and far more complex. Thus it is digested slowly and also there is not an instant rush of energy since the energy is released slowly and for a longer time.
Since the nutritional content of jaggery is high it can be included in a child’s diet but mind you in moderation. Her are a few beneficial effects it has on children and adults as well:
Helps in Digestion: Eating jaggery helps to activate the digestive enzymes. These enzymes aid in digestion. Eating small pieces of gur after a meal stimulate the bowel movements and prevent from flatulence and bloating. Jaggery also helps to overcome constipation which is very common in children.
Prevents Anaemia: Children are usually fussy eaters. This often leads to a poor diet and they miss out on the daily requiremt of some essential minerals and vitamins. The most common anaemia in children is iron deficieny anaemia due to a poor diet or excessive loss of iron from the body. Just include a little jaggery in your child’s diet and you can be assured that they are getting their iron dose. How jaggery exactly helps … when jaggery or gur is made, the sugarcane juice is boiled in an iron wok till it solidifies. This gives jaggery the fullness of iron.
Cleanses the Liver: Ever wondered why jaggery is used as an important ingredient in most of the Ayurvedic medicines. This is because it helps flushes out the harmful toxins from the body , thereby cleansing the liver. Jaggery is also considered as a liver tonic.
Strengthens Immunity: Children at each stage need to have a strong immunity. This helps their body to fight against infections. A strong immunity is very much the demand of weather change. During weather change, a child can easily fally ill with the waxing and weaning of the temperature. Give some jaggery as it helps to strengthen the immune system since it is loaded with the goodness of minerals like selenium, zinc and antioxidants. These help to increase the body’s resistance and bulid immunity.
These are just a few from the many benefits of jaggery. It helps to keep the stomach cool in the summers, while it helps to relief cold and cough in winters. Not only this it is packed with calcium and strengthens the bones and teeth. So what are you waiting for, go ahead and replace your sugar with jaggery, but while doing this do keep in mind that you use jaggery in moderation as excess of everything is bad 🙂