Jaggery may be popular as a sweetening agent but only few people are aware of its numerous health benefits and medicinal uses. It is made from cane juice, date or palm sap and is the concentrated product that contains crystals and molasses. Jaggery can vary in color from golden brown to very dark brown and contains mainly sugars such as sucrose (50%), invert sugars like glucose and fructose (20%) and moisture (20%). Despite its harsh and unappealing appearance, jaggery adds sweetness to dishes and is also highly beneficial for your health.
Nutritional value of jaggery
Jaggery is unrefined and pure whole sugar that contains high percentages of sucrose, fructose and glucose. As such it is high in calories. A 100g serving of jaggery provides around 308Kcal. It is rich in various minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, chromium, selenium and zinc. The advantage of consuming jaggery is that it is low in fat and sodium content. Other nutrients in jaggery include B complex vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin.
Health Benefits of Jaggery
Jaggery may not be an attractive food item, but the nutritional and health benefits it provides is definitely attractive and striking. Unlike sugar, jaggery contains several vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. Given below are a few of the health benefits of this sweet food.
Skin benefit of Jaggery
Jaggery is found to be beneficial for the skin. Eating jaggery helps in getting rid of acne and pimples, making your skin smooth, healthy and flawless.
Jaggery as antioxidant
Jaggery contains antioxidants that fights off free radicals and protects your cells from the damage caused by these free radicals. This helps in delaying the aging process.
Jaggery – quick energy
If you are experiencing fatigue and exhaustion, have a piece of jaggery. It helps in providing energy for an extended period of time. Since it is digested and absorbed slowly, jaggery does not cause sudden increase in the blood sugar levels.
Jaggery improves digestion
Jaggery speeds up the digestion process by activating digestive enzymes that aid the process. Since it is a cleansing agent, it helps in removing the various toxins, thus preventing digestive problems like constipation and indigestion. Having a small piece of jaggery after meals is a great way to improve digestion.
Jaggery as a cleansing agent
How can a food be sweetening agent and cleansing agent at same time? Yes, Jaggery serves as an effective cleansing agent because of the presence of fiber and antioxidants in it. It helps in cleansing the esophagus, respiratory tracts, lungs, and intestines. Fibers helps bowel movements and block absorption of toxins in intestine. Jaggery has the ability to purify blood.
Regulate blood pressure with jaggery
Jaggery contains high levels of potassium that helps in lowering blood pressure by neutralizing the effects of sodium.
Jaggery and anemia
Jaggery is a rich source of iron which helps in the production of red blood cells, thereby preventing anemia.
Benefits of Jaggery for lungs
According to Ayurvedic medicine, jaggery helps in protecting your lungs and is effective in treating infections of the throat and lungs. It has anti-allergic properties and hence is beneficial for people suffering from asthma. Jaggery helps in expelling phlegm, thus providing relief from cough and cold.
Jaggery for headaches
Eating jaggery is found to help in reducing the frequency of occurrence of migraine attacks.
Jaggery maintains acid balance
Being a rich source of potassium, jaggery helps in maintaining the acid balance in your body and hence is an effective remedy for gas and acidity.
Jaggery for bile disorders
Jaggery has been found to be a good remedy for bile disorders and hence is considered to be helpful in treating jaundice.
Weight loss and Jaggery
The high potassium content in jaggery helps in reducing water retention in your body, thus helping in controlling weight.
Jaggery improves bone health
Jaggery contains minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, all of which contributes to bone health. It promotes the growth and development of bones and also strengthens your bones.
Some remedies using jaggery
Here are some specific uses of jaggery for curing various health conditions:
- Jaggery for reducing acidity – After a meal, keep a small piece of jaggery in your mouth and suck on it slowly. You can see that the acidity begins to subside very quickly. This effect is due to the high levels of potassium in jaggery that works to maintain the acid balance in your stomach.
- Jaggery and ginger for reducing inflammation – Extract the juice from a small piece of ginger (10 grams). To this add about 5 grams of jaggery and take this mixture once or twice a day to get relief from pain, swelling and inflammation.
- Jaggery and small onions for anemia – A combination of jaggery and small onions is often recommended for anemic patients because this combination has been found to increase the blood cells. Since it increases the platelet count, this mixture may be effective in treating dengue fever, a disease characterized by low platelet count as it reaches the serious stage.
- Jaggery for asthma – Jaggery, with its anti-allergic properties is an effective remedy for asthma. Mix together 5 teaspoons of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of butter and a small piece of jaggery and have this mixture 3 or 4 times a day to get relief from acute asthma.
- Jaggery for reducing cough – Jaggery together with ginger powder is a great remedy to reduce phlegm, which in turn helps in getting relief from cough and wheezing.
- Jaggery for easing gas and indigestion – Eating crushed jaggery with powdered black pepper helps in digestion by increasing the secretion of saliva and gastric juices. It is an effective remedy for indigestion, acidity and bloating.
- Jaggery offers relief from migraine headaches – Grind together ½ teaspoon of jaggery and ½ teaspoon of sesame seeds. Add a few drops of milk to this mixture to make a fine paste. Apply this paste on your forehead whenever you have headaches and you will find immense relief from your pain.
- Jaggery for common cold – Mix together 1 teaspoon of powdered jaggery with 2 teaspoons of basil leaves’ juice in ½ cup of warm water and drink slowly. This provides great relief from cold.
- Jaggery for menstrual problems – Eating small piece of jaggery regularly with a glass of water, in empty stomach is helpful in relieving menstrual problems.
- Jaggery as Toothpaste – Some parts in India uses home made jaggery as toothpaste. It is made from jaggery mixed with tobacco dust. However no scientific evidence is found in its use as toothpaste. Possibly it is used just as carrier or reduce tobacco flavor.
Other uses of jaggery
In addition to its health benefits, jaggery is useful in many other ways as well. It is used as a sweetening agent in both desserts and savory dishes. Jaggery, when mixed with lime, clay and sand becomes very hard on drying and hence has been used as a building material. Another use of jaggery is as a cattle feed. It is mixed with cattle feed to sweeten the food so that the cattle is attracted to the taste and eats more. Jaggery is also used as a hunting bait and fishing bait to attract wild animals and fish. Jaggery is also considered as poor man’s dessert. Indian Hindus consume jaggery along with basil leaf when you start new work or assignment in India.
Some healthy recipes with jaggery you may try
Amaranth and jaggery ladoo
A healthy snack and often eaten on fasting day in India. It offer good source of fiber and energy. Roast 100 grams of amaranth seeds in heavy bottom pan. Cover the pan while they are roasted and heat till all seeds are popped. Boil a cup of water and 2 cups of jaggery in a separate pan until jaggery is dissolved. Heat this syrup till it boils. To check if the syrup is ready, just take some sample of syrup onto your thumb and press it with index finger. As you pull your fingers apart you should see one or two threads. Be careful that you don’t burn your fingers. Stop heating syrup when you find single threaded syrup. Mix amaranth seed with jaggery syrup. Mix quickly and thoroughly. Once mixture is little cold, make small balls or laddoo and allow them to cool. You can allow the mixture to take any other shape using some die. Once set, you would get crunch amaranth laddoos. These laddoos stay well for couple of day. However jaggery is hygroscopic – it absorbs moisture from air and so these laddoos turn soft in humid environment. You may also mix some roasted groundnut or cashew to these laddoos.
Jaggery is considered to be the closest replacement to white sugar and is very healthy too. It is widely used in many cuisines and also in various Ayurvedic medicines. Jaggery is often referred to as medicinal sugar owing to its benefits in promoting health and curing ailments. Making it a part of your regular diet not only provides you with energy, but also with some of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function at its optimum.Image Credits: RK Industries, Mahek - love4cooking