Jaggery is an unrefined natural sweetener that has been used in Indian cuisine for thousands of years. It is obtained by boiling raw, concentrated sugarcane juice or date palm sap until it solidifies.
Compared to refined sugar, jaggery is far more nutritious and has many health benefits. Here are 15 science-backed reasons why you should include this tasty food in your diet.
What is Jaggery?
Jaggery, also known as gur or bellam, is a traditional form of raw, concentrated sugar syrup. It contains sucrose, along with other nutrients.
Jaggery is made by boiling raw, untreated sugarcane juice or palm sap in iron pans. The liquid is boiled continuously for several hours as water evaporates, leaving behind a thick, syrupy paste. This paste is then transferred to molds and left to cool and solidify into jaggery blocks or cubes.
Jaggery can range in color from golden brown to dark brown. It contains up to 50% sucrose, up to 20% inverted sugars, and up to 20% moisture, with the remainder made up of other insoluble matter, such as ash, proteins, and bagasse fibers.
Nutrition Facts of Jaggery
Here is the nutrition value per 100g of jaggery:
- Calories: 383
- Total fat: 0.1g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 76mg
- Potassium: 1056mg
- Total carbs: 97.3g
- Sugars: 87g
- Protein: 0.4g
Jaggery is loaded with minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, copper, vitamins like folate, and various B vitamins. It contains more nutrients than refined white sugar due to its molasses content.
Jaggery vs. Sugar
So, should you replace refined sugar with jaggery? Here is a comparison:
- Source: Jaggery is unrefined and made from sugarcane juice or palm sap. Sugar is highly refined and processed from sugarcane or beetroots.
- Processing: Jaggery is not processed or bleached, retains molasses, and has some impurities. Sugar undergoes multiple refining and bleaching steps.
- Glycemic index: Jaggery has a lower GI of 43 compared to sugar, which has a GI of 60. This means jaggery raises blood sugar levels slower than refined sugar.
- Calories: One tablespoon of jaggery has 56 calories, similar to white sugar’s 45 calories. So, calorie-wise, they are comparable.
- Nutrition: Jaggery retains minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins. Sugars are calorie sources alone due to refining.
So, jaggery is marginally healthier, especially for its ability to release sugar slowly into the bloodstream. But it should also be had in moderation.
Jaggery vs. Honey vs. Brown Sugar
How does jaggery compare to other natural sweeteners like honey and brown sugar?
- Honey : is high in minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium but contains slightly more calories and sugar than jaggery. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Brown sugar : is white sugar with some molasses added back for flavor and color. It has a slightly higher nutritional value than refined sugar due to the molasses but is lower than jaggery.
- Jaggery : has more nutrients than brown sugar due to its higher molasses content. It has a slightly lower glycemic index than honey and comparable calories. However, love has more proven medicinal properties.
Overall, jaggery and honey have some similarities in their nutrition profiles, and both are healthier than refined white or brown sugar.
Is Jaggery Good for Weight Loss?
Jaggery is sometimes touted as a weight-loss food. But does it really help you lose weight?
Unfortunately, no direct evidence proves jaggery or gur helps with weight loss. This is because:
- It is calorically dense and high in sugars, just like refined sugar. 100g provides 383 calories, which is comparable to sugar.
- It has a moderately high glycemic index of 43, which can spike blood sugars faster than low-GI foods like whole fruits and vegetables.
- Overconsuming any form of sugar, even natural ones like jaggery can lead to weight gain.
- However, in moderation, jaggery may assist weight loss indirectly due to its other benefits:
- Its iron content improves hemoglobin levels, which boosts metabolism and exercise performance needed for fat burning.
- It enhances digestion, which promotes gut health and healthy bowel movements, which are important for weight management.
- Its magnesium content relaxes muscles and helps muscles retain water, reducing bloating.
- So enjoy jaggery in small amounts as part of a balanced diet for any potential weight loss benefits. Avoid excessive consumption, though.
15 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Jaggery
- Prevents Respiratory Problems : Jaggery soothes inflamed airways and throat irritation. It reduces coughing reflexes by coating the throat with a thin mucous layer. Its magnesium and potassium relax bronchial muscles to improve breathing. Jaggery also increases immunity against respiratory tract infections.
- Detoxifies the Liver : The nutrients in jaggery purge the liver of toxins, ensuring healthy liver function. It is crucial because the liver filters out disease-causing agents. Jaggery’s potassium stimulates the liver to optimize enzyme and bile secretion needed for detoxification. It’s magnesium and zinc boosts antioxidant enzymes that neutralize free radicals.
- Treats Cold and Cough : Jaggery is an excellent natural remedy for cold, cough, and flu symptoms. It is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Consuming jaggery tea or jaggery powder mixed with warm water provides relief from cough and cold in children and adults. It reduces phlegm production, lubricates the throat, and boosts immunity against the common cold.
- Boosts Intestinal Health : Jaggery acts as a prebiotic that boosts intestinal health and digestion. Its magnesium and zinc content relax smooth intestinal muscles, easing constipation and bloating. The minerals in jaggery also ensure the proper functioning of digestive enzymes. It helps in the assimilation of nutrients from food.
- Prevents Anemia : Jaggery is one of the best plant-based sources of iron. One hundred grams of jaggery provides 11 mg of iron, meeting more than half your daily requirement. Adequate iron intake prevents anemia, which is characterized by fatigue, lethargy, and low immunity. Jaggery’s iron content improves hemoglobin levels in the blood, ensuring oxygenation.
- Purifies Blood : Jaggery is an excellent blood purifier due to its high mineral and phytochemical content. It cleans the blood of toxins and impurities. The zinc in jaggery boosts red blood cell production and prevents disorders like anemia and jaundice. It helps maintain a healthy RBC count.
- Prevents Menstrual Problems : Jaggery is a boon for women owing to its ability to prevent menstrual problems. It reduces abdominal cramps, bloating, mood swings, and other PMS symptoms. Jaggery also relieves period pain or dysmenorrhea due to its antispasmodic action.
- Boosts Immunity : Jaggery has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help prevent infections and boost resistance to diseases. It increases immunity by raising hemoglobin and RBC levels in the blood. The zinc in jaggery regulates immune cell function. All this helps build a strong immune system.
- Maintains Acid-Base Balance : Jaggery contains many essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus that help maintain optimum pH levels. This acid-base homeostasis in the body boosts metabolism, enzyme function, and overall health. Imbalances can lead to bone loss and muscle loss.
- Promotes Bone Health : The phosphorus and calcium content in jaggery strengthens bones and teeth. Phosphorus improves bone mineral density and prevents osteoporosis and fractures. Women after menopause are advised to include jaggery in their diet for its bone health benefits. It also helps prevent tooth decay.
- Relieves Joint Pain : Jaggery has been used traditionally to treat joint aches and pains. It contains minerals like zinc, selenium, and magnesium that support bone and muscle health. Magnesium relaxes muscles and prevents cramps and spasms. The antioxidants in jaggery also help relieve inflammation and arthritis symptoms.
- Cleanses the Body : Jaggery is a cleansing agent for the body with its diuretic action. The zinc in it regulates the proper secretion of digestive enzymes needed for digestion. It allows the body to absorb nutrients effectively and expel more toxins and wastes through urine. So, jaggery acts as a natural body cleanser.
- Prevents Urinary Tract Problems : The diuretic effect of jaggery helps treat burning sensation and discomfort during urination. It soothes inflammation in the bladder and urinary tract. Jaggery’s minerals prevent acid crystallization in urine, which causes pain. Its magnesium and potassium content relax bladder muscles, too.
- Improves Skin Quality : The nutrients in jaggery nourish the skin and keep it healthy. Its zinc content prevents acne and pimples by regulating oil gland function. Jaggery’s nutrients improve collagen production, preventing premature aging. It acts as a natural exfoliant to deeply cleanse skin.
- Reduces Water Retention: Jaggery reduces swelling and puffiness caused due to water retention in the body. This alleviates edema in the hands and feet. The potassium in jaggery acts as a natural diuretic, promoting urination and removal of excess fluids. This helps reduce belatedness.
Is Jaggery Safe to Eat Daily?
Jaggery can be eaten daily but in moderation. Consuming about 10-20g of jaggery per day avoids any risks and provides its nutrients and health benefits.
Here are some precautions for eating jaggery daily:
- Drink plenty of water to counter any diuretic effects.
- Brush teeth after eating it to prevent tooth decay.
- Avoid it at night since its sugars may impair sleep.
- Monitor blood sugar levels if diabetic or on a weight loss diet.
- Purchase high-quality, store-bought jaggery or ensure any homemade preparation follows hygienic practices.
Also, check for any allergic symptoms since some people may be sensitive to jaggery. But overall, having 1-2 tbsp of it daily is safe and healthy.
Potential Side Effects of Excess Jaggery Consumption
While nutritious in moderation, excessive jaggery consumption can cause some side effects:
- Weight gain: Its calories and sugars contribute to weight gain if eaten in high amounts.
- Blood sugar spikes: Jaggery has a high glycemic index, so overeating may raise blood sugar.
- Dental cavities: Jaggery is sticky and sugary, so it may damage tooth enamel and cause cavities if consumed frequently.
- Gas and bloating: Too much jaggery may cause gas, flatulence, or abdominal discomfort.
- Laxative effects: Excess consumption may cause diarrhea or loose stools.
Therefore, jaggery should be limited to about 10-20g per day. Also, rinse your mouth after eating it and drink plenty of water to prevent any adverse effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Is it good to eat jaggery daily?
Yes, eating 10-20g of jaggery per day provides minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that benefit health. In moderation, it is safe and even recommended to eat daily.
2) How is jaggery harmful?
Excess jaggery may spike blood sugar levels and cause weight gain, dental problems, diarrhea, or gas. But in moderate amounts, it is completely safe to eat daily.
3) Does jaggery gain weight?
Jaggery is high in calories like sugar. Consuming too much jaggery in a day can certainly lead to weight gain or make weight loss harder. Limit intake to 10-20g daily.
4) How much jaggery is safe per day?
About 10-20g or 1-2 tbsp per day is a safe and healthy amount of jaggery that provides its benefits without any drawbacks. Consuming this moderate quantity ensures jaggery is good for health.
5) Is jaggery better than honey?
Jaggery and honey both have similar nutrition profiles and health benefits. Honey has more proven medicinal properties, though. So, love may be slightly healthier, but both can be included in moderation.
6) Which vitamin is in jaggery?
Jaggery contains minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. It also provides vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K.
7) Can jaggery reduce belly fat?
There is no direct evidence that jaggery alone helps reduce belly fat. But as a part of a healthy diet, it may assist in weight loss by providing energy and minerals and improving digestion. It can contribute to overall fat loss.
8) Does jaggery contain vitamin C?
Yes, 100g jaggery provides about 11 mg of vitamin C, meeting 11% of our daily needs. Its vitamin C content boosts immunity.
9) Can we drink jaggery water at night?
Avoid drinking jaggery water at night since its sugars may interrupt sleep cycles. Have it in the mornings or post-lunch instead.
10) Is jaggery good for weight loss?
Jaggery alone may not aid weight loss, but as part of a balanced diet, it provides energy and nutrition for exercise and boosts metabolism through its minerals – all of which contribute to managing a healthy weight.
11) Is jaggery good for the skin?
Yes, jaggery improves skin quality and appearance due to its zinc, antioxidants, and vitamins. It prevents acne, pimples, and wrinkles. It also deeply cleanses and exfoliates skin.
12) Is jaggery good after dinner?
Avoid eating jaggery after dinner, as its sugars may delay digestion. It is best had in the mornings or mid-afternoon, followed by a glass of water.
13) Why does jaggery turn black?
Jaggery turns black naturally over time due to a chemical reaction between its chlorine and iron content when exposed to moisture. Newly-made jaggery is golden brown, while older jaggery becomes black. The dark color alone does not make it unsafe for consumption.
The Bottom Line
Jaggery is a nutritious alternative to refined sugar with minerals, antioxidants, and other medicinal properties. When consumed in moderation, just 10-20g daily, it can provide many health benefits ranging from increased immunity and lung health to better digestion and purification of blood. Include this natural sweetener as part of a balanced diet to experience its wholesome goodness.