Jaggery – The Unsung Hero in Indian Food
Summary – Jaggery, is known as ‘Gur’ in Hindi, ‘Sharkara’ in Malayalam, ‘Vellam’ in Tamil, ‘Gul’ in Marathi and ‘Bella’ in Kannada. Jaggery is a common offering to Gods in various parts of India. Jaggery is considered to be a healthy replacement for refined sugar. In some parts of India jaggery replaces sugar, as it is a cheaper alternative.
Jaggery is a traditional Indian sweetener and a staple in Indian households. Various sweet dishes are prepared using jaggery and offered as prasad or puja offerings. Since more and more people are getting conscious about replacing processed food items with naturally sourced food items or organic food, there is a renewed interest in jaggery and to include it in daily diet.
It is healthier than refined white sugar which is obtained mostly from raw and concentrated sugar cane juice. Sugar contains sulfur dioxide, phosphoric acid and bleaching agents, and therefore the nutritional value of sugarcane is reduced. Sugar contains the ominous empty calories dreaded by all.
On the other hand, jaggery contains various plant-based minerals and nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Jaggery is full of essential nutrients and has great health benefits. As per Ayurveda, jaggery should be consumed daily after meals as it improves digestion due to the heat (Ushna) it generates in the body.
How is Jaggery Prepared?
Juice Extraction – The first step in jaggery production involves the extraction of the juice.
- Juice Clarification – The extracted juice collects in a large tank, where it rests for a few minutes to let the impurities settle down. In addition, the juice is further clarified by boiling using lime (calcium hydroxide).
- Cooling – After the juice clarifies and reaches the perfect consistency, it is taken out of the fire. The hot jaggery syrup is transferred into wooden or aluminium moulds for cooling.
- Moulding – During the process of cooling, the jaggery also moulds itself into the shape of the pot it is transferred. Therefore, the shape of the solid jaggery may vary from round balls to square lumps.
- Storage – The cooled jaggery is then stored in wooden, metal or earthen pots. Moisture content should not exceed 6% to maintain the quality of the jaggery. Equally important to note, to improve the shelf life, one needs to store jaggery in air-tight containers.
Types of Jaggery
India produces 6.89 million tonnes of jaggery annually. Jaggery is mainly available in three forms, solid, liquid, and granular.
- Sugarcane Jaggery – This is the most common form of jaggery that is available across the country. It is prepared by boiling sugarcane juice and is very sweet in taste. The quality of the jaggery depends on the quality of the sugarcane. It comes in various colours from light golden yellow to dark chocolate brown.
- Date Palm Jaggery – It is made by boiling the sap of the date plant. It smells like dark chocolate and has a soft melt-in-mouth texture. It is a winter must-have in West Bengal.
- Palmyra Jaggery – This fruit looks like coconut but is much darker in colour. Palmyra Jaggery is prepared by boiling the sap of Palmyra palm. The jaggery is mostly off white to yellowish-white in colour. It is also a speciality from West Bengal.
- Toddy Palm Jaggery – This jaggery is made by boiling the sap of Toddy’s palm. Mostly golden brown in colour, this jaggery comes in solid form. It is a speciality of Myanmar.
- Coconut Jaggery – It is made by boiling the coconut sap. It is sold in pyramid shapes and is common in South India. It has a deep brown colour and is a part of many Goan delicacies.
Nutritional Facts of Jaggery
In comparison to white sugar, the nutrition content of jaggery is quite high due to the presence of molasses. Molasses is the by-product of the sugar-making process and is full of micronutrients. It is usually removed while making refined sugar.
100 grams of Jaggery may contain:
- Calories: 383
- Sucrose: 65–85 grams
- Fructose and glucose: 10–15 grams
- Protein: 0.4 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
- Iron: 11 mg, or 61% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 70-90 mg, or about 20% of the RDI
- Potassium: 1050 mg, or 30% of the RDI
- Manganese: 0.2–0.5 mg, or 10–20% of the RDI
However, one must keep in mind that the sugar content of jaggery is close to that of white sugar. Though jaggery is rich in nutrients and is a healthier substitute for white sugar, overconsumption of jaggery can be harmful.
10 Health Benefits of Jaggery
1. Prevents Constipation
Jaggery activates the digestive enzymes in our body. A small piece of jaggery consumed post meals can improve digestion, stimulate bowel movements and relieve constipation.
2. Blood Purifier
Jaggery has the ability to purify blood in the body. Hence, it cleanses the blood of any impurities and protects the body from diseases.
3. Detoxifies the Liver
Jaggery cleanses the body. It also cleanses the liver by flushing out all the harmful toxins from the body.
4. Boosts Immunity
Jaggery helps in improving the hemoglobin count in the blood. Furthermore, it is packed with antioxidants and nutrients like zinc and selenium. They boost immunity and fight infections.
5. Treats Cold and Flu
Jaggery is consumed in winters because it produces heat in the body. This heat-producing effect helps in treating mild colds and flu. Add a teaspoon of jaggery in tea or hot water and say goodbye to your flu.
6. Prevents Anaemia
Jaggery is rich in iron, which helps in maintaining the right hemoglobin count in the body. It is great for people suffering from anemia and even for pregnant women to maintain their red blood cell count.
7. Prevents Premenstrual Symptoms
Women suffer from premenstrual symptoms and they are hard to deal with. Jaggery is full of nutrients that effectively ease menstrual pain and symptoms. Daily consumption of jaggery leads to the release of endorphins in the body. Endorphins relax the muscles and prevent PMS.
8. Relieves Joint Pain
Jaggery consumed with hot milk or a piece of ginger helps in strengthening the bones. It also helps in preventing arthritis and joint pains.
9. Weight Loss
Eating a small piece of jaggery every day can aid in significant weight loss. Additionally, it also takes care of sugar cravings. Jaggery is rich in potassium, which helps in building muscles and boosting metabolism. So, jaggery also reduces water retention in the body and makes you slimmer.
10. Boosts Intestinal Health
Jaggery is rich in magnesium, which boosts intestinal strength. Eat a small piece of jaggery daily to keep your intestines healthy.
Healthy Recipes Using Jaggery
Jaggery is extremely beneficial for the body and is always a better alternative than refined sugar. Loaded with essential nutrients, it can help keep your body healthy and free from diseases. If you do not like eating raw jaggery, try these easy recipes using jaggery. They are super easy to make, take a few minutes to cook and are very healthy for your body.
Recipe 1 – Jaggery/Gur Roti
This is a very popular dish in North India.
Cooking Time – 20 minutes
Ingredients (For 6 small roti):
- Jaggery powder or grated jaggery – ½ cup
- Water – ⅛ cup or 2 tablespoons
- Whole wheat flour – 1 to 1.25 cups
- Fennel seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Ghee or any neutral flavoured oil – 1 tablespoon
- Ghee (clarified butter) as required, for roasting
- In a bowl, take ½-cup jaggery powder and ⅛ cup water. You can also use grated jaggery instead of jaggery powder.
- Mix well and keep aside for 30 to 45 minutes or until all the jaggery dissolves.
- In another bowl or pan, take 1 to 1.25 cups of whole-wheat flour. Also, add 1-teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf) and 1-tablespoon ghee. Mix well.
- Then begin to knead and make a smooth dough. The dough will be slightly sticky due to the jaggery in it. If the dough looks wet, then you can add some more whole-wheat flour and knead.
- Take a medium-sized ball from the dough and roll it to the size of a poori.
- Place it on a hot tawa and roast it. Apply ghee on either side.
- Press the edges with a spatula. Cook well.
- Serve hot with butter or curd.
Recipe 2 – Sweet Pongal with Jaggery
- Rice – ½ cup
- Yellow Mung dal – ½ cup
- Jaggery (grated) – ½ cup
- Water – 3 cups
- Cashews (Chopped) – 4-5
- Raisins – 8-10
- Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
- Ghee – 1tbsp
- Dry roast the rice and mung dal in a pressure cooker till fragrant
- Add 2 1/2 cups of water and pressure cook for 3 whistles
- Dissolve jaggery in the remaining half cup of water and add to the cooked rice and dal mix along with cardamom powder
- Cook for a minute till creamy
- Heat ghee in a pan, fry the raisins and cashews till golden brown and add to the Pongal
- Serve hot
Jaggery has various health benefits. It is a natural sweetener and can be used in place of refined sugar. However, excess of anything is bad. Gur can definitely improve health if consumed in a regulated manner. The nutrients in it can increase immunity and consequently, can protect you from various diseases. According to the experts, a person should not consume more than 10 grams of jaggery/gur in a day.
Also, while enjoying that sweet piece of jaggery, do keep in mind that at the end of the day, it is also a form of sugar. Eating too much of it is not a good idea. Always buy good quality jaggery that contains more than 70% sucrose. So go ahead and enjoy this naturally sweet treat. Make different recipes, eat it, drink it or just smell it for that sugar rush!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Jaggery can be used as a substitute for refined sugar in preparing various sweet dishes and as additives to tea and coffee. Jaggery and refined sugar have the same caloric value. However, sugar is a simpler form of sucrose, whereas gur is made of sucrose, fibre and a longer chain of mineral salts.
A. 10- 15 grams of jaggery consumption on a daily basis is the recommended limit. It is a form of sugar. The immune system tends to get weaker with excessive sugar intake on a daily basis. Since gur is a complex form of sugar and is nutrient-dense, it contains several health benefits. However, moderation is the key to using gur.
A. Jaggery contains antioxidants. It also helps to flush out toxins from the body. It improves digestion. Gur also contains potassium, which reduces water retention in the body. Therefore, gur can play a role in aiding weight loss, together with a controlled diet and a healthy lifestyle.
A. Ideally, Gur can be stored in a dry and airtight container. You can leave it at room temperature for 3 to 4 months. Storing it in a refrigerator will increase its life to 6 months. It is best to break the jaggery into small pieces before storing it. It makes it easier to use it as per your requirement. This avoids any contamination.
A. There are three types of jaggery. Namely, sugarcane jaggery, date palm jaggery, and coconut palm jaggery. All three varieties are fit for consumption. They are packed with nutrients and vary only in terms of fructose and glucose.
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