Jaggery is an unrefined natural sweetener. Some people consider it a superfood, because it has more vitamins and minerals and a lower sucrose content than sugar. However, jaggery is still a type of sugar, and people should consume it in moderation.
Jaggery is a common product in Asia and Africa. It is made from the juices of palm trees or sugarcane and is growing in popularity as a replacement for white sugar. It is a staple in India, where people call it gur.
Jaggery contains some vitamins and minerals, making it comparatively healthier than white sugar. However, it is still a type of sugar, and consuming too much of it can have a negative impact on a person’s health.
This article will explore how manufacturers produce jaggery, what its nutrition profile and uses are, and whether it is better for health than sugar.
Unlike sugar, which has a granular texture, jaggery is generally formed into a semisolid mass.
Good quality jaggery contains around 70% sucrose. By contrast, white sugar contains 99.7% sucrose.
According to India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, more than 70% of the world’s jaggery comes from India, where people refer to it as “medicinal sugar.”
Jaggery is high in a variety of minerals and vitamins, and many people believe it treats a range of conditions.
Practitioners of Indian Ayurvedic medicine have been using jaggery for thousands of years.
- sucrose: 65–85 g
- fructose and glucose: 10–15 g
- protein: 280 milligrams (mg), or 5.6% daily value (DV)
- potassium: 1056mg, or 22.5% DV
- magnesium: 70–90 mg, or approximately 19% DV
- calcium: 40–100 mg, or approximately 5% DV
- manganese: 0.2–0.5 mg, or approximately 15% DV
- phosphorus: 20-90 mg, or approximately 5% DV
- iron: 11 mg, or 61% DV
- vitamin A: 3.8 mg, or 422% DV
- vitamin C: 7.0 mg, or 7.8% DV
- vitamin E: 111.30 mg, or 740% DV
It is of note, however, that these figures are for a 100 g serving, which is about 1/2 cup. Most individuals would eat much less sugar at one time, which would be closer to 1 teaspoon, or 7 g.
Jaggery is more chemically complex than sugar, and it consists of longer chains of sucrose.
It takes longer to digest and does not release energy as quickly as refined sugar. This makes it easier on the body.
Using jaggery in place of refined white sugar will add a minimal amount of extra nutrients into a person’s diet. However, a person should not add more jaggery to food just to boost their nutrient intake. It is better to get vitamins and minerals from less calorific sources.
Jaggery is a slightly better option than white sugar, but it still is a type of sugar, with many of the health drawbacks people associate with sugar consumption. Therefore, it is advisable to use jaggery in moderation.
Jaggery comes in a solid, liquid, or granular form.
To make jaggery, manufacturers produce juice by crushing one of several raw materials. These include:
- date palm
- palmyra palm
- coconut palm
First, manufacturers filter the juice to remove impurities. They then bring it to a boil in a pan.
Making liquid jaggery requires removing the boiling juice from the heat and adding citric acid. Then, liquid jaggery rests in bottles for 8–10 days.
To make solid and granular jaggery, manufacturers continuously stir the jaggery during heating and skim impurities from the top. Then, they use a wooden scrape to form the thickening slurry into grains for granular jaggery.
Making solid jaggery requires forming it into the desired shape, such as cubes or lumps, as the water boils away.
A person can use jaggery in a number of ways they would use sugar, including for cooking, baking, flavoring, and sweetening food and drinks.
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In some countries, people refer to jaggery as medicinal sugar and consume it to promote health and longer life span.
In India, one of the leading exporters of jaggery in the world, it is an important economic contributor. Rural sugarcane processors make their living producing jaggery. In 2019–2020, the nation brought in $227 million exporting jaggery and related products.
Unlike sugar, jaggery is rich in vitamins and minerals, which are crucial components of a balanced diet.
Researchers believe that the magnesium present in jaggery boosts nervous system function and that jaggery’s high iron content may protect against anemia.
A 2012 review of 46 academic papers found there may be a link between jaggery consumption and antitoxicity and cytoprotective effects, as well as anticariogenic effects. It also notes that consuming jaggery may strengthen the immune system and lower the risk of diabetes and hypertension. However, more research is necessary.
A recent review also notes that regular use of jaggery can:
- aid in digestion
- detox the liver and blood
- treat lung and bronchial infections
- relieve constipation
- increase energy levels
- relieve stress
- treat premenstrual syndrome
- have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties
It is worth noting that these claims are largely anecdotal, and little evidence-based research exists to support them.
Jaggery is a type of sugar, which
- cardiovascular disease
- nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- cognitive decline
- some types of cancer
It is advisable to moderate consumption of all sugars. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, a person should limit their daily intake of added sugar to less than 10% of total calories.
Jaggery is a staple in many countries throughout Africa and Asia.
Some people believe it has medicinal properties, although more research is necessary to conclusively prove these claims.
Jaggery does have some advantages over sugar, but it is not quite a healthy food item. It contains some important vitamins and minerals, but they are present in small quantities at the amounts of jaggery a person would normally consume.