Jaggery, that quintessential sweetener in Indian kitchens is an integral part of our cuisine, irrespective of the region and is a must-have in both sweet and savoury items. Though jaggery made from sugarcane has been quite popular for thousands of years, these days palm jaggery made from toddy palm trees is occupying an equal place in daily diet.
Jaggery or palm jaggery, be it from sugarcane juice or palm juice is considered healthier than refined sugar owing to its various therapeutic properties. Both forms of jaggery are used extensively in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan. This natural sweetener is a unique mix of sucrose, invert sugars and other residual components like wood ash, proteins, bagasse fibre besides good amount of moisture. Known as gur, in Hindi, bellam in Telugu, Vellam in Tamil, Bella in Kannada, Sharkara in Malayalam and Gul in Marathi, is in fact nothing but unrefined sugar that is available in the forms of semi solid rocks or powder.
In India, Maharashtra is the largest producer of jaggery followed by Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where conventional methods are still in use while producing it. Kolhapur in Maharashtra not only produces jaggery at a larger scale but also achieved GI tag for the same.
How Is Jaggery Made?
For many generations, this amazing sweetener was produced by crushing juice out of sugarcane either with the help oxen-driven crushers or electric juice crushers. The juice is then collected into large vessels. The farmers would then transfer required amount of juice into the smaller vessel and heat it on the furnace lit by the dried wood.
Once the juice reaches a boiling point, lime is added to clear impurities like wood that would float on to the top, to be collected. The juice thickens, turns gold and when stirred continuously starts forming into threads. It is then poured into shallow, flat bottomed vessel for allowing it to cool down completely. After it reaches room temperature, it forms into semi-solid consistency and is then moulded into desired shapes like square or round blocks.
How To Know The Purity Of Jaggery?
Well, jaggery can contain certain impurities giving it a saltier taste. Brown coloured jaggery may contain impure particles in large amounts whereas golden hue indicates more purity.
Gur In Ayurveda?
The mention of gur or jaggery is found in ancient Ayurvedic texts and is an important component in Ayurvedic medicines, especially those made in the liquid forms – Arishtas and Asavas. Ayurvedic text Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana explains that regular consumption of washed and cleaned jaggery decreases Kapha dosha and serves as a diuretic.
Unrefined jaggery on other hand balances vata and pitta doshas besides serving as a natural blood purifier, boosting strength and works as an aphrodisiac. Dhauta guda or washed jaggery flushes out toxins and balances pitta doshas.
However, Ayurvedic practitioners strongly recommend using old jaggery – which is at least one year old for promoting digestion, cleansing gastrointestinal tract, urinary bladder, boost heart function and beat anaemia. The sweetener in the liquid form is known as dhauta and this treacle exudes different properties in different forms.
For instance, dhauta in the form of crude sugar is known as Matsyandika whereas it is called as Khanda in the form of sugar candy and sugar when refined. Sugar in fact is the coldest variety of jaggery.
Jaggery In Ayurvedic Medicines:
Gur is the main component in various ayurvedic medicines, especially in those that are available in the form of tonics and jams (lehyams). In Asava and Arishtas, it is substituted for sugar and is usually mixed with yeast for proper fermentation. Sometimes, jaggery and lime are mixed to seal the vessel mouths where medicines are preserved to prevent the air from getting in.
Is Jaggery Better Than Sugar?
If there is one question, that is constantly asked by the weight watchers, diabetics is if jaggery can be substituted with sugar. Gur can of course be taken in the place of sugar and these days it is not uncommon to get coffees, teas, juices and other beverages mixed with sugarcane jaggery or palm jaggery powder instead of refined sugar. Jaggery is an amazing source of iron with a whopping amount of 11 mg for every 100 grams and meets 61% of daily recommended intake.
It is also a rich source of magnesium, potassium, manganese with negligible amounts of fat.
Jaggery unlike sugar is available in various forms – big blocks, small cubes and even grated. It is easy to use and can be stirred into your hot coffee cup too. If you are not a great fan of sugarcane jaggery, try palm jaggery. It is certainly a healthier alternative to sugar as each tablespoon contains only 54 calories and zinc, phosphorous, iron and copper in ample amounts.
Palm sugar is strongly recommended for those suffering from diabetes owing to its lower glycemic index. Adding this sweet component to your regular diet regularizes blood sugar levels and is very low on glycemic index when compared to sugar. Palm jaggery is the best bet for those suffering from gastrointestinal issues as inulin, the dietary fibre in this product stimulates digestion, improves gut flora or good bacteria and aids small intestine in the better absorption of nutrients.
In India, it is a practice to eat a piece of jaggery before stepping out in hot sun especially during peak summers, as it serves as an instant cooler and triggers energy levels. Jaggery water, Gunda Panaka, Bellam Paanakam is a traditional drink, consumed in summer along with buttermilk to beat the heat, to stay hydrated and for balancing electrolytes. According to Ayurveda, this drink mixed with jaggery powder, cardamom and pepper powder not only boosts energy but works as an aphrodisiac.
Diabetic doctors differ on the opinion if jaggery can be consumed by the patients suffering from high glucose levels. While it has been strongly established that refined sugar is a strict no-no, doctors say that palm jaggery or regular gur is permissible in moderate amounts. Jaggery unlike sugar do not trigger sudden spikes in sugar levels and is also loaded with iron, magnesium and potassium.
Gur is one unique ingredient that can beat all seasonal difficulties be it in winter or summer. It serves as an amazing natural coolant in hot weather while in winter it aids in combating various respiratory ailments. A powerhouse of anti-allergen properties it detoxifies the body and eases muscles. A piece of jaggery with little ginger helps in expelling mucus and clears airways.
Promotes Weight Loss:
Jaggery is your must-have in diet plan if you are looking forward to losing weight. Eating jaggery triggers metabolism and burns that stubborn belly fat. Craving for something sweet after a heavy meal – avoid calorie loaded sweets and go for a piece of jaggery to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Good gut health is often an indication of overall health. Digestive issues like constipation, indigestion, nausea can be irritating and may deny nutrients in the required amounts to the body. Pure quality jaggery flushes out toxins, promotes digestive flora and supports small intestine in better absorption of nutrients.
Acidity is annoying and if not treated on time, it can become chronic playing a havoc with regular life. Reflux of acids can also ring in false alarms like chest pain and bring in the fear of heart attack. Eating a piece of small jaggery serves as an answer to all your acidic woes. The good amounts of magnesium helps in smooth digestion and averts acidity.
Irregular menstrual cycle is an indication of hormonal imbalance. It is caused due to obesity, changes in the hormones and even poor metabolism. Make it a habit to eat pure jaggery daily in little amounts for balancing hormones and to regularize menstrual cycle.
Poor haemoglobin levels can cause severe fatigue, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, dizziness and if not treated on time, it would lead to other complications. Jaggery is an excellent source of plant-based iron and it boosts haemoglobin levels naturally.
Clears Intestinal Worms:
Intestinal worms are a result of poor dietary habits, consuming unhygienic foods. It is mostly seen in children and these worms enter the body via fruits, through dirt and kids with tapeworms tend to complain about abdominal pain, rashes and diarrhoea. These worms can also prevent nutrient absorption into the system leaving the child weak. Here is the time-tested recipe to flush out intestinal worms naturally.
Mix ½ tsp carom seeds with a spoon of jaggery and eat it twice in a day. The pungent nature of carom seeds and the detoxifying properties in gur expel these worms from the body keeping the intestinal tract clean. For better results eat it on empty stomach or an hour before lunch or dinner.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has become quite common these days in women of all age groups. PCOS leads to ovarian cysts and it is found in one in every 5 women. PCOS presents with various complications like severe mood disorders, elevated levels of male hormones like testosterone, irregular periods and infertility in certain cases. Jaggery being a unique mix of various minerals, helps in losing weight, regulates periods thus aiding in clearing PCOS.
Piles or haemorrhoids is a painful condition that may require surgery if not treated on time. Regular consumption of jaggery reduces dryness in the intestinal tract facilitating the easy passage of stools.
Your skin is an indication of your dietary habits. Healthy eating provides ravishing skin and if you want to look beautiful from within, eat gur daily. As per Ayurveda, jaggery is the best way to beat signs of ageing – all thanks to its rich antioxidants that fight free radicals. Women above 30 should eat jaggery at least thrice a week to prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
It may sound strange, but jaggery face pack is an age-old beauty remedy for achieving that ravishing complexion. Mix ½ tsp of jaggery powder with honey and lemon and apply it as a thin layer on the face. Wash it after 15 minutes and pat dry.
This face pack not only tightens the skin but the anti-inflammatory properties in jaggery and honey repair the skin cells while lemon clears dirt and grime, lodged deep in the skin pores.