If you’re not a diabetic yet and are thinking of watching your calories by switching over to sugar substitutes, then consider adding jaggery (gud) to your morning tea as it is a natural sugar. It is considered a superfood as it contains more vitamins and minerals and has low sucrose content when compared to white sugar. A form of unrefined sugar, jaggery is prepared by heating and boiling fresh sugarcane juice and reducing it to obtain a concentration of hard or a semi-solid form. Ayurveda uses it as a sweetener in many of its decoctions and kashayas, as it considers it to have various health benefits over white, refined sugar. And since it is heat-producing, it is considered an ideal winter food.
Explaining why jaggery is a superfood that we can incorporate in our daily cooking, Diksha Dayal, Head of the Department, Nutrition and Dietetics, Sanar International Hospitals, Gurugram, says, “Jaggery is packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and phosphorus and even has trace amounts of zinc, copper, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Around 10 grams of jaggery should be enough for daily consumption. It is without a doubt, a healthier and nutritious form of sugar, but it is still sugar. So don’t overconsume it.”
She lists the multiple benefits of jaggery that make it ideal for managing our overall well-being. “It prevents constipation by activating the digestive enzymes in the body, stimulates bowel movements and thus helps prevent and relieve constipation. It detoxifies the liver, cleansing it and reducing the organ’s workload. It flushes out harmful toxins, treats flu-like symptoms, fights symptoms of a cold and cough when had with warm water. When consumed on a regular basis and in limited quantities, it cleanses the blood. Clean blood will mean a healthier body and will ensure that it is free from any disease. Jaggery is loaded with antioxidants and minerals such as zinc and selenium, which in turn help prevent free-radical damage and boost resistance against infections. Jaggery also helps increase the total count of haemoglobin in the blood and is an excellent source of plant-based iron. It is great for gut health due to its high magnesium content. With every 10 grams of jaggery, you get 16 mg of magnesium, which is four per cent of the daily requirement of this mineral. It also contains anti-allergic properties that make it an excellent remedy for asthma and other respiratory diseases,” says Dayal.
In fact, a 2012 study, which has been listed in the US-based National Library of Medicine, says that “administration of jaggery significantly moved the studied parameters toward normal levels and also reversed the histopathologic alterations. Thus, jaggery can be used to reduce renal damage and may serve as an alternative medicine in the treatment of renal etiologies.”
As the calorie count of both sugar and jaggery are almost the same, diabetics should not use it as their sugar source. “In fact, the only thing good about palm jaggery is that the sugar takes time to be broken down and does not trigger sudden spikes in levels but it raises them all the same. Also, jaggery has other sugars which do not show up in plasma glucose tests. That doesn’t mean they are not there. So diabetics must rely on their diabetologist’s advice depending on their sugar graph and should they have a craving, can consume it only in an extremely limited manner, that too after adjusting intake of carbohydrate-rich foods and some carb counting. Otherwise it is a strict no-no,” says Dayal.
As per Ayurveda there are two types of jaggery, with each having a definite characteristic. “Hence it is to be used accordingly,” says Dr Subhash S. Markande, consultant Ayurvedic physician at CGH Earth’s SwaSwara clinic, Gokarna. “These are based on preparation, that is if they are unrefined or refined, and based on availability, that is if they are old (more than a year) or fresh. The characteristics and features of each type are as follows:
Unrefined — This is alkaline in nature, promotes lubrication, cleanses the bladder, increases the urine, cleanses and purifies the blood, increases body fat, causes intestinal worms, but increases strength by its effect and is aphrodisiac.
Refined — It is purely sweet and cool in nature that balances the dryness in tissues and brings in a cooling effect to the body. It is more effective than the unrefined, in promoting tissue growth and strength.
Old — It is considered the best among all types. Its cardinal facts are its sweetness and lightness. It supports metabolism, cleanses the intestines (prevents constipation), cleanses the bladder (strengthens the urinary system), cleanses the stomach (promotes easy absorption), promotes taste, good for heart (works as a cardiac tonic), balances the heat and dryness of the body, relieves tiredness and debility, useful in anaemia and so on.
New: Heavy for digestion, increases the phlegm, causes laziness, increases volume of urine, weakens the bodily systems (when used excessively).”
Jaggery is definitely much healthier than sugar when made with natural processes (without chemicals). “It can be used as a replacement for sugar in coffee, tea and fruit juices. It changes the consistency and taste of the beverage for the better. As for remedial use, persons with poor digestion should use jaggery with ginger to improve their appetite. Sherbet prepared using jaggery as per Ayurveda helps restore energy and is even said to have an aphrodisiac effect. It is considered good for summers,” says Dr Markande.
It is important to note that the above effects of jaggery vary from person to person. “That depends on the time it is taken, how it is taken — as in what form, by whom it is taken — as in age and health conditions,” adds Dr Markande.
“It is to be kept in mind that the darker the colour of jaggery, the healthier it is for you. Also, avoid gud with a yellow tinge as it may indicate that it is chemically treated,” says Dayal.
Calories 383
Carbohydrates 98.0 g
Fat 0.1 g
Protein 0.4 g
Calcium (80.0 mg), Iron (5.4 mg), Magnesium (160 mg), Phosphorus (40.0 mg), Potassium (140 mg), Sodium (30.0 mg), Selenium (1.4 mcg)
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