Deepavali celebrations may still be continuing full swing for some of us, while others may have begun sinking into the sofa after all those chores! Regardless of which group you’re belong to, this is perhaps right about the time when many of us begin feeling guilty for all the sweetmeats that we’ve been eating. The feasting would have begun around the time when we started making the sweets and are most likely ongoing in many houses, leaving you ridden with guilt. Well, we’re here to put your mind at ease. If you’ve been one of those who has been feasting exclusively on Indian sweets, we’ve got good news for you!
What is Jaggery?
One of the obvious benefits of eating Indian sweets is that they are SO sweet that you really CAN just have one! So that helps to keep portion control in check! On a more serious note, most traditional Indian sweets have an advantage over off-the-counter chocolate bars and candies, thanks to a key ingredient. Many traditional Indian sweet recipes call for the usage of Jaggery- a traditional, unrefined, naturally–derived form of sugar, also known as ‘Gur’ in North India and ‘Vellam’ in Tamil Nadu. This brown, sweet-tasting form of sugar also has a subtle hint of spice in it, making it an ideal ingredient for Indian sweetmeats. It is commonly sold in fist-sized balls or blocks and is usually favoured over white sugar, which is a product of bleaching and other chemical processes. Jaggery is also packed with nutrients, whereas white sugar simply serves up empty calories.
Benefits of consuming Jaggery
Jaggery is usually derived from the extracts of sugar cane or the palm tree sap of the date or coconut palm. Hence, it does not overwhelm your taste buds with its sweetness. These brown blocks usually comprise of about 50% sucrose, 20% invert sugars, 20% moisture and 10% insoluble matter such as fibre and protein! Yes, a form of sugar that has fibre! It doesn’t get any better than this! Therefore it is not surprising that Jaggery has a number of health benefits. Here are some noteworthy positive effects of consuming this traditional ingredient.
Is easily digestible and provides slow- releasing energy, unlike white sugar, which gives you a spike in your sugar levels upon consumption.
Contains iron, which is vital in the production of haemoglobin (a protein that transports oxygen around our bodies).
Contains an array of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins like Vitamin B1, B2 and C. Its potassium content is also significantly high, aiding in the reduction of hypertension.
Has anti-oxidant properties.
Jaggery is regularly used in several well-known Indian dishes ranging from Halwa to Payasam/Kheer and Pongal. It is also a frequently used ingredient in most vegetable curries of Maharashtra. Hence, Jaggery is still being made in a number of villages across India today. The process of making Jaggery commonly involves the 4 steps illustrated below.
1. Saraswat, K. (2015, 04 20). 7 Benefits of Jaggery or gur you didn't know about! . Retrieved 10 31, 2015, from The HealthSite: http://www.thehealthsite.com/fitness/7-health-benefits-of-jaggery-or-gur/
2. Thiagarajan, K. (2012, 03 01). Sweet Health. Retrieved 11 01, 2015, from The Hundu : http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/diet-and-nutrition/sweet-health/article2949839.ece
3. Speigel, A. (2014, 04 12). What exactly is Jaggery, Anyway? Retrieved 11 01, 2015, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/04/jaggery_n_6264038.html
4. Shanbhag, A. (2005, 10 24). Sugarcane Fields: Making Jaggery.
5. Surekha. (n.d.). Natural Jaggery Preparation: Kotthur Village. Retrieved 11 05, 2015, from Chennai Darling: http://www.chennaidarling.com/cabin/article/jaggery.htm
So, why not switch your jar of white sugar to Jaggery? You will be able to feed your body with important vitamins and minerals while treating your tongue to some sweetness. You will also be able to support a rural industry that is slowly becoming endangered. If you would like more information on traditional Indian food, cooking ingredients and even etiquette, contact Brainworks Education! Feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, may the moderate sweetness of Jaggery keep your life sweet and happy for the rest of the year!