Jaggery is a type of sugar produced through the evaporation of sugarcane juice or palm sap. Sugar derived from any palm tree sap is called granulated palm sugar, but palm jaggery is a specific term for sugar made from Palmyrah palm sap.
Granulated palm sugar is widely used throughout Asia and India, and palm jaggery is now gaining popularity in the United States as well.
Some proponents of palm jaggery portray it as a healthier alternative to white table sugar. Most nutrients in sugarcane juice are lost through the extensive refinement and bleaching processes that create granulated white sugar.
However, replacing white table sugar with granulated palm sugar can be tricky. White sugar consists of dry, white granules with no aroma and a uniformly sweet taste. Jaggery palm is a dense, soft semi-solid mass with light gold to deep brown coloration. The rich, earthy flavor is often described as similar to chocolate with a hint of salt, and aromatic compounds give the sugar a nutty or roasted fragrance. Incorporating jaggery palm into foods and beverages may require some trial and error before perfect results are achieved.
Granulated palm sugar may not be a good choice for people trying to cut calories and lose weight. Both it and the more familiar white version have approximately 60 calories per teaspoon. Some people may find they use less jaggery palm because of its complex flavor profile. On the other hand, some people may use more because they want the intense sweetness associated with table sugar.
Switching to jaggery palm sugar may be beneficial during pregnancy. Palm jaggery sugar contains folic acid, five out of eight B-complex vitamin groups, and vitamins D, C, and E.
These nutrients can't replace prenatal vitamins or compensate for an unhealthy diet, but using granulated palm sugar as a sweetener can add some additional vitamins to your daily diet. Refined white sugar has no vitamins to offer.
Jaggery palm has a long history in ayurvedic medicine. It's frequently used in hot tea to relieve cold systems. Specially prepared medicinal jaggery palm sugar may be cooked down into a solid mass and shaped into lozenges that function as cough drops. The thick, sweet consistency of the granules also coats and soothes a sore throat.
Phenolic compounds are antioxidants that mitigate oxidative stress on cells and reduce risk of damage to the cardiovascular system. The phenolic content in jaggery palm sugar ranges from approximately 2.77mg to 8.94 mg/100 g. Refined white sugar contains an average of 0.02 mg/100g.
An analysis of molasses and unprocessed sugarcane juice reveals high concentrations of phytochemicals, phenolic compounds, and other antioxidants. These biologically active and beneficial compounds are lost during the refinement process.
People with diabetes monitor their blood glucose levels regularly and keep a close eye on sugar consumption. Palm jaggery is often touted as a safer choice than white sugar. The glycemic index of palm jaggery ranges from 35 to 50, while white sugar has an average GI value of 63. Granulated palm sugar also contains a prebiotic called inulin that may help stabilize blood glucose levels.
The slight advantages of palm jaggery don't make up for its calorie and sugar content, however. Most experts recommend treating palm sugar exactly the same way as white table sugar when it comes to blood glucose levels and managing diabetes.
Jaggery palm contains inulin, a plant-based fiber. This is an improvement over white table sugar, which contains no fiber at all.
Even though jaggery palm is less refined than white table sugar, most of the fiber is still left behind during the evaporation process. A healthier option is to choose fruits, vegetables, and grains for daily fiber intake. The amount of fiber in any type of sugar or sweetener is likely to be negligible.
Jaggery palm sugar is a source of several minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, and manganese.
These minerals are essential for strong bones and a healthy cardiovascular system. Red blood cells couldn't transport oxygen effectively without iron. Refined white table sugar doesn't provide any minerals at all. In terms of mineral content, refined white sugar really does provide empty calories. That being said, in the small portions at which it should be consumed, jaggery palm sugar will provide only minimal amounts of these nutrients.
Granulated palm sugar contains sucrose, potassium, glucose, and a small amount of salt. Dissolve jaggery palm in a warm beverage to create a electrolyte replacement drink in cases of dehydration due to diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive heat. Jaggery palm isn't appropriate to replace fluids and electrolytes for an extended period, but it can be used in an emergency until medical assistance is available.
Small, independent farmers in Cambodia and India produce most of the global palm jaggery supply. There is no standardized method of production. Variables during every step of the production process, such as temperatures during evaporation and microbes in freshly harvested sap, influence nutrient content in the finished product. The flavor and consistency may vary as well.
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