Jaggery – a sugar substitute

An easy way to give up refined sugar

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Jaggery
Jaggery is also named as Gur. Photo - Giridhar Appaji Nag Y via internet

People are well aware of the fact that to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and it’s essential to stay away from processed sugar. However, not many are aware that jaggery is a good substitute for sugar that could add sweetness to their food while keeping them healthy and fit.

Jaggery or country sugar is a shapeless form of non-distilled and unrefined sugar prepared from the juice or sap of plants that contain a reasonable amount of sugar or sucrose. Jaggery is an unrefined sugar product made in Asia and Africa. It is also referred to as a ‘non-centrifugal sugar’ because it’s not spun during processing to remove the nutritious molasses.

Farmer crushing sugarcane to extract sugarcane juice, which will be later processed to make jaggery. Photo – Jeevan Singla from Pixabay

Jaggery can be made from the sap of palms, sugarcane, date palm, toddy palm, and a few other plants. Based on the source, it is called sugarcane jaggery, palm jaggery, date palm jaggery, and toddy palm jaggery.

Process of making Jaggery comprises crushing of sugarcane for juice extraction, filtration and boiling of juice for concentration and then cooling and solidifying to give jaggery blocks. Photo – Ezhuttukari

According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), more than 70% of the world’s jaggery production takes place in India, where it is commonly called ‘gur.’ India is one of the leading traders and exporters of jaggery to the world. India exported 3,13,826.00 Metric Tons of jaggery and confectionery products to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Benin, USA, and Indonesia worth of Rs 1,606.08 crores (approximately US $ 230 million) in Financial Year 2018-19.

Rich source of vitamins and minerals

Jaggery is a rich source of phosphorous, calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and sugars. Jaggery can be used in the food and beverage industry as a sweetener for producing candies, alcoholic beverages, chocolates, syrups, and tonics. Jaggery contains more nutrients than refined sugar because of its molasses content. Molasses is a nutritious by-product of the sugar making process, usually removed when making refined sugar.

Jaggery can aid in digestion. It acts as a detox, as it helps cleanse the liver by flushing out toxins from the body and helps boost resistance against infections, hence building more robust immunity.

Jaggery for confectionery and baked products 

As a replacement for refined sugar in food and beverages, jaggery is often mixed with coconuts, peanuts, and condensed milk to make traditional desserts and candies. These include jaggery cake and chakkara Pongal, a dessert made from rice and milk, and chikki. Other than these traditional recipes with jaggery, it is now widely used in making hard candies, chewing gums, and chocolates too.

Eggless jaggery shortbread. Photo – Vivekpat30

Jaggery has a scope in the Indian bakery sector, which is one of the most significant segments of the food processing industries with an annual turnover of approximately US$ 900 million (roughly Rs 6500 crore). With more people moving towards healthier choices, the taste of jaggery in baked products is widely accepted. Also, the microbiological shelf life of high moisture bakery products is related to their pH and water activity (aw), which is similar for both sugar and jaggery. Refined sugars are not considered suitable for your health and can be easily replaced with jaggery – a healthier substitute having numerous antioxidants and nutrients. It makes baked goods more moist, flavorful, darker, and, of course, sweet.

Author Pariksha Rao, is a co-founder and chief nutrition officer (CNO) at Lil’Goodness and sCoolMeal

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