Jaggery, also known as gur and sukari nguru is a popular traditional sweetener famous throughout Southeast Asia and Africa. It is a form of unrefined sugar made by boiling raw, concentrated sugarcane juice until it solidifies and is usually dark yellow or brown in colour. Jaggery has many health benefits and is widely used medicinally.
Benefits of jaggery
Natural and nutrient-rich
Jaggery is natural and less processed making it a better option compared to processed sweeteners. The traditional preparation method preserves the minerals and phytochemicals in it and does not bring in external compounds or chemical additives. It is an excellent source of iron and contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Prevents anaemia and boosts haemoglobin
Iron plays a vital function in the body’s functioning and while it is found in all human cells, it is mostly found in red blood cells. The chief function of iron is to form haemoglobin whose main purpose is to transport oxygen in the blood.
Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia which makes it difficult to focus, can cause fatigue and muscle weakness. Replacing refined sugar with jaggery increases your iron intake reducing your chances of developing anaemia and is useful in treating anaemia.
Rich in antioxidants
Jaggery is a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from damage and in so doing boost resistance against infections, strengthening immunity. Antioxidants lower the risk of certain diseases including cancer. They also reduce the signs of ageing, lower the risk of dementia and lower the risk of age-related vision loss also known as macular degeneration.
Improves appetite and digestion
Jaggery has a digestive stimulant property that helps improve digestion and appetite. It converts into acetic acid in the stomach which can help in rectifying enzymatic activity, digestion, and appetite.
In India, it is a common practice to take a few grams of jaggery after a heavy meal to facilitate digestion. It may also aid in relieving constipation. It facilitates bowel movement, works as a detox, and helps cleanse the colon naturally.
Boosts energy, reduces fatigue and improves muscle endurance
Jaggery provides instant energy to the body. Low iron can reduce energy levels causing fatigue which is especially common in women during their reproductive years. A deficiency manifests as more than the normal level of sleepiness, including tiredness that interferes with a person’s daily routine and activities feeling less exciting or enjoyable for several weeks or longer.
The role played by iron in boosting oxygen transportation and circulation increases muscle endurance. Low iron makes muscle fatigue faster. In Ayurveda, jaggery is used to treat general debility and physical weakness.
Beneficial for women
Iron is critical in the formation of haemoglobin which is important for restoring blood when people lose it. Women lose blood every month during their menstrual cycles increasing their likelihood of developing anaemia.
Iron is regularly prescribed as a supplement to women for this very reason. It may also be a natural way to relieve menstrual cramps. It is also beneficial in managing PMS symptoms most especially mood swings. Eating small amounts of jaggery helps release endorphins that help the body relax.
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