Both Jaggery & Sugar are sourced from sugarcane. Just like water has different forms but not all are same & safe, Jaggery & Sugar are different forms of calories with different properties & benefits. I was aware of the fact that Jaggery is healthier than sugar but never knew the difference in detail until few months back when a trustworthy friend of mine insisted on practising it & writing about the same to create awareness as he felt it is really important.
Our ancestors used Jaggery & honey as sweeteners and never associated with sugar. For someone like me who strongly believes in our ancestors lifestyle theories and the science behind it, this was intriguing and I had the urge to understand better.
The difference between the Sugar & Jaggery…
Color & Texture:
- Sugar is white, solid, hard & crystalline
- Jaggery is yellow to golden brown, softer & amorphous
- The first stage is the same for both which is the boiling of sugarcane juice
- For Sugar, the second stage is treating this syrup with charcoal. This is done to filter & absorb unwanted particles & get a clear solution which is further condensed & crystallised.
- Vegans attention plz! Please note that the charcoal preferably used to filter the syrup is mostly bone charcoal(charcoal obtained from bones of cattle) as it is easily available, filters well & is cheaper. So if U are consuming white sugar U can’t claim to be a Vegan (unless U r specifically buying beet sugar variant of white sugar which doesn’t use bone charcoal for filtration)
- In case of Jaggery, there is no further treatment. The syrup is continued to boil into a thick paste which is poured into moulds or powdered as per requirement.
- Sugar is the simplest form of sucrose
- Jaggery is sucrose with mineral salts, iron & fiber
- Sugar is of foreign origin & has no place in Indian tradition
- Jaggery has an important place in our culture. It is considered holy & offered to Gods.
- Sugar industry is a mechanised & organised sector with big companies & brands involved. It greatly influences our economy
- Jaggery industry is centuries older than Sugar. It is unorganized & has no branding as such. It is predominantly manufactured in remote places & comes to market through agents.
- Sugar is available everywhere. Name it & U have it!
- Jaggery has moisture, melts with hot temperatures & contracts fungal infections soon(like most raw food products) and is available in selected shops only.
- Sugar can be associated to every sweet thing today. The confectionary industry is completely dependant on sugar. Bakery items, household sweet dishes, sorbets, syrups, jams, jelly, sweetened milk & what not. It is galvanised & used in no. of processed food items, beverages for taste, color & aroma.
- Jaggery is not widely used these days. However they are still preferred for curries, soups, etc. They are also used for fermenting alcoholic beverages.
This is key in making the decision…
- It undergoes a rigorous treatment process to get filtered in which it loses its nutritional value
- It is the simplest form of sucrose which means nothing but empty calories
- It is instantly absorbed to give a burst of energy.
- This sudden blood sugar spike is harmful to the kidney, eyes & brain
- Sugar solution in water is said be cooling & should not be consumed with cold.
- The molasses are not separated and it retains it nutritional value.
- It takes time to be absorbed and gives a balanced supply of energy for a long time
- It has traces of mineral salts absorbed by the sugarcane from the soil & is also said to be rich in vitamins & fiber.
- It is a cleansing agent for lungs, stomach, intestines, aesophagus & respiratory tracts.
- It helps in detox, asthma, cough&cold, congestion in chest, constipation & digestion.
- As it is preferably made in iron vessels, it is good for anemia.
- It is also claimed that the potassium content helps in balancing obesity. Not sure though.
- It gives nutrition & warmth to combat cold.
- As Sugar gives an instant burst of energy, it can spike the blood sugar level & is dangerous for diabetics.
- This doesn’t mean Jaggery is safe, just that the energy supply is in a balanced form.
- End of day, both are calories and diabetics should be cautious about the intake.
I initially had 2 hindrances that prevented me from swapping sugar with Jaggery
- Our families are used to sugar in our daily lives & use it for almost everything.
- The change of taste with jaggery in milk, juices, etc was disturbing.
We always prefer being in our comfort zone not ready to experiment something even if it sounds promising. However it did not take long for me to realise that the first one was just a mindset/habit and won’t take long to change. Around the same time, I also happened to drink a tangy masala tea in my cousin’s place. When she said, she uses jaggery in place of sugar, my weird second thoughts about the taste issue was fixed and now I had no reason not to swap!
It has been several months now since I have swapped sugar with jaggery powder(FYI-now Jaggery is available in powder form, we call it nattu sakkarai in tamil). I feel like having gotten rid of that artificial flavour in my tongue. First 2 days I wasn’t ok with the change of taste but now I’m honestly loving it better than sugar, taste & healthwise.
I’m not aware of the subtle improvements but the noticeable changes were:
- Improvement in digestion : I always had congestion in my chest post a meal which is nowhere to be found now. (P.S. this definitely is one major contributor of the same along with many other healthy diet & lifestyle changes that I have done).
- Healthier excretion : Proper excretion in the morning decides the freshness & productivity of ur day & I noticed significant improvement.
So, that’s it folks! Let us take one step at a time & strike a balance. I have no idea getting back to white sugar anymore when I have this better wiser alternative!