Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jaggery more than a natural sweetener

What is jaggery
If you are not using jaggery in your cooking, this is the time where you can sustain your life style with a sweeter like no other.
When I refer to jeggery I am talking about a solid form of sugar made of sugarcane, or the date palm tree.

The sugar made from the sap of the date palm is both more prized and less commonly available outside of the regions where it is made. The coconut palm is also tapped for producing jaggery in  West Bengal, South India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  In Sri Lanka, syrup extracts from kithul trees are widely used for jaggery production. This is considered the best quality jaggery available in local market and is given a higher value than jaggery from other sources. All types of the sugar come in blocks or pastes of solidified concentrated sugar syrop heated to 200°C. Traditionally, the syrup is made by boiling raw sugarcane juice or palm sap in large, shallow, round-bottom vessels.

In South America is call panela and is a traditional sweeter in beverages and fermentation drinks.

When I was young my father use to have a jaggery factory. Every 8 month the sugar cane was cut, make into juice and made into solid brown blocks. The whole air was sweet and for 8 days, day and night the “ molienda” had to keep on, no stopping fire, cooking and piling the sugar. Same week we went  to the market and sold 1 ton of sugar cane. Hard work, however the home was always storing a supply of panela.

Benefits of jaggery
The source of minerals, fibers and energy in this natural sweetener is enough to make us cook with it. However the delicate taste of jaggery (specially the date palm sugar) is really a delicacy to the palate.

Jaggery serve the cleansing of the system as well as it fortification. Jaggery effectively cleans the respiratory tracts, lungs, food pipe, stomach and intestines. It pulls out dust and unwanted particles from the body. It also helps in giving relief from constipation.

In India, it is recommended to take a few grams of jaggery after a heavy meal of after eating meat. This facilitates digesting. What happens is that jaggery activates the digestive enzymes and itself changes to acetic acid in the stomach. This speeds up digestion.

Unlike sugar, jaggery is very rich in minerals, predominantly iron with traces of other mineral salts. While most of the iron in it comes through processing in iron vessels, the other minerals come right from the sugar cane juice, since this juice does not undergo refining or bleaching of any kind. So, jaggery is a very good source of minerals for the body.

Jaggery is rich in  vitamins and minerals - Jaggery is rich in iron and thus is highly recommended for anaemic people. It also contains many minerals such as Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Selenium, Manganese and Zinc. Since no chemicals are used in preparation of jaggery, some minerals and vitamins remain intact in it, compared to refined sugar.

Jaggery is absorbed slowly - Sugar is absorbed almost instantly in your body. Jaggery, being unrefined, is absorbed more slowly. Thus, it doesn’t increase blood sugar levels as rapidly as sugar.

Jaggery is good for lungs - Jaggery, according to Ayurveda protects your lungs and is good for treating throat and lung infections. In fact, workers who work in dusty and smoky atmosphere, such as in woolen, silica industries, eat a small lump of gur to clear their wind pipes. Jaggery is also helpful for asthmatics! Won’t jaggery be helpful in keeping respiratory system sound, considering we breathe polluted air everyday?

Jaggery is helpful for migraine - People, who get migraine headaches, should eat jaggery as it is helpful in reducing frequency of headaches.

Jaggery is a purifier - Jaggery is a great cleansing agent and clears your lungs, stomach, oesophagus, intestine, respiratory tracts and also blood.

Jaggery helps in bile disorder - According to ayurveda, jaggery helps in treating bile disorders thus is useful in treating jaundice.

Jaggery helps in maintaining acid balance - Jaggery is high in Potassium and low in Sodium. This helps in maintaining balance in your body. Infact, jaggery, when taken along with dry ginger is a known cure for acidity and gas.

Jaggery is a medicine - You’ve seen how beneficial jaggery is for lungs. It’s also used to cure dry cough, cough with sputum, indigestion and constipation. It contains many antioxidants which protects your body’s cells against aging.

Jaggery is eco-friendly - According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), sugar industry pollutes air, water and soil. While jaggery is produced by cooking sugarcane juice in an iron vessel, sugar undergoes various treatments, purification, crystallization which not only wastes several gallons water, but also pollutes natural water source, where the waste water is dumped! Jaggery is healthier and greener.
Ayurveda and jaggery.
Ayurveda had recognize the  regenerative effects of jaggery and use it in different medicinal preparations. Either by it self or combined with milk, ghee and herbs, jaggery is a wonderful sugar to recomfort the children, elderly and  any individual in the process of rebuild.

Ayurveda use jaggery in the preparation of syrups, to induce fermentation in certain remedies, in jams and as a base for many tablets. It is also used in decoctions, rectal suppositories and other home remedies.

Ayurveda suggest to use jaggery that is one year old to avoid increase of kapha and indigestion. If it is not prepared properly, it causes intestinal worms, increases chances of Kapha disorder in marrow, blood, fat tissue and muscles.

3 types of jaggery
I the Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 5/47-48) text of ayurveda, jaggery is classify in 3 ways.

The jaggery that is unrefined or unwashed. That jaggery is
slightly alkaline, not very coolant, oily, unctuous, cleanses bladder and urine, cleanses and purifies blood, balances Vata, decreases Pitta slightly, increases body fat, causes intestinal worm infestation, increases strength, and is aphrodisiac.

The jaggery that is washed ; it is sweet, balances Vata and Pitta, cleanses and detoxifies blood. It has a more Pitta balancing action compared to Adhauta (unwashed)

The jaggery that is one year old or older. This jaggery is much more sweeter than the fresh, it is oily, unctuous, lighter to digest, than fresh,
promotes digestion strength, cleanses intestines and feces, cleanses urinary bladder and urine, cleanses stomach, promotes taste, good for heart, cardiac tonic, balances Pitta, balances Vata. This form of jeggery is generally good for all the three Doshas. It is good for fever (in small quantities only), relieves excess body heat, relieves tiredness, useful in anemia and is also useful in urinary tract diseases.

Precautions and side effects:
Long term use, in high dose may cause weight gain,
Not recommended in diabetes.
Jaggery use, continuously for a long period of time may cause intestinal worm infestation.
Jaggery is contra indicated if you have ulcerative colitis
Taking radish and jaggery along with fish is contra indicated in Ayurveda.

How to use jaggery
Use jaggery in your daily cooking. Just a pinch of in your stir fries, soups, rice and baking goods gives a new dimension to your dishes. Since usually comes in a form of solid block you can dissolve jaggery in water for a few minutes and add to your cooking in a form of syrup. Jaggery resist high heat without loosing it nutritional properties.

You can use jaggery in home made remedies, to alleviate cough and other inflammatory conditions in lungs and stomach.

Where to purchase Jaggery
Most Indians, Asian and South American  stores sale jaggery. Ask if the product is being wash and how old is. Remember, wash and old is the one you want to prefer.

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