Whether it is dessert after dinner or the sweet taste of your morning tea or coffee, sugar is an essential part of our diets. The sweetness is sugar is also associated with happiness and festivals in India. This is why you cannot enter a home during festivals and not be offered a dessert or a mithai. Its sweet taste aside, there is another side of sugar that is often ignored but is extremely crucial – its effect on health.
While natural sugars present in fruits and whole grains are processed by the body to convert into energy, artificial sugar present in processed food is another story. These products are added to products by manufacturers so that they can increase their shelf life and also contain added flavors.
These artificial flavors cause more harm than good. They might make a soft drink or a donut or a pastry tastier, but they add to the various health risks. The health risks associated with excessive use of sugar include diabetes, obesity, heart problems, hormonal problems, and hypertension. According to a 2014 study, researchers found a link between a sugar-rich diet and the chances of one dying of heart problems. In the 15-year study, it was found that people who source 17-21% of their calorie requirement from sugar had a 38% higher chance of dying because of heart problems.
So should you give up sugar? Obviously not. While your health will improve if you cut down on your sugar consumption, a better alternative will be to switch to jaggery. This ancient Indian sweetener is made out of the extracts from sugarcane juice and is not as harmful to health as processed sugar as it is manufactured naturally. Also, it is not as calorie intensive as sugar. It is perfect for those looking to cut down on their calorie consumption, but are unable to because of their busy schedules.
Here are some reasons why you should add jaggery to your diet:
Helps with constipation
If you are someone who is troubled due to constipation, try using jaggery. When eaten, jaggery activates digestive enzymes and spurs bowel movement, thereby relieving constipation. A great way to have it is to eat a piece of jaggery as a dessert after a meal.
Rids the liver of toxins
Fancy a detoxifying diet? Try jaggery. As jaggery is rich in antioxidants and is a natural cleanser, it flushes toxins out of your liver. Given its cleansing properties, jaggery can also be effective in riding the respiratory tract and lungs of toxins. Doctors often suggest people working in highly polluted cities or working on coal factories to eat jaggery, so that their lungs are not affected due to continuous exposure to impure air. Another health benefit of jaggery is that it cools the stomach. This why doctors recommend one to have ‘gud ka sharbat’ during summer months.
Useful in treating a cold
You might have heard your mother telling you to have ‘gud ki chai’ (tea made of jaggery) whenever you are nursing a cold. Well, she isn’t wrong to suggest so. Jaggery is rich in antioxidants and produces heat which can keep your body warm. If you are not a big fan of tea, you can simply add some jaggery to a glass of warm milk to treat a cold.
Purifies the blood
It is important that the impurities present in your blood are flushed out regularly so that the body can perform its functions optimally. When consumed in small quantities over time, jaggery helps cleanse your blood.
Great for immunity
With a pandemic lurking around, the importance of good immunity isn’t lost us. It might be easy to get lost in the maze of products promising to boost our immunity, but did you know that you could do the same by consuming a simple piece of jaggery? Rich in antioxidants and replete with minerals like selenium and zinc, jaggery is one of the most underrated immunity-boosting foods known to humans. It makes your body more resistant to infection and also prevents damage caused by free radicals.
Helps with menstrual cramps
The next you double over in pain when you get period, have jaggery instead of popping in antibiotic. Jaggery is considered to be a natural remedy for menstrual problems including cramps. It can also be useful for combating any mood swings that you might experience before you get a period as it releases endorphins. Just have a small piece of jaggery for a few days before you period.
Keeps anemia at bay
Jaggery has a high content of folate and iron and hence helps treat those diagnosed with anemia. It ensures that the body produces an ample number of red blood cells and also boosts energy levels.
Useful in dealing with high blood pressure
Jaggery is also good for those looking for a way to control their high blood pressure. It is rich in potassium and sodium which are helpful in maintain acid levels of the body and thereby good for reining in high blood pressure.
Contrary to popular belief, jaggery actually helps you in losing weight rather than increasing it. The fact that it is rich in potassium means that it improves your metabolism and balances electrolytes in your body. These reasons help your body build muscles and manage your weight more effectively.
Switching to jaggery from sugar does not mean a compromise with the taste. Dishes like halwa, cakes, and kheer can easily be made just as tasty with jaggery. Moreover, its consumption will also ensure that you do not fall prey to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension.