5 INCREDIBLE HEALTH BENEFITS OF PALM JAGGERY

The winter season is upon us and so are the seasonal delicacies. From til ladoo in the North to ellu bella in the South, you might notice most popular traditional Indian sweets of the season contain gur or jaggery, especially palm jaggery.  Apart from India, the sweet treat is popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and North Africa.

The health benefits of the natural sweetener are aplenty. But before we delve into them, let’s first lift the veil off the enigmatic traditional sweetener that is fast gaining popularity in the western world.

What is Palm Jaggery?

Palm jaggery  or palm sugar is a non-centrifugal sugar made from the sap of palm trees such as coconut, date, nipa, palmyra and sugar palm trees. The lower calorie natural sweetener has a rich brown colour and tastes like dark chocolate.

The rarest palm jaggery is date palm jaggery. It is specially made during winter because the tree cannot be tapped if the weather is foggy, humid or warm, for the sap will sour and spoil. 

How is it made?

Sap collection: For coconut, nipa, palmyra and sugar palm jaggery, sap is collected from the inflorescence at the crown of the tree. An inflorescence is a cluster of flowers arranged on one stem. A wound is made at the tip of the inflorescence from where the sap is tapped.                

 The sap for date palm jaggery is collected early in the morning from the bark of the tree. An incision is made in the bark and a pot is tied underneath to collect the sap.

Filtration: The collected sap is filtered through a cloth or strainer into a large vessel.

Concentration: The filtered sap is boiled in the large iron vessel and stirred constantly. With the impurities skimmed off as they rise to the top, the process goes on till the sap becomes viscous and looks like a paste. The process can take anywhere between 4–5 hours.

Cooling: The now thick sap is poured into moulds and left to cool. In India, these moulds are traditionally clean coconut shells. Once cooled, the jaggery attains a consistency that resembles fudge.

Benefits

  1. Full of nutrients

Table of nutrients: Palmyra Palm Granulated Sugar (per 100 g)

Nutrient

Composition

Sodium (mg)

22–24

Potassium (mg)

688–705

Iron (mg)

1.99–2.01

Vit A (mg)

1.60–1.86

Vit B1 (mg)

0.70–0.97

Vit B2 (mg)

0.04–0.05

Vit B3 (mg)

1.95–2.15

Vit B5 (mg)

0.44–0.66

Vit B6 (mg)

0.09–0.19

Folic acid (µg)

2.65–3.12

Vit C (mg)

2.78–4.01

Vit D2 (mg)

2.11–2.23

Vit E (mg)

52.15–55.12

Palm jaggery is loaded with nutrients. In addition to the vitamins and minerals listed in the table, it contains magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, protein and is a rich source of strong antioxidants. These antioxidants help protect the cells from damage and repair damage caused by free radicals. They also scavenge free radicals.

  1. Helps overcome fatigue

When fatigued, your body requires more than glucose. After a tiring day or a period of sickness, drinking a glass of jaggery water can help you feel rejuvenated. The energy it provides lasts longer than regular sugar because it infuses one with minerals and vitamins. Therefore, it not only replenishes energy levels, but helps regulate electrolytes in the body as well. 

  1. Enhanced digestion and weight loss

Palm sap slightly increases gastrointestinal activity (GIT). GIT is the time it takes for food to pass through the stomach, small intestine and colon. It is the key factor in digestive health. Upper intestinal transit includes gastric emptying (GE) and small intestinal motility, and plays a major role in satiety and appetite regulation, glycemic control and gut hormone signalling. Consequently, it can be effective in cases of constipation. 

In a year-long study of sixty-eight participants suffering from Metabolic Syndrome, it was observed that the increase in dietary potassium was a stronger predictor of weight loss than other methods such as reducing sugar consumption and overall calorie intake. Palm jaggery’s ability to aid weight loss arises from its richness of potassium. 

  1. Muscle pain management

Lower magnesium levels are associated with muscle pains such as menstrual cramps and migraines. Magnesium relaxes the muscles and reduces prostaglandins responsible for period pain. 100 g of palm sap contains approximately 37 mg of magnesium as well as vitamins B6, D and E. Scientific studies have shown that these micronutrients are highly effective in managing dysmenorrhea i.e. menstrual cramps. 

5. Remedy for cough,cold and inflammations

Symptoms of cough and cold are inflammatory responses from the immune system. Dry cough can be caused by environmental factors, especially pollution, that increase the amount of free radicals in the cells. These free radicals cause cellular damage ranging from the cellular membrane to the DNA. They have the potential to harm immune cells as well.  Dietary antioxidants like phenolic compounds and vitamins C, E, copper, iron and zinc improve immune function, thereby demonstrating a protective role in infections caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites. As a result, they have been associated with regulating the host susceptibility or resistance to infectious pathogens. Palm jaggery is rich in antioxidant phenolic compounds. 

Cautionary note: When consuming jaggery, it is important to note that moderation is key. Limit yourself to a tablespoon or two or 12–25 grams a day to make the most of it.

Home remedies using Palm Jaggery

To boost immunity: Sukku malli coffee is a delicious South Indian traditional beverage prepared during the winter and monsoon seasons. It is made by steeping palm jaggery, black pepper, coriander powder and ginger powder in water. The medley of spices and palm jaggery work in concert to keep you protected from seasonal ailments. If you already caught a cold or cough, then the drink doubles as a remedy too.

To aid weight loss: Mix half a teaspoon or a teaspoon of palm jaggery in a cup of green tea to bolster weight loss. Green tea contains a type of flavonoid called catechin, a compound that boosts metabolism and breaks down excess fat. It’s caffeine increases metabolic activity in the body and reduces appetite while the potassium in palm jaggery expedites the fat burning process.

For winter warmth: Jaggery with ginger tea is an excellent beverage to keep you warm during the winters. The duo have a synergistic effect that heat up the body in no time in addition to boosting immunity and relieving joint pains that tend to get aggravated in the colder months. 

For instant energy: A crisp, cool glass of jaggery water can do wonders to re-energize you in a jiffy. Not only does it provide long lasting energy, but it also helps replenish electrolytes in the body.

For menstrual cramps: Sweeten a piping cup of chamomile tea with palm jaggery to ease period cramps. Palm jaggery’s magnesium will help with the cramping while chamomile soothes frazzled nerves.

Replace refined sugar with the lower calorie and nutritious palm jaggery and embrace a cheerier healthier life.


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