What is Jaggery and is it better for you than sugar?

Stirred in tea, baked in desserts, and used to balance fiery-tasting dishes, jaggery is one of India’s most versatile staples – and it is gaining worldwide attention.

Jaggery is an unrefined sugar made from sugar cane and frequently used in savory and sweet dishes prepared throughout Southwest Asia – particularly India, Afghanistan, and Iran – as well as parts of Africa. India, which produces approximately 60 percent of the world’s jaggery, is the world’s largest consumer of jaggery. In Hindi, jaggery is known as gur.

Essentially, jaggery is a concentrated sugar cane liquid. Sugarcane, which grows in leafy stems, measures about 13 feet (4 meters) in size. AT jaggery, the cane stalk is cut low to the ground, then shredded and pressed through a series of rollers to burst its cells and release a sweet liquid. The liquid is then boiled; through this heating process, impurities float to the surface and are skimmed off. As the increasingly purified liquid continues to boil, the moisture content is reduced, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. This thickened liquid is then placed in a container or a mold. The amber to ocher colored liquid thickens even more as its temperature drops, and when it reaches an almost solid state, it is cut into blocks and packaged. Alternatively, jaggery can be grated and sold as crystals.

Often times, jaggery is referred to as evaporated cane sugar, a nod to its extraction process. However, there are varieties of jaggery that are not made from sugar cane. For example, it is also made from the sap of coconut palms, palms and date palms.

Part of the growing popularity of jaggery is that consumers appreciate its minimal processing. It is not produced using an extensive refining process or chemicals to achieve color or consistency, and largely retains much of its nutritional value. It contains micronutrients from its remaining molasses, which creates a flavor profile that may include mineral notes. In contrast, molasses is removed from white table sugar to help it achieve its consistent white color, also removing any nutritional value or a pleasantly earthy aftertaste.

While it’s sometimes seen as a nutritious alternative to refined white table sugar, jaggery is still the base sugar. Even with his retention of micronutrients Like iron, potassium, magnesium, and manganese, one would have to consume relatively large amounts of jaggery to get a nutritional boost. Half a cup (118 milliliters) of jaggery contains about 11 grams of iron, which is about 60 percent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Reference Daily Intake (RDI). Half a cup of jaggery also contains about 30 percent of the RDI for potassium and about 20 percent of the RDI for magnesium and manganese.

Rachel J. Bradford