Jaggery versus Sugar : Why is Jaggery better than Sugar in baby’s diet

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Author: Gauri Kshirsagar


I have always preferred jaggery over sugar for various benefits jaggery provides in terms of nutrition. Although both jaggery and sugar are obtained from the same sources, they are much different in their properties and benefits. I totally avoided sugar in the twin’s diet for the first year with minimum amount thereafter and solely the used jaggery for the sweet flavours. Most paediatricians recommend not adding sugar to your child’s food in her first year of life.

What Is Jaggery?

The scientific or technical definition of jaggery is an amorphous form of unrefined and non-distilled sugar prepared from the sap or the juice of plants that contains a considerable amount of sucrose or sugar. This includes things like sugar cane and certain palms like date palm and Palmyra. Sometimes, it is also called country sugar, since it is prepared in rural households of certain countries.

Where is Jaggery Produced?

Jaggery is not widely known in western countries, since it is rarely prepared there. Jaggery is predominantly made in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Besides tasting very good, it has many health benefits

What is the nutritive value of jaggery as compared to sugar?

                                    Jaggery                       Sugar
Sucrose 60-85% Sugar has almost non existent levels of these contents except 400 calories in 100 grams.
Glucose and fructose 5-15%
Moisture 20%
Calories 383 calories energy/100grams.
Calcium 4-5 mg /1 tsp (4 grams)
Magnesium 8 mg /1 tsp (4 grams)
Potassium 48 mg /1 tsp (4 grams)
Phosphorus 2-3 mg /1 tsp (4 grams)
Iron 0.5 mg /1 tsp (4 grams)
With traces of copper, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, and niacin.
  • Jaggery is far more complex than sugar, as it is made up of longer chains of sucrose. Hence, it is digested slower than sugar and releases energy slowly and not instantaneously. This provides energy for a longer time and is not harmful for the body.
  • Jaggery also gathers a considerable amount of ferrous salts (iron) during its preparation, as it is prepared in iron vessels

What are its various sources of Jaggery?

Although the term “jaggery” is generally used for the molasses obtained from the juice of sugar cane, it also refers to the jaggery made from the sap of palms, like Date palm, Palmyra, Toddy palm and a few other plants

  1. Sugarcane Jaggery:

Color: Golden brown to dark brown.

Preparation: It is prepared by boiling sugar cane juice.

Physical state: Amorphous solid to viscous granular liquid.

Place of availability: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Philippines, Malaysia, Cuba, and Mexico. India is the biggest producer and biggest consumer.

Taste: Very sweet, with a hint of salt, depending upon the quality of the juice that is used.

  1. Date Palm Jaggery:

Color: Golden brown to dark Brown.

Preparation: It is prepared by boiling the sap of Date palm.

Physical state: Amorphous solid and viscous granular to clear red liquid.

Place of availability: India (West Bengal) & Bangladesh.

Taste: Very sweet with the typical aroma of Date palm sap, somewhat like dark chocolate.

  1. Palmyra Jaggery:

Color: Off-white to pale yellowish white.

Preparation: It is prepared by boiling the sap of Palmyra palm.

Physical state: Amorphous solid.

Place of availability: India (West Bengal) & Bangladesh.

Taste: Very sweet with the typical aroma of Palmyra sap, somewhat like white chocolate.

  1. Toddy Palm Jaggery

Color: Golden Brown.

Preparation: It is prepared by boiling the sap of Toddy palm.

Physical state: Amorphous solid.

Place of availability: Myanmar.

Taste: Very sweet with the typical aroma of Toddy palm sap.

  1. Other Palm Jaggery

These days, even the sap of Sago palm and Coconut palm are being used to make jaggery, but they are rarely available or heard of.

What are the types of Sugarcane Jaggery?

Depending on the sweetness level and colour, the jaggery is two types.

  1. Pale gold coloured one – this type is the one which is commonly available in most of the Indian grocery shops. This is the more popular one good, decent taste.
  2. Dark coloured jaggery – I personally prefer this variety, which is available in rural areas and is made manually. My parents and grandparents preferred this variety and for them, pale coloured ones are inferior in taste. I agree that there is a significant difference between those two types, so that even the my twins prefer the dish made of the dark coloured jaggery

Slide1How to store Jaggery?

Jaggery stores well. Once in 3 or 4 months, I buy a big block of jaggery. I break it using a knife and hammer. Place the knife in the middle of the block and lightly hit it with hammer. Jaggery breaks into pieces. Further grate the jaggery and store it in different jar, the ones which you use, can be kept at room temperature and the rest can be kept in the refrigerator.

Any care to be taken while using jaggery?

One complaint I often hear about jaggery is presence of sand or dust particles in it. The reason for it is jaggery is still prepared in ancient way, in the fields. There will be harvesting of sugar cane going on one side and on the other end concentrating the sugar cane juice will be going on. Air carries some particles into this liquid. The farmers do filter the liquid before pouring into molds but one or two particles always find a way to join in. For some, these particles are reason why they avoid jaggery and prefer sugar. For the tiny impurities you can  melt or dissolve in water and strain.

What are the effects of having high levels of sugar in toddler’s diet?

On a day to day basis, a high sugar intake may make your child cranky and irritated when the sugar level in her body drops after a few hours of eating sweets.

In the long run, having too much of sugary foods can cause serious problems such as:

  • Tooth decay.
  • A higher risk of becoming overweight or obese, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers in later life.
  • Behaviour problems such as tantrums and persistent pestering. You may also find your child is more likely to keep crying or asking for sugary things once she gets into the habit of eating sweets regularly.
  • Some experts also feel that too much sugar makes children hyperactive though this belief is controversial.

Is honey a good option than jaggery?

Although honey seems like a wholesome and natural food to give your infant, don’t do it until after she’s at least 12 months old. Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can germinate in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness. These spores are usually harmless to adults and children over 1 year old, because the microorganisms normally found in the intestine keep the bacteria from growing.

A 1-teaspoon serving of honey weighs about 7 grams. Around 5.7 grams of this weight are carbohydrates, while 0.02 grams are protein and the rest is water. So compared to honey jaggery is still preferred but sugar is not a good choice.

What kinds of sweets and desserts should my toddler not eat?

It is ok to have a smaller amount of deserts, but not on a daily basis. Some of the desserts to be avoided or limited to a minimum amount include:

  1. Chocolate: Chocolate is high in fat and contains a fair amount of caffeine so it is unsuitable for toddlers. Postpone giving or tasting chocolate as much as you can (may be until the age of 3)
  2. Lollipops and hard sweets:Keeping hard sweets in her mouth until they dissolve means that your child’s teeth are exposed to sugars for a long time. This can increase the risk of cavities and lead to tooth decay. Hard sweets can also pose a choking hazard.
  3. Chewy toffees and jelly-based sweets:These are the worst of the lot with respect to your toddler’s teeth as they stick to the teeth long after they have been swallowed. Other sticky foods include Karachi halwa, guava jelly and aam papad.
  4. Iced cakes, certain biscuits and doughnuts:These are low in nutrients and high in sugar and saturated fat, which may make your baby overweight if she eats them regularly, as well as damage her teeth.
  5. Deep fried mithais soaked in sugar syrup:Jalebiimartighevar boondigulab jamun and malpua are not only deep fried, they are also soaked in sugar syrup, which makes them extremely unhealthy. They are high both in fat and sugar and offer very little nutrients.
  6. Sweets that are hard to digest:Some mithais might have healthy ingredients such as nuts or dried fruit, but if these are coupled with a lot of ghee or heavy khoya, they become high in calories and more difficult for your toddler to digest.

What are good sweet treats for my toddler?

Healthier sweet dishes include:

  • Fresh fruit: Though these might have sugar, they are also packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for your child.
  • Kheer: there is a large variety of ways to make kheer. You can have rice, vermicelli (sevaiya) or semolina (soojikheer and add dried fruit like dates (khajoor), raisins (kishmish) or fig (anjeer) for more nutrition. The milk and dried fruit will provide plenty of nutrition.
  • Plain cakes or biscuits: though not healthy on their own, these are better alternatives to cake with cream and icing or biscuits with fillings.

*Thanks a lot for visiting my blog. Please do ‘★ LIKE’ the post if you found it to be useful.Your comments, suggestions, criticism and all opinions are very much appreciated. Please do write your queries in the Reply/comments section and I will try to get back to you asap.

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5 thoughts on “Jaggery versus Sugar : Why is Jaggery better than Sugar in baby’s diet

  1. Thank you so much for your article about jaggery it’s really helpfull for my little toddler.he always wants to eat jaggery in his meal.
    Thank you


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