Sukumar Ray, the icon of Bengali children’s literature and the father of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray said, ‘kintu shobar chaite bhalo, pauruti aar jhola gur’ which translates to ‘but the best of everything is the bread and runny jaggery’.
From the era of Daadi and Naani, the long before refined sugar came into our lives, there was Gur. From being a part of every meal for most of the households in India in the early ’90s to being served along with the mouth freshener at the end of fine dining in a restaurant, jaggery has successfully sustained its place in Indian diets for over the decade. With the young generation gravitating towards refined sugar, jaggery is still struggling to find its way back as a healthier sugar.
Since the Vedic era, Jaggery has had its significance in the Indian diet. “Guda” in Sanskrit, has been used as an Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000’s years. However, in the 1600s, it was the Portuguese discovered its ingredients in Kerala, hence the word jaggery comes from, Portuguese word “Jagara”. Traditionally, jaggery is made of sugarcane juice or palm sap. Both of which have their own taste and texture.
Being used as Ayurvedic medicine and serving centuries with its medicinal qualities, let’s dig into the 7 health benefits of jaggery:
- Jaggery improves the digestive system by secreting digestive enzymes and stimulating bowel movement, hence preventing constipation. Hence, it is advisable to eat jaggery after every meal.
- Being rich in iron and folate, it helps prevent anemia by maintaining the normal level of red blood cells.
- Well-known for its ability to purify the blood, it helps in improving immune function and helps in boosting resistance against infections.
- Jaggery is a good source of antioxidants, which help in lowering the risk of certain types of cancers and helps in preventing free radicals (responsible for early aging).
- Acting as a detox, it helps in cleaning the liver by flushing out toxins from the body.
- Being rich in many nutrients, eating jaggery daily is an effective natural treatment for menstrual problems like mood swings, menstrual cramps, and abdominal pain.
- It is a rich source of potassium, which helps improve the body’s metabolism by reducing water retention, balancing electrolytes, and building up muscles. These factors play an important role in effective weight loss, making it effective in aiding in weight loss.
With the quality of providing warmth to the body, jaggery is widely consumed during winters. It holds a great significance during the start of the Hindu harvest festival, Makar Sankranti, which is celebrated all across India in different forms, Pongal in South India, Lohri in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, Maghi in Himachal Pradesh, Poush Sankranti in West Bengal, etc. Sweets made of jaggery are a must during these festivals to dive into the warmth of the festival. Be it til papdi chikki, peanut chikki, gur patti, laddoos, puran polis, kheer, or pitheys, when cooked with the traditional recipes are considered as the purest form of sweets, which is any day superior to the sweets made of refined sugar.
Jaggery has found its own sweet spot in many of our lives. As I sit here and pen down the benefits of jaggery in our life, I recall this famous Marathi expression used during Sankranti to greet family and guests in Marathi households ‘Til gul ghya ni goad goad bola’ which means ‘eats til and gud, and speak well’.
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