Is jaggery a safe option for diabetics? Know details here

India is big on ‘gur’ or jaggery! India makes up 70% of the world’s total production of jaggery. Export of jaggery occurs in the year 2018-19. Export occurs to countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, the USA, Indonesia, etc. Jaggery is prepared from sugarcane juice or date palms. It is used in making desserts and also a range of dishes. Ayurveda is making use of it for thousands of years. Jaggery is known as ‘medicinal sugar’, as per the APEDA. Organic jaggery is even better form than the normal one.

Jaggery and Diabetes

Jaggery is a traditional sweetener extensively used in Asian and African countries. It is a healthier option than refined sugar. And, dietitians often suggest adding jaggery to desserts rather than sugar. This is due to the unrefined nature of the sweetener. Hence, it retains a huge number of nutrients as compared to refined sugar. Yet, a lot of diabetics are often confused about whether or not to use sugar. And, this is beyond the scope of their diet. Thus, what is the truth?

Is jaggery actually safe for people with diabetes? Or, is it good to avoid diabetes patients altogether, together with sugar? To answer this query, it is better to look at the production of jaggery. Jaggery is prepared from either sugarcane or date palm. Traditionally, to produce jaggery, boil raw sugarcane juice or date palm sap in large and thin vessels. The leftover residue after the process is complete. It is less refined as compared to the crystallized sugar which is consumed. Thus, it contains more nutrients in comparison to refined products. A person is more likely to get sugarcane jaggery. It is more commonly available. Yet, the nutrient profile of the sweetener nevertheless, it still contains high simple sugars.

Is jaggery better than sugar?

Some diabetics are concerned about whether or not they are allowed to consume jaggery because their diets can be free of sweets completely. Is jaggery good for diabetes? Jaggery has more nutrients than refined sugar and contains less of the processed product that is commonly found in many households today. Jaggery is made from either sugarcane or date palm. During the manufacturing process – stems, stalks, and leaves are removed from raw cane and poured into cylindrical-shaped boiling pots. These pots are extremely shallow – they are wide at the bottom and tapered to end abruptly. This shape allows for more space within the container as the sap boils. The by-product of creating jaggery is much less refined than crystallised sugar. This means that it has more nutrients such as minerals and vitamins that lower blood glucose levels. Jaggery has many benefits, including iron and the ability to regulate blood pressure. It also helps in reducing oxidative stress and aids in digestion. This is why your Indian grandmother gives you a piece of jaggery after each meal! Although the high glycemic index in jaggery may not be suitable for diabetics, it can act as a prebiotic that helps with digestion post- meals. Diabetics should follow a low glycemic diet when deciding what foods to eat throughout their day. Learning about the glycemic index of foods is essential for diabetics and those who live with an insulin deficiency. Both sugar and jaggery cause a spike in the levels of insulin to reduce blood glucose levels, which can be very dangerous for diabetics on a regular basis. Jaggery has also been found to contain more nutrients than does refined sugar and is considered a better option. However, if you are a diabetic, it is never recommended to consume jaggery due to its high glycemic index score of 84.

Is it safe for diabetics to eat jaggery?

Many people are turning towards healthier alternatives in terms of sugar. Natural sweeteners are more popular than artificial ones as time goes on. People suffering from diabetes can now find natural sweeteners such as honey, jaggery, with fewer calories and less sugar. When it comes down to whether or not jaggery (sugar cane extract) is healthy for diabetic patients, there are varying views on the matter. Some people believe that jaggery causes diabetes while others claim that jaggery can help those with diabetes. With sugar constantly under the microscope, it’s no surprise that people would seek out better ways to get their sweet fix. Whether you have diabetes or not,  jaggery is a natural sweetener that has garnered popularity due to its  perceived health benefits, yet retained all of its original sweetness. If we compare this option to processed sugars commonly used in foods and drinks today such as white and brown sugar, one can see there are general health benefits associated with this healthy alternative.

Using natural sweeteners instead of artificial ones is healthier when preparing food for people with diabetes. However, not all natural sweeteners are safe for people with diabetes.

Jaggery made from organic ingredients is better than white sugar, which has undergone heavy processing. Unlike white sugar, organic jaggery does not include chemicals and additives. However, these benefits of jaggery apply only when you keep its intake limited.

While jaggery looks like a better option than refined sugar, it doesn’t necessarily imply that it will not increase your blood glucose levels. Jaggery can still cause a blood sugar rise since most of the carbohydrates in jaggery are sugars. For example, 100g of jaggery contains 98.96g of carbohydrates and 383 calories.

On the other hand, a 100g serving of sugar has about 100g of carbohydrates and 387 calories. These nutritional values imply that jaggery is only slightly better than sugar. Therefore, jaggery and sugar are equally unsafe or unhealthy for people with diabetes, especially when eaten in large quantities.

Jaggery has a high glycemic index(GI) value of 84.4. A food with a high GI has a lot of sugar in it. Additionally, it might result in a sharp increase in blood glucose levels. The ideal diet for people with diabetes includes foods with a low glycemic index. However, if you need to eat jaggery, ensure moderate consumption while following other precautions, such as limiting the consumption of other foods rich in carbohydrates. Keep your jaggery intake no more than 1-2 teaspoons a day.

A nutritious and balanced diet is the best strategy to control blood sugar if you have diabetes because it helps you manage the condition better.

Nutritionist suggests using natural herbs like ginger, basil, and cardamom for flavour instead of jaggery. Plus, diabetic patients should consider the glycemic index and glycemic load before adding any foods to their diet. Therefore, speak with your doctor to find out what foods are safe and which are not before making any dietary changes.

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