Halwa, Kheer, Sheera, pedha, laddoo, rasmalai ………. Don’t we all love the sweets that come from our halwais and mithaiwalas (sweet vendors)? Oh! And not to forget cakes, cookies, ice-creams, shakes and other baking confectionaries. What is the one commonality in all these food dishes? That would be sweeteners. On a regular basis, we all consume refined white sugar and add it to the dishes. Not just, desserts, we also add them to our teas and coffees. Science and food experts, time and again remind us, that white refined sugar is super unhealthy and should not be a part of our day-to-day food culture. Thus, we need healthy replacements that work wonders on our health, causing no harm and enhance the taste of the dish. Some healthy sweeteners are jaggery, raw honey, local khandsari sugar, brown sugar, kakvi and date sugar.
These sweeteners are considered to be better than refined white sugar because they may contain more minerals, vitamins and enzymes in comparison to white sugar. They are also fibre and antioxidant rich, and some also happen to be low calorie sweeteners. However, just like any other ingredient, even these healthy sweeteners should be consumed in moderation, too much of anything is harmful for our health.
History Fact: It is believed that jaggery originated in India, 3,000 years ago, as it was a key ingredient mentioned in the Ayurveda. It used to be called ‘gur’ and the word ‘jaggery’ is of Portuguese origin. Biblically, Palestine was called the ‘land of milk and honey’. In the 30th century, Egyptians used honey as a commodity for exchange and fed it to the sacrificial animals.
Let’s trace the history of jaggery, the most raw and healthiest form of sugar. While the origin of jaggery dates back to 3,000 years ago in the Indian sub-continent, the first written evidence dates back to 2,500 years ago where in jaggery was used to treat ailments like bile disorders and in the process of blood purification. It was commonly used in the countries namely, Latin America, Pakistan, India, and the Caribbean islands. It is also believed that the first thing that Gautam Buddha consumed after attaining enlightenment was sugarcane, which is the raw product of jaggery. Food historian K.T.Achaya, in his book Indian Food: A Historical Companion writes -
“Charaka derives guda (for jaggery) from Gauda (as Bengal was called)… Kautilya (c. 300 B.C. mentions a whole range of sugar products including guda)”
Here’s a list of 5 sweeteners that are healthy replacements to white refined sugar –
1. Jaggery: Loaded with minerals and antioxidants, jaggery is an excellent immunity booster and a blood purifier. It helps in the treatment of the symptoms of flu and liver and full-body detox. It is supposed to work as a stomach coolant (it is thus, that gur sharbat happens to be a popular part of the summer-time cool drinks). Along with preventing respiratory ailments and relieving joint pains, it is also an effective aid for weight loss. It is popularly called ‘Medicinal Sugar’ for all the properties it possesses. Jaggery is an active ingredient in our Indian traditional sweets like sheeras, payasams, ladoos and is also used to sweeten sambhars, curries and dals.
Taru’s Products – Jaggery Powder Sachets (TARU happens to be the first brand to come up with the concept of packaging jaggery powder into one-time use sachets.)
2. Honey: Super-rich in antioxidants, honey has both medicinal and culinary uses. Diabetics usually opt for honey over white sugar because it is less harmful in comparison to the latter. It may also assist in the lowering of bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It is said improve heart health. Ancient Egyptians used to use honey to heal wounds and burns. It reduces symptoms of cough. With lemon, honey in hot water helps with weight loss. Honey was considered to be a super popular trading commodity in medieval Europe. Honey is used as coatings to crisps, pancakes and as a sweetener in muffins, cakes and pastries.
Taru’s Products – Sunderban Honey
3. Khandsari Sugar: Popularly known as Khaand Sugar and native to India, Khandsari sugar is extracted directly from liquid jaggery, which makes it healthier than regular white sugar. It is easily digestible, and is rich in minerals, nutrients and fibres. It aids in blood purification and helps improves digestion, bone health and lung health. You can use this as an alternative in place of regular refined white sugar and as a sweetener in Indian sweets, and in your regular tea and coffee. It is called ‘The Mother of Raw Sugars’.
Taru’s Products – Khandsari Sugar
4. Brown Sugar: Commonly used as a baking ingredient, Brown Sugar contains molasses (and it is this that makes it an alternative to refined white sugar). It is a good source of potassium and contains small amounts of calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin B. It is said to prevent obesity and respiratory ailments, ease menstrual cramps, improve digestion and act as an energy booster. Brown sugar adds colour and taste to baked goods like cakes, pasties and cookies. It also serves as an ingredient in marinades, barbeque sauces and other hot chilli recipes.
Taru’s Products – Brown Sugar
5. Date Sugar: Equivalent to brown sugar, the dominant flavor note in date sugar is similar to that of butterscotch. Consisting of ground and dehydrated dates, it is rich in minerals like magnesium and copper, antioxidants and fibre. It may also be used to treat ailments like constipation, cancer and diabetes. While it is used as a sweetener in baked goods, it also proves to be an excellent topping on oatmeal, yoghurts or muffins. It is also used to sweeten tea and in popular desserts like caramelized bananas.
So, have you decided which sweeteners suits you the best? You can shop for the same at www.tarunaturals.com.
- Shruthi Narayan