Green Sugar Part 2: Traditional Food of the Goddesses
During a recent visit to India, I was struck by the vibrant energy and youthful appearance of so many of the older women I saw. They looked like walking advertisements for India’s legendary Ayurvedic health and beauty secrets. Despite their aura of mystery, the underlying mechanisms of these ancient treatments are proving to be anything but magical. In fact, the latest scientific research suggests India's ancient holistic healers may have invented the world's first anti-aging diet. A Holistic Diet for Balanced Health Unlike the typical fad diet, an Ayurvedic eating plan isn’t about temporarily excluding certain categories of food. It strives instead to permanently sustain the optimal balance of physical tendencies in each individual by including a full range of food types—sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent, and sweet—in every major meal. You have to love a culture that considers dessert essential! In India's tropical regions, traditional desserts like kheer (rice pudding) are considered one of the best ways to cool the body. The source of this refreshing quality, also gives Indian sweets their intriguingly complex flavor—a little like molasses or brown sugar, yet ultimately indefinable—as well as some surprising nutritional benefits.
Jaggery: The Green Bonuses Also known as “medicinal sugar,” jaggery is prized through Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean as not only a healthful food, but also a soothing remedy for coughs and other ailments. Produced by cooking sugarcane or the sweet sap of date, coconut, or sago palm trees, jaggery's golden-brown crystals retain more vitamins, amino acids, and phytonutrients than chemically extracted sugars—and no toxic residues. The purity and wholesomeness of date palm jaggery is particularly revered among Hindus, who consider it a worthy gift for their deities. How does this shining reputation stand up under modern scientific scrutiny? Compared to refined sugar, jaggery's nutritional value looks pretty impressive: * A motherlode of minerals, including iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and potassium, is packed in every bite. From regulating blood sugar levels and boosting cell metabolism to promoting healthy circulation, these vital nutrients keep all physiological functions in peak form. * Anti-aging assets The antioxidant compounds in jaggery help counteract free radical damage from aging, sun exposure, and environmental pollutants. Its established use by industrial workers to relieve smoke- and dust-related respiratory symptoms—together with research findings on its effectiveness in preventing coal-induced throat and lung lesions—underscore jaggery’s potential as a healing agent. The Golden Mean of Anti-Aging: Consume Moderately, Live Longer As with all of life’s riches, however, moderate consumption is key. Minimally processed plant sugars like jaggery are smart alternatives to highly refined carbohydrates—not an excuse for overindulging an overactive sweet tooth.