Being diabetic can often set off a sweet tooth you didn’t know you had. And when sugar is out of bounds, jaggery with all its health benefits and uses in traditional medicine can seem like the perfect non-sugar alternative. But is it really a smart choice if you are diabetic? Or will it mess with your blood sugar levels just like any other sweet would?
Jaggery, a traditional form of sweetener from the Indian subcontinent, is the solid residue you get from boiling down clarified sugarcane juice. It is considered less processed than refined white sugars, which is why it retains a lot of its nutrients like potassium and calcium as well as iron. Because it is more brown and subject to less processing, it can, on some psychological level, seem like a healthy choice. After all, brown rice is healthier than white rice and brown and wholewheat bread healthier than white bread, right? Unfortunately, there isn’t reason enough for you to reach for the jaggery. Does it have health benefits? Yes, from fighting oxidative stress and blood pressure to helping with your iron intake, there’s much that jaggery can do. But these don’t take precedence if you’re diabetic. Because, as it turns out, it is a sugar after all.1
id="a-no-no-for-diabetics-jaggery-contains-sugar-a-lot-of-it">A No-No For Diabetics: Jaggery Contains Sugar, A Lot Of It
While jaggery is often promoted as a nutrient-rich sweetener, whether or not it contains those minerals is in some ways secondary if you are diabetic. At the end of the day, this is a sweetener that has anywhere from 65 to 85 percent sucrose.2 Yes, that much. So despite all the reports that point to its mineral and even fiber content, the bulk of it is simply sugar.3
Jaggery Causes High Blood Glucose Response
Here’s putting it in perspective for you: jaggery has almost as much of an effect on your blood glucose levels as pure glucose! As one study on people with non-insulin dependent diabetes found, jaggery was second only to glucose in a test that investigated the effect of sweeteners like glucose, jaggery, honey, and sucrose. Subjects were given solutions of these sweeteners and sugar levels were monitored one hour and two hours post ingestion. At one hour, glucose led the pack when it came to blood glucose response, followed by jaggery, then sucrose, and finally honey. While the glycemic index of glucose was 100, the one-hour glycemic index of jaggery was 84.4. Honey and sucrose were pegged at around 70.
id="ayurveda-too-advises-diabetics-to-avoid-jaggery">Ayurveda Also Advises Diabetics To Avoid Jaggery
Ayurveda uses jaggery in multiple remedies for things as varied as lung infections, sore throat, asthma, and even migraines.5 6 Yet even this ancient form of medicine warns diabetics against using jaggery in their diet. The ayurvedic contraindicated diet called “apathya” lists jaggery as an offender. Like other foods such as sugar or molasses that raise blood sugar levels, jaggery is also to be avoided by anyone with “madhumeha” or diabetes.7
Fruit: A Sweet But Healthier Alternative For Diabetics
So what do you do when that next sugar craving strikes? Eat a fruit. Make smart choices that are low carb and low sugar as well. Mind your portion size and you can enjoy natural sources of sugar that fill you up too! A medium-sized pear or apple works well. Scatter some seeds over them to make them more filling. Or have a handful of grapes (not more!) or a banana. Grill or roast them to get a wonderful caramelization and make it feel like a real treat.8
|↑1, ↑2||Gulati, Seema, and Anoop Misra. “Sugar intake, obesity, and diabetes in India.” Nutrients 6, no. 12 (2014): 5955-5974.|
|↑3||Shrivastav, Priyanka, Abhay Kumar Verma, Ramanpreet Walia, Rehana Parveen, and Arun Kumar Singh. “EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL RESEARCH.”|
|↑4||Uma, P., R. S. Hariharan, V. Ramani, and V. Seshia. “Glycaemic indices of different sugars.” International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries 7 (1987): 78-82.|
|↑5||Svasa Roga(Asthma). Ayurveda Institute UK.|
|↑6||Sharma, A. K., and A. K. Sharma. “A Critical Appraisal of Headache vis-à-vis Shiro Roga.” J Homeop Ayurv Med 2, no. 131 (2013): 2167-1206.|
|↑7||Goli Penchala Prasad, Dr G. Babu, and G. K. Swamy. “A contemporary scientific support on role of ancient ayurvedic diet and concepts in diabetes mellitus (Madhumeha).” Ancient science of life 25, no. 3-4 (2006): 84.|
|↑8||Myth: I can’t eat fruit if I have diabetes.