Jaggery vs Sugar: Dealing with a Sweet Tooth

Author: Michelle Scott   Date Posted:29 March 2021 


Ok, so you have a sweet tooth – admit it!

But if, like most people, you wonder about the array of sugars available today and which of them are best for you, let me share some thoughts with you. I made the move from highly processed sugars to unrefined sugars quite a few years ago for health reasons. As I was doing the research for this blog I was given a strong reminder on why I made that decision. I use a variety of unrefined sugars these days but Jaggery is definitely high on my sugar list. 

The Difference Between Refined Sugar and Jaggery (Rapadura)

Processed Sugar

Cane stalks are crushed to extract the juice which is filtered with slaked lime to remove dirt and debris. It is then reduced by boiling until it forms a syrup. To produce the granules, the syrup is boiled again until it forms crystals and spun in a centrifuge to separate the syrup and the crystals. The crystals are then dried with hot air. This produces raw sugar ready for processing into the sugar we purchase from the supermarket.

 To get white sugar the raw sugar is liquified and processed again to remove the remaining colour and any impurities. The filtration component of this processing uses a decolouring process that involves the use of bone char or other granulated carbons.  After this processing it is again centrifuged to remove any remaining liquid. The crystals are then ground into various grades. White sugar, castor sugar and icing sugar. The liquid left from this refining is molasses.

To create raw sugar as we purchase it in the supermarket, a third process adds this molasses back into the refined white sugar. 



Jaggery is made using traditional processes. The cane stalks are pressed to extract the juice which is then allowed to sit in large containers to let any sediment sink to the bottom. This juice is strained to produce a clear liquid. It is poured into large flat-bottomed pans where the juice is boiled and reduced over open fires.  As this juice is being evaporated any impurities are constantly being skimmed off the top with paddles. Eventually a dough like paste is left which is cooled and cut into blocks. These blocks can then be further processed into a granulated sugar by grinding through sieves.

Two very different ways of dealing with the same raw material. 


So what is the difference?

White sugar is highly processed removing almost all its natural minerals and trace elements. There is an inorganic compound added during the processing (slaked lime) and in many cases an animal product is used in the filtration process (bone char).

Jaggery is processed by much simpler means and retains a higher food value. That is potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. It also contains higher levels of vitamin A, B-1, B-2, B-6 and niacin.


There is no denying that sugar is sugar in all its forms and the choice is yours.  However the healthier method of processing is definitely used in the making of Jaggery.
In this busy world where we are inundated with advertising, processed foods and confusing ingredient labels it is worth taking the time to understand what type of sugar we are feeding ourselves and our families. Keeping your diets simple and steering clear of processed food can be a challenge. However reviewing the type of sugar and how much you are putting into your body can be a great first step.
Here are a  couple of healthy sweet treats that you might like to try.
Festive Stone Fruit with Gluten Free Walnut Cumble and Cardamom Cream
Rapadura Sugar Cookies


If you are looking for ways that you can improve on your sugar intake:
  • Move away from highly processed sugar
  • Opt for healthier sugar alternatives
  • Keep your sugar intake at sensible levels


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