Do you think of the much renounced table sugar immediately when I mention sugar cane? There's so much more to it than that. Pure sugar cane juice and table sugar are very different. Table sugar has gone through excessive manufacturing. This is why our bodies doesn't react to it well. We'll go into more depth on this topic later on.
For now, suffice to say that the sugar cane juice benefits may in fact outweigh the amount of sugar present. Let's start by learning a little more about sugar cane.
Sugar Cane Fun FactsI was surprised to learn that sugar cane is actually a type of grass. Based on production quantity, sugar cane is the world's largest crop. Capitalizing on the vast amount of sugar cane grown, Brazil produces a significant volume of ethanol (i.e. alcohol) from the bits of the plant left over from commercial production of sugar.
Sugar cane is grown throughout the world in subtropical and tropical climates. The main purpose of this agriculture is sugar production. Brazil is touted as the world's largest sugar cane producer, harvesting an estimated over 700,000 metric tons of sugar cane per year. Wow!
Though not a favorite ingredient in Western cuisine, whole sugar cane and sugar cane juice are widely used in cooking elsewhere in the world. You're likely to come across some variant in the Caribbean, South America and Southeast Asia. The juice is made into flour, candy and a variety of alcoholic beverages, to name just a few uses. As for the rest of the plant - trimmed sugar cane stalks are sometimes used as decorative skewers.
What Exactly is Sugar Cane Juice?Sugar cane juice is the juice of unprocessed sugar cane. The raw, peeled sugar cane stalks are crushed in a milling process to produce liquid cane juice.
Sugar cane juice is consumed alone sweet, tasty beverage in many parts of the world. In the United States, sugar cane juice has become a popular ingredient at juice shops. This is undoubtedly due to the sweetness it imbues in juice mixtures without the downfall of processed sugars - which we know can be harmful to the body.
Sugar cane juice is also converted to evaporated cane syrup to act as a sweetener in many processed food products. This use is not considered nearly as healthy a practice as drinking raw cane juice.
This video explains how sugar cane juice is made:
What's the Difference Between Sugar Cane Juice and Table Sugar?While sugar cane juice does contain sugars, those sugars are naturally occurring and unprocessed. Processing table sugar also removes almost all of the nutritional benefits. The only part of the plant which remains are simple sugars glucose and sucrose. All of the liquid is evaporated to form the crystalline substance that we all know and love (or hate, if you're worried about health!).
One very important difference between sugar cane juice and table sugar is the glycemic index rating of the two. Comparatively, sugar cane juice has a much lower glycemic index rating. This means that sugar cane juice doesn't raise blood sugar as much. The result is a more sustained energy release over time and no "sugar crash" when it wears off. It's definitely a more sensible choice of sweetener.
Nutritional Differences Between Sugar Cane Juice & Table SugarThe main difference between sugar cane juice and table sugar is the lack of any useful nutrients in table sugar. The processing of the sugar cane plant into table sugar essentially removes all of the phytonutrients from sugar cane juice.
Sugar Cane Juice BenefitsRaw sugar cane juice contains many phytochemicals (plant nutrients like vitamins and antioxidants) that can do our bodies good. These plant compounds may play a role in fighting disease and free radicals.
Sugar cane juice has a high amount of a class of antioxidant phytochemical called polyphenols. Science tells us that polyphenols help prevent diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and various cancers.
Sugar cane juice also contains many well-known vital nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. These important compounds are vital in many of our bodies' functions. They support heart, bone, and brain health. Deficiency in these nutrients can cause serious problems.
1. Treats UTI and Other Urinary System Issues
Urinary tract infections can make you absolutely miserable. UTIs are caused by bacteria that typically enters through the urethra (where urine is expelled from the body) and can move upwards to infect the bladder and kidneys. The symptoms of UTI include painful urination, the urge to urinate frequently with little result, and possible fever.
Vitamin C helps kill bacteria in the urine by making its pH more acidic. The good news is that sugar cane juice has plenty of vitamin C. The antioxidants in sugar cane juice are also thought to be helpful in treating and preventing urinary tract infections. The hydrating benefits of sugar cane juice also mean that it flushes out UTI-causing bacteria.
A mixture of lime juice, coconut water, and sugar cane juice is said to alleviate symptoms of a UTI while helping to eliminate the actual bacterial infection causing it. It's important to note that some doctors highly recommend cutting back on sugar intake for UTIs, so check with your healthcare provider before trying this.
Did you know you can aid your UTI with juicing? Read more here
2. Promotes Kidney Health
The low glycemic index of sugar cane juice is one way that this sweet drink may help support kidney health. High blood sugar levels are one cause of kidney damage. By replacing sweet drinks with a higher glycemic index rating with sugar cane juice, which doesn't raise blood sugar as much, may help.
3. Treats Kidney Stones
The National Kidney Foundation suggests getting enough calcium and staying hydrated to prevent and treat kidney stones. Drinking sugar cane juice with a citrus twist may be beneficial. The citrate in lemon and lime juice is thought to help prevent kidney stones from forming.
It's important to note that a high sugar intake can also lead to kidney stones. Moderating your intake of sugar cane juice is important. Chugging lots of sugar cane juice like it's the cure to all that ails you will likely result in more issues than resolutions to your current health issues.
4. A Healthier Alternative to Energy Drinks
The high glucose content in sugar cane juice helps to provide the body with instant energy. Since the sugar in sugar cane juice is unprocessed and in a complex form, the body is able to convert it efficiently to energy the body can use.
Sugar cane juice also contains plenty of B vitamins. B vitamins have, in recent years, been touted as the key to unlocking the body's energy stores. It follows that sugar cane juice might help increase energy levels, improving your vitality over longer periods.
Commercially made energy drinks often contain lots of processed sugar, extremely high levels of caffeine, and mystery ingredients that may be bad for your health. Avoid them at all costs!!
5. Acts as a Laxative
The potassium in sugar cane juice benefits your the digestive system. Potassium regulates the functioning of your body's smooth muscles (like the muscle found in the intestines). A good potassium balance keeps the digestive system moving as it is supposed to.
The boost of potassium that sugar cane juice provides may help get the bowels moving without resorting to-over-the counter laxatives.
6. A Substitute for Widely Used Sweeteners
Sugar cane juice is much less processed than most other sweeteners on the market. The use of natural, unprocessed sweeteners has become quite a fad.
Westerners don't want to give up the foods that satisfy their sweet tooth. Lifestyles such as the paleo diet restrict the use of processed sweeteners. Sugar cane juice could provide a natural, unprocessed alternative.
7. Prevents Tooth Decay
Sugar cane juice contains calcium and other minerals vital for healthy teeth and tooth enamel. The combination of phosphorous, vitamin C, and calcium is crucial to overall oral health, along with proper oral hygiene and dental care.
Science has proven that getting the recommended daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D will help us retain our teeth. These nutrients support the bones in our jaw and can help prevent tooth decay. Some sources even say that sugar cane juice can cure bad breath!
Don't forget that although the nutrient profile of sugar cane juice is impressive when it comes to oral health, if you don't brush your teeth shortly after drinking it, the sugar residues will have the same effect as eating candy.
8. Sugar Cane Juice Hydrates
Sugar cane juice contains not only a high water content, but plenty of electrolytes. Our bodies lose electrolytes we sweat excessively. This makes sugar cane juice a great, natural alternative to sports drinks.
9. Boosts Immune System
The vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants in sugar cane juice help to support our bodies' healthy immune systems. Vitamin C is particularly helpful in keeping our immune system functioning well.
Since vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, it is flushed out of the body easily. Therefore, it's important that we take in a steady supply of functions.
10. Promotes Healthy Skin
Adequate hydration is an important factor when it comes to healthy skin. A healthy, unprocessed diet will also help maintain a healthy glow. Sugar cane juice fits the bill for both of these steps, making it a must have for nourished skin.
11. May Help Prevent and Fight Cancer
There are reports all over the internet telling us that sugar cane juice fights cancer. However, when I looked into it, I found that studies are lacking when it comes to hard evidence. Much of this claim centers around the presence of free-radical fighting antioxidants in sugar cane juice. Watch this space.
Sugar Cane Juice WarningsWhile sugar cane juice has many potential health benefits, it still contains a great deal of sugar. When it is consumed in moderation, that shouldn't be an issue. If you're using it to replace a soda habit, for example, it may well be an improvement. If consumed excessively, sugar cane juice can contribute to the development of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases, just like any sugary food or drink.
The use of sugar cane juice as a laxative also tells us that it has the potential to cause unwanted diarrhea. If diarrhea becomes an issue, it is advisable to stop consuming sugar cane juice so that your body doesn't become dehydrated. It's common sense really.
As always, home remedies and trendy diet or juicing trends are absolutely no substitute for proper medical care and the advice of your physician. Make sure that you let your doctor know about any changes in your diet or any supplements you take, whether they are natural or not.
The Last Word on the Benefits of Sugar Cane JuiceSugar cane juice benefits have not been widely studied. It isn't an extremely popular substance in the Western world, so it hasn't made waves in the medical community as some other traditional Eastern medicinal plants have done over the last decade or so.
Hard and fast evidence is lacking too. Even after all of this research, I'm unsure if the benefits of the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in sugar cane juice outweigh the large amount of sugar that it contains. There are plenty of other ways to get these nutrients into your diet without the risk. Once again, moderation is key.
Personally, I think using it as a substitute for table sugar in drinks and desserts is a fine idea. However I don't agree that sugar cane juice is the magical cure often portrayed in Ayurvedic medicinal practices. As a less-harmful sweet drink, sugar cane juice can have a place in a healthy, well balanced diet.