Jaggery For Babies: Right Age To Introduce, Benefits, And Side Effects

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Jaggery is prepared from concentrated sugarcane juice or date palm sap. It is prepared from coconut sap as well. This common traditional sweetener is the closest substitute to refined (white) sugar. Its use is often preferred over white sugar due to the presence of trace minerals. Besides, jaggery is known to have certain bioactive compounds that maybe beneficial for health in the long run.

Adding any sweetner to foods should be done in a thoughtful manner, so the child does not need to have everything sweetened. Milk can be had without adding any sweetners since its naturally sweet.

This post tells you about jaggery for babies, when they can start having it, its benefits, and possible side effects.

Is Jaggery Good For Babies?

Jaggery is usually preferred to white sugar (1).Pediatricians recommend avoiding sugar for babies under 12 months of age (2). Jaggery can be considered an alternative but should be fed in moderation.

When Can Babies Start Having Jaggery?

Babies can have jaggery as soon as they start eating solids, which is around the age of six months. However, the appropriate age may vary for each baby. Therefore, consult a doctor or pediatric nutritionist to know the right age to introduce jaggery to your baby. Once you have the doctor’s approval, you may introduce powdered jaggery by adding it to infant foods,such as porridge and purees.

However, before introducing jaggery, do ask your doctor about the ideal amount you can use for your baby.

Health Benefits OfJaggery For Infants

The nutritional composition of jaggery changes depending on the source – sugarcane, date palm, or coconut. However, there are some general benefits of jaggery, irrespective of the source.

  1. Energy-dense: Jaggery can provide instant energy and intensify the total energy value of traditional foods given to the babies while weaning (3).
  1. Nutrient supply: Jaggery contains some amount of minerals, such as iron, calcium, sodium, and potassium. It also has traces of a few vital vitamins that could be beneficial for your baby (4). Moderate consumption of jaggery could contribute to the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of the baby.
  1. Iron deficiency: When consumed with a well-balanced diet, jaggery could help supplement iron (5). In the long run, this could help manage iron-deficiency anemia.
  1. Bone health: Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are some of the vital minerals that are crucial for maintaining bone health. Jaggery contains all these trace minerals and thus may support bone health. However, there are better sources for these nutrients, and you do not have to use jaggery exclusively for these minerals.
  1. Digestive health: As per traditional practice in India, jaggery is consumed after a meal since it is believed to aid in digestion. However, there are no scientific studies to back this belief. You may give jaggery water or syrup once in a while to your young infant to help support digestion.
  1. Immunity: The use of jaggery in Ayurveda to treat various ailments and boost immunity is well-documented. However, clinical trials on the same are lacking. Nevertheless, the presence of trace minerals and vitamins in jaggery may help babies combat infections in the long run.
  1. Liver detoxification:The use of jaggery with ginger for liver detoxification is documented in traditional medicine (6). The alternative medicine believes that jaggery is an unrefined sugar rich in antioxidants and thus could clean or detox the liver. However, there are no clinical studies to back this theory.
  1. Overall health: Jaggery is often used for the treatment of cold, cough, and flu in traditional medicine. Besides, it is also believed to cure intestinal worms and prevent constipation. However, clinical studies to validate these uses are limited.

Consuming jaggery can have some health benefits. However, its consumption in infants and toddlers must be limited due to some probable side-effects.

Remember that jaggery is considered better when compared to white sugar. But it is still a form of sugar and cannot be overconsumed.

Possible Side-Effects Of Jaggery In Infants

Excess consumption may lead to the following unwanted effects.

  1. Sweet addiction: Avoid feeding excess jaggery since it may cause the baby to become addicted to it (7).
  1. Adverse reactions: Jaggery, in general, is considered as anti-allergic. However, it might cause sensitivity or intolerance in some cases. Thus, if you observe any signs of sensitivity or intolerance like mild rashes on your baby, then discontinue feeding and consult a pediatrician.
  1. Childhood obesity: Traditionally, jaggery is used to increase the weight of an infant. However, excessive consumption can significantly increase the risk of obesity in children because jaggery is still a form of sugar.
  1. Tooth decay: Jaggery is about 80% simple sugar, which can cause cavities and tooth decay when consumed in excess. Thus, make sure you rinse the baby’s mouth with water after feeding jaggery.

Ways To Include Jaggery In Your Infant and Toddler’s Diet

Try to access organic jaggery because standard non-organic jaggery could contain compounds such as sulfur dioxide that may not be good for the baby’s health.

Here are some of the age-appropriate ways to add jaggery to baby food recipes.

  1. For young infants who have just started solids, jaggery water can be given along with other weaning foods.
  1. For babies of about seven months of age, you may try giving jaggery syrup mixed with nut powder (only if the baby is not allergic to nuts). It is one of the Indian food ideas that several pediatricians recommend. Feed it in small quantities.
  1. Jaggery water or jaggery syrup can be added to homemade Cerelac, or it can also be added to the commercial baby food mix. Do not add more than half a teaspoon in one serving.
  1. You may add powdered jaggery or jaggery syrup to porridge, breakfast cereals like quinoa, and vegetable preparation like sambhar.
  1. Prepare simple finger food or sweet dishes with jaggery. You may consider adding ingredients like sprouted ragi health mix, wheat flour, and ginger powder to intensify the nutritional value of the final recipe.

You can also try palm sugar and palm jaggery syrup along. Organic jaggery is a relatively safe natural sweetener for infants. It is generally considered safe when consumed with a well-balanced diet and in small quantities.

References:

1. GhanendraGartaula and MahendraBhattarai; Replacement of sugar in the product formulation of “Bomboyson” by jaggery; National Center For Biotechnology Information
2. Infant Food and Feeding; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Complementary Feeding Guidelines; The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust
4. Nath A et al.; Review on Recent Advances in Value Addition of Jaggery based Products; Longdom Publishing
5. Sood M and Sharada D; Iron Food Supplement; National Center for Biotechnology Information
6. An Ayurvedic Pragmatic Approach to Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitisvis-a-visYakritodara; Journal of Ayurveda And Integrated Medica7 Sciences
7. Danielle R and Amanda H McDaniel; The Human Sweet Tooth; National Center for Biotechnology Information

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