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

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Jaggery is a healthier alternative to refined or white sugar as it contains trace minerals and certain bioactive compounds that may benefit health in the long run. However, as it is a sweetener, you might want to know about the safety of jaggery for babies.

Offering jaggery to your baby at the right age and in age-appropriate amounts is essential to ensure the baby’s safety. Besides, it can help prevent the baby from developing a sweet preference.

Jaggery is often made with concentrated sugarcane juice, date palm sap, or coconut sap. Keep reading as we tell you more about the safety of jaggery for babies, the right age to feed it, its possible health benefits and side effects, and the right way to include jaggery in your baby’s diet.

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?

Consult a doctor and give jaggery to babies when they start eating solids

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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).
Jaggery provides instant energy to babies

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  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.
Jaggery is consumed after a meal since it is believed to aid digestion

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  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

Jaggery may cause cavities in babies when consumed in excess

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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

 Jaggery syrup can be added to homemade Cerelac

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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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can we add jaggery in hot milk for babies?

Yes, you may add grated or powdered jaggery to milk to enhance its flavor.

2. Is jaggery better than honey for babies?

Honey is not safe for babies under one year of age as it carries the risk of infant botulism (8). However, jaggery can be used to sweeten food instead of honey as it is not only safe but is rich in iron, minerals, and vitamins.

Jaggery for babies is a healthier alternative to white sugar. You may include jaggery in your child’s food when they start eating solids; however, it is better to consult a doctor before doing so. Moderate amounts of jaggery, when added to the babies’ food, can provide energy, manage iron deficiency, and detoxify the liver. However, excess jaggery may cause sweet addiction, mild rashes, or tooth decay. Always use organic jaggery for infants as they are safer. You may also try palm jaggery syrup and palm sugar as an alternative. Small quantities of jaggery and a balanced diet help keep your baby healthy.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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
8. C O Abdulla, et al. Infant botulism following honey ingestion; National Center for Biotechnology Information
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different...
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Jyoti Benjamin

(MS, RD, CSO, FAND, CD)
Jyoti Benjamin has 25 years of experience as a clinical dietitian and currently works in Seattle. She focuses on teaching people the value of good nutrition and helping them lead healthy lives by natural means. Benjamin has a masters in Foods and Nutrition, and has been a longtime member and Fellow of AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the...
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