Herbs & Plants: Sugarcane, a wealth of nutritional and health benefits

It is one of the species of tall perennial true grasses belonging to genus Saccharum and is scientifically called Saccharum officinarum.

It is a tropical, perennial grass that produces multiple lateral shoots at the base and grows up to 3-4 meters high. It is cultivated throughout the world for a number of reasons especially for sugar production. Sugarcane can be consumed fresh in stalks or, more commonly, as refined sugar or juice.

There are several foods and popular dishes derived directly from sugarcanes including; sugarcane juice, syrup, molasses, rock candy which is made from crystallised cane juice. Often, sugarcane is chewed to extract the juice.

The plant offers a wealth of nutritional and health benefits and is highly regarded as one of the best sources of instant energy that lifts up spirits and moods and is very refreshing. This is due to the fact that it contains sucrose; a simple sugar that is easily absorbed by the body to replenish the body energy. It supplies instant energy to working muscles and for this reason, it is known to maximise performance during sports by increasing one’s muscle power.

Sugarcane juice has been found to be a great addition to a pregnant woman’s diet. The juice contains trace amounts of folic acid or vitamin B9 that is known to protect the unborn baby from neural birth defects like Spina bifida. The juice also boosts energy during pregnancy, improves the immune system and can help expectant mothers fight nausea.

Sugarcane is loaded with a high quantity of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidant phytonutrients. It is also loaded with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and iron; along with a complete profile of essential amino acids that help burn fats and build muscles.

Sugarcane juice is alkaline to the body and because most diseases cannot live in an alkaline environment, sugarcane juice can be healing to the body. Febrile disorders are responsible for causing fevers, which can result in a great amount of protein loss from the body. It has been observed that regular consumption of sugarcane juice provides the necessary protein and other food nutritional elements to the body and hence fighting off the febrile disorders.

The juice has also been found to be very beneficial for prevention and treatment of sore throat, cold and flu. Sugarcane is also good for digestion, as it can effectively work as a mild laxative because of its high potassium content. In fact, sugarcane juice can help one shed off a few extra kilos.

The juice is known to reduce the bad cholesterol in our body, which is one of the main reasons for weight gain. It is also high in soluble fibres that help manage our weight.

However, despite its immense health and nutritional benefits, sugarcane juice becomes toxic very easily and quickly. This is due to the fact that it becomes oxidised within just about 15 minutes if not in a refrigerator making it harmful. Sometimes, this oxidisation works like a poison inside the body and creates many stomach related problems, hence the need to consume it when freshly made. (Richard Komakech)

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