We use sugar in a lot of things; whether it be for cooking, baking, in beverages, face masks, and more. The majority of the world’s sugar production comes from the sugarcane plant or sugar beets.
But for today, we’ll be exploring the world of the sugarcane plant. I know, don’t give me that look! You’re wondering what is nutritious about sugar? Well, it’s not about the end product but the pulp that comes from the plant before it is processed. So, give it a chance, you may be utterly surprised by it.
What Is The Sugarcane Plant?
The plant has several species- Saccharum officinarum (most cultivated of the species), Saccharum Sinense, and Saccharum Barberi – that are interbred, thus forming hybrids; however, they all belong to the same family- Poaceae.
Other popular members of the Poaceae family include; maize, wheat, rice, and sorghum. I bet many of you didn’t know that, right? If you did high five! It is said that sugarcane actually originated in Southeast Asia, India, and New Guinea until it was introduced to other parts of the world.
The mature stalks are what are used for processing and undergo procedures so that their end product is sugar. The smooth yet hard exterior varies in color due to the different species of sugarcane which are sometimes hybrid.
The color ranges from reddish-purple, yellow-green, green, yellow-orange, and even black while the interior has a light yellow color. On the exterior of the stalk are circular junctions that act as partitions on the plant’s matured stems.
What does it taste like?
Because the stalks contain at least 67% of water, the stalks are quite juicy but have a sweet flavor. It has a chewy texture, however, and is sometimes slightly hard while some sugarcanes have a softer pulp/stalks.
Health Profile of Sugarcane
Drum roll, please! Members of the jury get ready; prosecutors are you on standby? Witnesses, will you be pleading the fifth? Because it’s time for the nutritional profile of what sugarcane has to offer. In other words, what is sugarcane good for?
So, grab a snack- a healthy one! Yes, I see you- and let’s dive into this case. Let’s start off with sugarcane’s nutritional value/profile than its health benefits.
Sugarcane Nutrition Facts:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B9 (Folate)
- Vitamin C
- Phenolic compounds
Please be advised that the components above are not limited to what is found in arrowroot, but rather the top components that are notably present.
13 Health Benefits of Sugarcane
How’s the case thus far? Doing good right? Not yet convinced? Slightly swayed? Well, right now it’s time to see what the health benefits can do to win the case. Let’s start off with the top 3.
Top 3 Health Benefits of Sugarcane:
1. Has ideal antioxidants
I hope I don’t sound like a scratch record, too old school? Ok fine, I hope I don’t sound like a scratched CD by introducing you to the benefits of antioxidants. But when something is just extremely good, its worth it to repeat!
Antioxidants don’t just eliminate risks of free radicals but they do help to slow down aging and inflammation. Antioxidants present in sugarcane are; Vitamin C, phenolic compounds, flavonoids and yes manganese (it is discovered that manganese is a part of the enzyme superoxide dismutase SOD, which is arguable, one of the most important antioxidants for your body).
2. Energy booster
About 244 kJ are present in sugarcane which means it is a magnificent energy provider. Sugarcane juice is said to be an instant energy provider and a mood stabilizer.
Awesome right? So, if you want to revitalize your body sugarcane juice is a good drink to consume; it also assists with dehydration.
3. Immune System Builder
Sugarcane contains many vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that are great for improving or boosting your immunity. How? Well, one way is by helping to produce cells that the body needs in order to detect microorganisms, repair broken or damaged tissues/cells, helps to form vital cells, and others.
You have to admit, the sugarcane health benefits surprised you. But let’s view some more! Read More.
Other Benefits of Sugarcane:
- Relieves digestive stress
- Cures acne
- Aids with a sore throat (add black pepper and lime to the juice)
- Helps to heal wounds
- May aid in weight loss
- Eliminate toxins
- Diuretic properties
- Helps with urinary tract infections
- May aid in morning sickness
- May increase/boost metabolism
It’s official, you’re intrigued, right?
How do you eat sugarcane?
This will be one of the most frequently asked questions. But, fret not because we are here to help!
Step 1: Wash the long stalk/cane. Cleanliness is a must.
Step 2: Chop the stalk at the junctions/ridges, it is much easier that way.
Step 3: Now that the stalk is separated into smaller pieces, it will be easier to strip. Place the cane piece vertically on a flat board, then get a knife (not too sharp). Gently hold the top of the cane piece and start to use the knife to cut/strip the hard exterior downward. Start stripping away from your fingers that are holding the top though.
Step 4: Once, you get rid of all the hard skin, repeat step 3 for all the small pieces. Discard the skin.
Step 5: Cut the pulp into bite-size pieces and then place them in a bowl.
Step 6: Enjoy the juice and nutrition that it provides. BUT do not swallow the pulp; once you chew and suck out all the juice from the pulp, ensure that you discard it.
Sugarcane Juice Recipe:
So, we mentioned sugarcane juice earlier, probably more than twice. So, for all those h-steppers wondering how to make it, we won’t leave you hanging.
- Sugarcane stalks
How to make sugarcane juice?
- Ensure that you wash the long stalk/cane.
- Chop the stalk at the ridges, it is way much easier that way.
- Now that the stalk is separated into smaller pieces, it will be easier to strip the hard skin of the sugarcane. Place the cane piece vertically (in other words, standing upward) on a flat board, then get a knife (not too sharp). Gently hold the top of the cane piece and start to use the knife to cut/strip the hard exterior downward. Start stripping away from your fingers that are holding the top though.
- Once, you get rid of all the hard skin, repeat step 3 for all the small pieces. Discard the skin into the trash. Do not use them.
- Cut the pulp into bite-size pieces and then place them in a bowl.
- Now it’s time to grab your blender. Ensure that it is clean though before adding 500ml of water. That is equivalent to 2 cups of water, however, the water shouldn’t overpower the number of cubed sugarcane pieces you will pour into the blender. Therefore, watch the amount of water.
- Pour the small pieces of sugarcane, into the blender with the water. If you realize that there will be too many pieces in the blender don’t blend everything at once. Close the lid of the blender then blend well.
- Pour the juice into a jug/jar through a strainer. Discard the trash into a bin.
- This step is optional where you cut a lemon or lime and squeeze it into the jug of juice. Use half, if it’s a lime while ¼ if it’s a lemon. Add a sweetener (which is also optional) and stir well.
- You can place the juice to cool, drink as it is, or add some ice cubes to a glass of sugarcane juice. Then bon appétit!
Other Homemade Juices
Where can I buy sugarcane?
Sugarcane was quite the cash crop some centuries ago. There were a lot of sugar plantations worldwide that made huge profits from the plant.
There is still huge production of the crop now but in some areas, you’ll find it quite difficult to get the raw sugarcane stalks. For example, in the Caribbean, it is quite popular, especially, Jamaica.
So, it is more accessible than if you tried to get it in California. But don’t be dismayed, you can try at your local farmer’s market, farmer grocery stores, some supermarkets, and online!
Season for sugarcane
Sugarcane planters normally get up to 4 harvest yields just from a single planting, hence, why it is perennial. Sugarcane is typically in season around October to March.
How to store sugarcane
You can store sugarcane as it is without peeling the skin by wrapping them together with an elastic band. Then storing they in the refrigerator which will last for about two weeks. Another method is to store the freshly cut pulps into a zipper resealable bag then place them in the freezer.
Some popular uses of sugarcane
- Eat it raw (the pulp)
- Make sugarcane juice
- Livestock fodder/provender
- Straw and bagasse (cane fibers)
- Used in many other products e.g. face masks
So, with all of that said; give it a try! Don’t forget to comment and share. We love hearing from you. Until next time, goodbye, and as they say in Swahili kuwa salama! In English? Be safe!
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