Sugarcane juice is a fresh, refreshing beverage enjoyed in much of South East Asia and some parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. Made from the crushed stalks of sugarcane, the juice is the sweet, natural syrup of the plant. When boiled until the liquid evaporates, the syrup produces cane sugar. Sugarcane juice contains some essential nutrients, as well as antioxidants.
Natural Sports Drink
Sugarcane juice, because of its electrolyte and sugar content, is a good, natural replacement for sports drinks. It hydrates your body while replenishing your electrolyte stores, as well as providing carbohydrates to fuel your body during physical activity. A 2013 issue of “Asian Journal of Sports Medicine” included a human study that found sugarcane juice was as effective as pure water and sports drinks in hydrating and nourishing male athletes during high-intensity cardio exercise. Sugarcane juice was also found to be more effective than either sports drinks or pure water post-exercise, as it helps replenish glycogen stores in muscles.
Sugarcane juice contains phenols and flavonoids, natural antioxidants that protect the body from environmental pollutants and toxins produced during metabolic processes. Two studies, published in 2008 and 2014 issues of “Food Chemistry,” report that sugarcane juice made from the leaves and stalks of the plant is high in several antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the body's DNA from induced radiation damage, both studies showed.
Natural Sugar Drink
Sugarcane juice is made from pressing the stalks of sugarcane, which crushes the fibers and releases the sap. Because it is naturally sweet, sugarcane juice needs no added sugars, which makes it a more healthful alternative to other sweet drinks, such as sodas, that have lots of added sugar. The natural sugar in sugarcane juice is unrefined, so it retains all the nutritional attributes of the sugarcane, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, numerous B vitamins and iron. The American Heart Association recommends eating natural sweeteners rather than refined, added sugars that have no nutritive value and are considered a primary contributor to obesity. Even natural sweeteners can be high in calories, however. An 8-ounce serving of raw sugarcane juice has 180 calories per serving, so drinking large quantities of it can sabotage your diet.
Using Sugarcane Juice
You can drink sugarcane juice as a beverage or use it to sweeten and flavor foods and dishes, such as in Southeast Asian cuisine. Using sugarcane juice in place of stock or fats to season and flavor foods can reduce the amount of added fat, while providing a nutrient-rich natural, unrefined sweetener. Try using sugarcane juice as an ingredient in tamarind poached fish; the richness of the juice blends well with the natural sour taste of tamarind. Sugarcane stalks also are commonly used as skewers for minced meats, such as shrimp, before grilling. The juice from the canes release natural sugars, delicately seasoning the food as it cooks.
- Processed Free America: Raw Sugarcane Juice Nature's Perfect Wonder Food
- Asian Journal of Sports Medicine: The Effects of Ingestion of Sugarcane Juice and Commerical Sports Drinks
- Food Chemistry: Antioxidant Activity in Sugarcane Juice and Its Protective Role Against Radiation Induced DNA Damage
- Food Chemistry: Phenolic Profile, Antioxidant Potential and DNA Damage Protecting Activity of Sugarcane (Saccharum Officinarum)
- American Heart Association: Sugar 101
- Complete Asian Cookbook; Charmaine Solomon
- Sugar Cane Island: Raw Sugar Cane Juice
- Photo Credit tanya_lug/iStock/Getty Images
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