Sugarcane juice has a reputation in India for incredible healing benefits. The juice is a precursor to refined sugar, so it's less processed and better for you than the granulated sweet stuff. Considering potential sugarcane benefits can help you decide if you should add the juice to your diet.
Sugarcane juice contains about 100 calories per 8 ounces and includes multiple antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that may support good health.
About Sugarcane Juice
Sugarcane is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, but is cultivated in 90 countries. India is a major producer, having cultivated the product since the Vedic period (1400 to 1000 B.C.). Brazil, however, is the world's largest producer of sugarcane. Sugarcane is pressed to create the raw juice. The juice is processed to create cane sugar, brown sugar, molasses and jaggery.
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Sugarcane juice is widely used in India where it's valued as a treatment for a number of health conditions, including jaundice, painful urination, inability to urinate and other urinary problems, notes a paper published in Pharmacognosy Review in January-June 2015. Indian healers assert that the regular use of sugarcane juice keeps urine flowing clear and efficiently, which assists in kidney function. Sugarcane juice is also used as an aphrodisiac, a laxative, an antiseptic and a tonic.
Don't confuse sugarcane juice with evaporated cane sugar. The latter is the processed product that results from the dehydration of pure sugarcane juice. Evaporated cane sugar is just a fancy way of saying "sugar" and doesn't offer the same benefits as raw sugarcane or the juice. Many products you wouldn't even expect to be loaded with sugar may contain this product.
Sugarcane Benefits Are Real
The previously mentioned 2015 paper affirms that the purported healing properties of sugarcane have been proven through modern studies. Science supports that sugarcane benefits include anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycemic, analgesic, diuretic and hepatoprotective (liver protecting) effects.
Sugarcane Juice Nutrition
Sugarcane made from pressing the whole stalks, or culms, is 70 to 75 percent water, 13 to 15 percent sucrose (sugar), and 10 to 15 percent fiber, says the 2015 paper.
You can press your own juice at home, if you want, but bottled and canned products are also available. According to the book Sugarcane Biotechnology: Challenges and Prospects, updated in August 2017, sugarcane juice rehydrates and provides instant energy. Fresh-pressed sugarcane juice contains phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C and E. Each 100 milliliters of sugarcane juice contains 39 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates.
One commercial product, made by Goya, contains 200 calories per 350 milliliters. It has no fat or protein, but does include 52 grams of carbohydrates, 40 grams of which come from sugar. It offers 80 milligrams of sodium and 4 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium.
Sugarcane Island is another producer that sells 300 milliliters of pressed sugarcane juice with 148 calories, 496 milligrams of potassium and 35 grams of carbohydrates, 26 grams of which are of sugar. According to the product label, this serving provides 3 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 9 percent for magnesium, 10 percent for thiamin (a B vitamin) and 3 percent of your iron needs.
Antioxidants Are Among Sugarcane Benefits
Food Chemistry published a study in March 2014 investigating the antioxidant and phenolic composition of sugarcane. A variety of types of sugarcane were investigated. The researchers found that the juice contains phenolic acids and protective compounds such as quercetin, caffeic acid and ellagic acid.
Read more: High Antioxidant Fruits and Vegetables
Quercetin, in particular, is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, according to a paper in Mediators of Inflammation published in November 2016. Many chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes and abdominal obesity, correlate with systemic, low-grade bodily inflammation. Quercetin is a "strong weapon" against this inflammation due to its antioxidant capacities.
Ellagic acid, according to a paper in Advances in Nutrition published in September 2016, also possesses strong anti-inflammatory effects and may be effective in helping with obesity and easing some of the complications that are associated with obesity, such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.
In a paper published in a June 2015 issue of the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, researchers explain that caffeic acid is an important antioxidant that can protect against the DNA damage caused by free radicals — elements in the environment and in your diet that cause cell destruction and mutation.
The combination of these beneficial antioxidants present in sugarcane may explain some of its reputed benefits.
Read more: Is Juice From Concentrate Healthy?
Drinking Sugarcane Juice
While sugarcane juice does seem to have health value due to the vitamin and mineral content in the drink, it's very high in sugar, which can be unhealthy. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume not more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or 24 grams, and that men keep their intake to just 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams. Most bottled and canned versions contain 25 to 40 grams per unit, putting them well over this recommendation.
Read more: 15 Reasons to Kick Sugar
The sugar in sugarcane juice also makes it contain calories that could put you in a positive energy balance. Sugarcane juice contains about 100 calories per 8 ounces. It takes consuming approximately 3,500 calories above what you burn to gain a pound. Adding 100 calories per day without adjusting other intake can cause you to gain 10 pounds in a year.
The previously mentioned Pharmacognosy Review paper explains that the Unani system of medicine in India suggests that, if you have jaundice, one of the signs of an underlying liver condition, you should drink large amounts of sugarcane juice for immediate relief. It's also recommended that women with morning sickness during their pregnancies try a drink of sugarcane juice mixed with ginger to resolve problems with nausea. Of course, if you're dealing with either of these conditions, you should consult with your doctor before self-medicating with sugarcane juice.
- Food Chemistry: "Phenolic Profile, Antioxidant Potential and DNA Damage Protecting Activity of Sugarcane (Saccharum Officinarum)"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- Pharmacognosy Review: "Phytochemical Profile of Sugarcane and Its Potential Health Aspects"
- Mediators of Inflammation: "Therapeutic Effects of Quercetin on Inflammation, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Improvements in Metabolic Health With Consumption of Ellagic Acid and Subsequent Conversion Into Urolithins: Evidence and Mechanisms"
- Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research: "Caffeic Acid Improves Cell Viability and Protects Against DNA Damage: Involvement of Reactive Oxygen Species and Extracellular Signal-regulated Kinase"
- Sugarcane Biotechnology: Challenges and Prospects: "Potential Health Benefits of Sugarcane"
- Goya: "Sugarcane Juice"