The piloncillo is a wonderful sweetener, healthier than sugar. Discover the benefits and properties that it brings, what are its main uses and how it is obtained.
Surely in your country you do not know it with the name of piloncillo, and yes with the name of scratch, scrape, tied sweet, cover of sweet, brown sugar, paper, panela, chancaca or panocha. It is characterized by being a very healthy food, as long as it can be used as a completely natural sweetener, without providing the empty calories provided by other less healthy sweeteners, such as white sugar.
Its only ingredient is sugarcane juice, which is subjected to a drying process before going through the purification process, in which the juice is converted into brown sugar.
The panela stands out for being an organic product of a hundred percent natural origin, and we could say that it is characterized precisely by being the integral sugar of the cane in its maximum extension. That is, when we are faced with a piloncillo, we can be sure that we are really facing real cane sugar, and we should not doubt in the same way as if we were faced with a container with granulated brown sugar that could actually It is tinted white sugar.
What is piloncillo?
It is quite probable that you have already tried it, especially used as a sweetener in natural and homemade desserts, and surely you did not know its name; but what was it delicious? It is known by the name of piloncillo, and depending on where you are, it is also known by other names: scraping, scratching, sweet tying, sweet lid, brown sugar, pancake, paper, empanizao, or chancaca. While in countries like Pakistan or India, it is known as jaggery or gur.
It is characterized by being a food whose only ingredient is sugarcane juice, which is dried before going through the purification process. That same process turns juice into brown sugar.
We are faced with a very popular product in America, where in fact it is known by a wide variety of names, such as scraping, scratching, sweet tying, sweet cap, chancaca, or piloncillo, among many others.
As we explained briefly at the beginning, we are faced with the juice extracted from the sugar cane. It is originally from Mexico, and its soft caramel flavor makes it a tremendously delicious option when it comes to sweetening desserts and drinks.
It becomes, in fact, a sweetener much healthier and more nutritious than white sugar, mainly because panela is a more natural, pure, and artisan sweetener, which is also not refined or bleached so it is healthier and more suitable.
In fact, among the most important benefits of panela that we find in this wonderful natural sweetener, we can especially distinguish its large amount of nutrients, in which we not only find vitamins (especially B vitamins, in addition to vitamin A, C, D, and E) but also with minerals (particularly calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, and manganese).
Do you know how it is obtained and how to use it?
Obtaining piloncillo is still done by hand. In this sense, for its production, the sugar cane juice is cooked and subjected to very high temperatures, until the moment when a very dense molasses begins to form. Subsequently, this dense paste is passed through some molds to allow it to dry, set, and solidify. It is precisely these molds that give it its curious shape and appearance, whether in the form of a spherical cap, rectangle, or prism.
A total of three vessels are used in the manufacturing process. In the first of them, the cooking of the liquid extracted from the sugar cane begins and then passes it to a second where impurities are transferred and the foam is generated by boiling the liquid. And finally, the same process occurs until reaching the third vessel.
For its production, the sugar cane juice is cooked and subjected to high temperatures, until it forms a kind of molasses that is characterized by being quite dense. Subsequently, it is passed to a mold in the form of a prism or spherical cap, where it is allowed to dry until it sets or solidifies.
In the elaboration process, three vessels are used, which can be made of bronze or copper. The first start the cooking of the liquid from the cane. In the second, the foam and other impurities that have been generated as a result of the boil of the first are transferred. Then, consecutively, the same process occurs until the third vessel is reached. However, the first of the vessels is the one with the best quality, standing out for being a light brown semi-transparent solid.
This elaboration is carried out mainly in small factories, which are traditionally known as trapiches.
Benefits of Piloncillo
From a nutritional point of view, panela gives us all the nutrients that sugarcane gives us in its integral and more natural version, so we are not faced with a food rich in empty calories, but quite the opposite. We can highlight the following benefits:
- Incredible nutritional richness: panela gives us interesting amounts of vitamins of group B, A, C, D, and E, minerals such as zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper, and manganese, and carbohydrates among which we can mention fructose (which has a higher biological value).
- It gives us energy: fundamental and necessary for the development of metabolic processes, helping us to activate ourselves by acting as a totally natural energizer.
- It does not contain empty calories: which means that it is a sweetener that not only provides us with essential nutrients, but it also does not “steal” nutrients from the body as it does with white sugar.
Nutritional properties of piloncillo
In addition to being a completely natural food, which is made under totally natural production processes and in which no type of additive or preservative is used, the panela provides interesting qualities and essential nutrients:
- Vitamins: panela is very rich in vitamins of groups B, A, C, D, and E.
- Minerals: provides good amounts of phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and copper.
- Carbohydrates: such as sucrose, in addition to glucose and fructose (which have a higher biological value).
- Proteins: although in less quantity than carbohydrates.
Given its nutritional qualities and different properties, isn't it an excellent food to replace white sugar and opt for it to sweeten your desserts and drinks?
So why substitute sugar for brown sugar?
Already in 2009, a study carried out by the Autonomous University of Barcelona warned that since 2003 the total consumption of sugar per person had increased dangerously by 20%, from 24 to 30 kg. per person and year. The reason is clearly clear: we tend to think that we only eat sugar when we add it to our drinks or desserts, but the reality is quite different given that many of the processed products we eat every day, even if they are not sweet, contain sugars.
Moreover, as many nutritionists warn, in reality, 75% of the sugar we eat every day comes from processed foods and products, and we can find it in products as scattered and as disparate as vegetable stock, sauces such as salsa de tomato or mayonnaise, or even pickled gherkins.
The conclusion is clear: a wide diversity of industrial products contain sugars but most consumers do not know. And the problem is even greater because many stop consuming sweets and pastry products with the aim of reducing their consumption of sugars but on the other hand they do not know that they can continue to consume the same amount of sugar without knowing it.
However, when we consider reducing the number of sugars we eat every day, we should not only eliminate sweeteners such as white sugar from our diet. It is also necessary to look at what foods we eat and eliminate ourselves completely from our diet. In general, the most advisable thing in this regard is to eliminate the majority of processed products and opt for a balanced diet based on natural foods. A good example is the wonderful Mediterranean diet, so healthy and nutritious.
Another option is to replace sugar with panela, a delicious sweetener option that is completely natural and also provides us with a good amount of essential nutrients, so we are not faced with a food rich in empty calories as is the case with white sugar.
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