Are There Health Benefits to Eating Sugarcane?

Sugarcane is a tropical grass that is cultivated around the world to produce refined sugar, sugarcane juice, and medicinal products for a range of illnesses. Many types of sugar products are made from sugarcane, including:

  • Refined white sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Molasses
  • Jaggery

Sugarcane juice is one of the purest forms of sugarcane, other than the plant stalks themselves, and maintains the highest amount of the plant’s natural vitamins and minerals.

Sugarcane has been cultivated in India and other parts of Southeast Asia for millennia and has been used as a common cure for various ailments in the Ayurveda and Unani systems of medicine. Natural sugarcane and its direct derivatives have been used in the treatment of illnesses such as:

Both sugarcane plants and sugar beets are grown to produce refined white sugar, though each plant has somewhat different characteristics and is grown in different regions of the world. More research is needed to make definitive conclusions about the benefits of natural sugarcane.

Nutrition Information

One serving (28.35 grams) of sugarcane juice contains.

  • Calories: 113.43
  • Protein: 0.20 grams
  • Fat: 0.66 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 25.40 grams

Sugarcane has more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, including small amounts of:

Potential Health Benefits of Sugarcane

Sugarcane and its derivatives have several known health benefits when consumed in moderate quantities. Chewing on sugarcane or consuming sugarcane water or syrup can help treat urinary tract issues and provide a boost of antioxidants, along with providing benefits to pregnant women and diabetic patients.

Studies have shown a number of potential health benefits in choosing sugarcane over refined sugars:

Diuretic Properties

Sugarcane has diuretic properties that can help remove excess salt and water to help the kidneys function properly. Studies have shown that consuming sugarcane juice with lime and coconut water can reduce the burning sensation caused by many types of urinary tract issues.

Disease Prevention

Sugarcane is full of antioxidants that are essential to building and maintaining a healthy immune system. Antioxidants help combat free radicals (molecules that cause damage to cells) that can worsen several medical problems like diabetes, malaria, myocardial infarction, and skin cancer.

Continued

Metabolism Boost and Reduced Morning Sickness

Although sugar is often associated with weight gain, consuming some sugarcane can boost your metabolism and moderate weight gain in pregnant women. Studies have found that consuming sugarcane juice with ginger can help decrease the occurrence of morning sickness and strengthen the immune system of pregnant women as well.

Effects on Diabetes

Diabetic patients are urged to choose direct sugarcane derivatives over refined sugars to help regulate their glycemic index. Sugarcane molasses concentrate has been found to lower glucose and inhibit the production of insulin. Sugarcane can also be consumed as a purgative to help treat high blood pressure.

Potential Risks of Sugarcane

As sugar production has grown across the world, scientists have warned that the overconsumption of this substance, especially refined sugars, can lead to several health issues. Consider the following before consuming sugarcane or any sugar derivative regularly: 

Heart Disease

Studies have shown that high-sugar diets lead to a greater risk of death due to heart disease. According to a 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, people who consumed an average of about 20% of their calories from sugar were 38% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than their peers who consumed about 8% of their calories from sugar.

High B lood P ressure

A diet high in sugars has also been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and related issues like diabetes, high cholesterol levels, weight gain, and more. Although sugarcane has more nutrients than refined sugar, overconsumption can still cause unwanted side effects.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 03, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Chinnadurai, C. Sugarcane Biotechnology: Challenges and Prospects, Springer International Publishing, 2017.

European Journal of Nutrition: "Postprandial insulin and glucose levels are reduced in healthy subjects when a standardised breakfast meal is supplemented with a filtered sugarcane molasses concentrate."

Food Chemistry: "Antioxidant activity in sugarcane juice and its protective role against radiation induced DNA damage."

Harvard Health: “The Sweet Danger of Sugar.”

Michigan State University: “Sugars defined.”

Northwestern Medicine: “More Sugar, More Problems [Infographic].”

Nutrition Value: “Syrup, Cane.”

Pharmacognosy Review: “Phytochemical profile of sugarcane and its potential health aspects.”

Science Reporter: "Sugarcane Juice: A Promise of Good Health."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.