Nutritional and Health Benefits of Sugarcane: Overview | Types | Origin | Nutritional Value | Health Benefits

Sugarcane, also written as sugar cane, is a kind of tall perennial grass in the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, that is used to manufacture sugar. Plants range in height from two to six meters (six to twenty feet), with stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are high in sucrose, which accumulates in the stalk internodes. Sugarcanes are members of the Poaceae family of flowering plants, which also includes maize, wheat, rice, and sorghum, as well as a variety of forage crops. It’s native to India, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea’s humid temperate tropical areas. The plant is also used to make biofuels, particularly in Brazil, since the canes can be used to make ethyl alcohol directly (ethanol).

In advanced mill factories, sucrose (table sugar) is harvested from sugarcane. It is used to sweeten drinks, as a preservative in jams and conserves, as a decorative finish for cakes and pâtisserie, as a raw material in the food industry, or fermented to make ethanol. Falernum, molasses, rum, cachaça, and bagasse are all products of sugar fermentation. Sugarcane reeds are used to make pens, mats, screens, and thatch in some countries. In Southeast Asia, including Fiji and some Indonesian island populations, the fresh, unexpanded flower head of Saccharum edule (duruka) is eaten raw, steamed, or toasted, and prepared in a number of ways.

Sugarcane is a tropical perennial grass that produces numerous stems from lateral shoots at the base, which are usually 3 to 4 m (10 to 13 ft) tall and 5 cm (2 in) in diameter. The stems grow into a cane stalk, which makes up about 75 percent of the whole plant when fully grown. 11–16 percent carbohydrate, 12–16 percent soluble carbohydrates, 2–3 percent non-sugars, and 63–73 percent water make up a mature stalk. Climate, soil content, irrigation, fertilizers, insects, disease control, varieties, and harvest time all affect sugarcane production. Cane stalk yields 60–70 tonnes per hectare (24–28 long ton/acre; 27–31 short ton/acre) per year on average. However, depending on the knowledge and crop management approach used in sugarcane cultivation, this figure can range from 30 to 180 tonnes per hectare. Sugarcane is both a cash crop and a source of feed for livestock.

Types (Species) of Sugarcane

There are over 30 different sugar cane varieties in the sugar cane family. Sugar cane is an evergreen grass that thrives in hot, humid climates like Brazil and India. Sugar cane sugar is used in syrups, juices, and molasses, but the plant’s remaining portion can be used to make environmentally friendly paper. While it is difficult to scan for all of the different types and hybrids of sugar cane, they can generally be divided into three classes based on their functions and qualities.

There are five types of Saccharum in the genus Saccharum viz:

  • Saccharum Officinarum,
  • S.Sinense
  • S.barberi
  • S.robustum
  • S.spontanuem.

Saccharum Officinarum

Saccharum Officinarum belongs to the grass family (Poaceae) and is widely cultivated, providing about 70% of the world’s sugar. When we speak about sugarcane, we normally refer to this category of varieties. About the fact that none of the original officinarums have been industrially produced at this period, this is one of the most special grown varieties. There is a lot of sucrose in it. Its stalks are active and long, with a low fiber content. They were nicknamed “noble canes” by Dutch scientists. It has chromosomes 2n=80. They are now being cultivated for the purpose of gnawing. They are thicker and more juicy canes that are still perfect for chewing. The tropical canes native to New Guinea make up this variety. These canes have a higher sugar content, lower fiber content, and yield more tonnage. These are normally immune to smut, but they are susceptible to red rot and mosaic diseases.

Saccharum Sinense

The Saccharum (Sugarcane) family comprises Saccharum sinense. Saccharum sinense is the botanical name for it. Saccharum sinense is a grass that grows like an evergreen. It grows well over a period of years because it is an evergreen herb (approximately 3 years and greater). It has a grassy growth pattern. Tougher and more adapted to weak soils and dry conditions than sugar cane; much leafier, with thin hard canes. While it can be grown in the same way as napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.) for fodder, the feed value and yields are lower. Cut for fodder at intervals of 3 to 4 months.

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Saccharum sinense is normally considered to be a half-hardy herb, so protect it from frosts and low temperatures. Because of its origins in central and south-east China, this is known as “Chinese Cane.” It has a slim stalk and long, thin leaves with long internodes. They’re lower in sucrose and purity, and they’re high in fiber and starch. 2n=111 to 120 is the chromosome number. “Uba” was one of the most important types of these varieties, and it was grown in a lot of different countries. Currently, the species is considered unsuitable for commercial cultivation.

This sugarcane variety is native to north-eastern India. Long and slender stalks, wide leaves, low to moderate sucrose content, and earlier maturity are all characteristics of this variety. Sugarcane varieties such as ‘Pansahi,’ ‘Nargori,’ and ‘Mungo’ make up this variety. The internodes of these canes are long and zigzag, and the nodes are noticeable.

Saccharum Barberi

Saccharum barberi is a perennial plant with a solid, short rhizome. The leaf blades of the various vertical canes have an optimal width of 5 centimeters and a diameter of 2.5 cm (1 in) (2.0 in). The flower is a large panicle with long silky hairs across the stalk that fall off quickly. The spikelets are typically found in pairs, with one having a shorter stalk than the other. The sugar content of the canes is average, with a higher fiber content. Saccharum barberi is a plant that evolved in northern India and has since spread throughout the world. It was once one of the most widely planted varieties in North America. It needs an increased  temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) to 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) as well as 1,200 to 1,500 millimeters (47 to 59 inches) of rain.

This variety gets its name from the scientist Dr.C.A.Barber, who first described these varieties of subtropical Indian canes. This is referred to as a “Indian species.” It has chromosome numbers ranging from 2n=81 to 124. They were being farmed on a wide scale in subtropical India to produce gur and Khandsari sugar. They are more stable and disease-resistant, as well as having higher sugar and fiber content. They have a small stalk. Low and high temperature ranges, trouble soils, and waterlogged environments are all resistant to the clones of the varieties. However, they are not currently being farmed industrially due to their low yields.

This variation is thought to have originated in north-eastern India. It has short, mid-thin stalks, narrow leaves, a low-to-medium sucrose content, and matures earlier. Sugarcane varieties from the ‘Sarethe’ and ‘Sunnabile’ groups make up this group. Both of the previously described varieties, which are native to north-eastern India, have been used in farming for generations, but their canes have now been replaced by complex hybrid clones. There are two wild varieties (S. spontaneum and S. robustum), in addition to the three cultivated species previously described.

Saccharum Robustum

The New Guinea Islands are where this variation was found. The stalks are longer, thicker, and more vigorously growing. It has a lot of fiber but not enough sugar. 2n=60 and 80 are the chromosome numbers. This can be an outrageous varieties and not ideal for agricultural manufacturing.

Saccharum Spontaneum

This is what is known as “wild cane.” It comes in many different types, each with a different number of chromosomes (2n=40 to 128). The anatomy of the species shows a lot of variety. The cane is usually very thin and short, and the leaves are slim and tough. The plant is highly hardy and resistant to a wide variety of diseases. The species isn’t suitable for sugar production. Surprisingly, the sugar content is low. This variety is ideal for developing hybrid forms, especially those that are disease and stress resistant. 

Historical Background (Origin) of Sugarcane

Sugarcane has two domestication centers: one for Saccharum officinarum, which is grown by Papuans in New Guinea, and another for Saccharum sinense, which is grown by Austronesians in Taiwan and southern China. Sugarcane was first used as a feed for domesticated pigs by Papuans and Austronesians. The migrations of Austronesian populations are closely related to the propagation of both S. officinarum and S. sinense. Saccharum barberi was only grown in India after S. officinarum was introduced.

Papuans first domesticated Saccharum officinarum in New Guinea and the islands east of the Wallace Line, where it is now the modern center of diversity. They were selectively bred from the native Saccharum robustum around 6,000 B.P. Following interaction with Austronesians in New Guinea, it spread westward to coastal Southeast Asia, where it hybridized with Saccharum spontaneum.

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The Austronesian peoples’ primary cultigen was S. sinense, which was domesticated in mainland southern China and Taiwan. Sugarcane words have been reconstructed as *tbuS or **CebuS in Proto-Austronesian languages in Taiwan, which were *tebuh in Proto-Malayo-Polynesian. It was one of the Austronesian peoples’ first large crops, dating back to at least 5,500 years ago. The sweeter S. officinarum may have eventually displaced it across its cultivated range in Southeast Asia’s maritime regions.

By about 3,500 BP, Austronesian voyagers had extended S. officinarum eastward as a canoe plant from Island Southeast Asia to Polynesia and Micronesia. Around 3,000 B.P., Austronesian traders dispersed it westward and northward to China and India, where it hybridized with Saccharum sinense and Saccharum barberi. It then expanded through western Eurasia and into the Mediterranean.

Northern India was the first known location for the manufacture of crystalline sugar. The precise year that cane sugar was first produced is unknown. Ancient Sanskrit and Pali texts provide the earliest evidence of sugar production. Around the eighth century, Muslim and Arab merchants took sugar from medieval India to the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa, and Andalusia, as part of the Abbasid Caliphate. Sugarcane was produced in every village in Mesopotamia by the 10th century, according to sources. It was one of the first crops introduced to the Americas by the Spanish, mostly Andalusians, from their Canary Islands fields and the Portuguese from their Madeira Islands fields.

On his second journey to the Americas, Christopher Columbus took sugarcane to the Caribbean for the first time; originally to the island of Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Sugar was one side of the triangle exchange of New World raw materials, European manufactured goods, and African slaves during colonial times. Sugar was exported from the Caribbean, mostly in the form of molasses, to Europe or New England, where it was used to produce rum. The proceeds from the selling of sugar were used to buy imported goods, which were then transported to West Africa and bartered for slaves. Slaves were then sent to the Caribbean, where they were sold to sugar planters. Slave proceeds were then used to purchase more sugar, which was then exported to Europe.

Nutritional (Composition) Value of Sugarcane

Sugarcane contains several valuable nutrients. One serving (28.35 grams) of sugarcane juice contains calories (113.43), protein (0.20 grams), fat (0.66 grams) and carbohydrates (25.40 grams). Sugarcane has more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, including small amounts of iron, magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and riboflavin.

Health Benefits of Sugarcane

Sugarcane is high in antioxidants, which help to fight diseases and boost immunity. It is rich in calcium, magnesium, copper, and other electrolytes, rendering it an outstanding dehydration treatment. It is a remedy for  common cold and other diseases, as well as a fever reducer because it increases the protein content in the body. Raw sugarcane juice has a variety of health benefits and is high in basic nutrients for the body. Molasses, jaggery, rum, ethanol, and biofuel are all made from sugarcane. Sugarcane contains high content of Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and inorganic salts such as iron, phosphorus, calcium and organic acids such as fumaric acid, succinic acid, citric acid and malic acid. As a result of the afore-mentioned nutrients, sugarcane is known for the following health benefits:

  • Prevents Tooth Decay
  • Prevents Sore Throat and Flu
  • Cures Jaundice
  • Provides Antioxidant for the Body
  • Boosts Immune System
  • Moisturize the Body and Ensures Skin Health
  • Prevents Acne
  • Prevents Cancer
  • Helps during Pregnancy
  • Cures Diabetes

Prevents Tooth Decay

Sugar cane and the juice derived from it are good at preventing tooth decay. Sugarcane juice has a high mineral content, so it helps to avoid tooth decay while still reducing bad breath. Consume a slice of fragrant sugar cane as a snack after meals to improve the breath and prevent tooth decay.

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Prevents Sore Throat and Flu

Colds, sore throats, and fever are all avoided from drinking one glass of sugar cane on a regular basis. People with these issues would be relieved by consuming sugarcane. It also aids in the treatment of asthma, kidney stones, the flu, jaundice, cancer, and sore throat.

Cures Jaundice

Sugar cane juice is used to cure jaundice. To speed up the regeneration period, drink two glasses of sugar cane juice with salt and lemon on a regular basis. It offers a blast of energy that keeps you working all day. To get naturally healthy and beautiful skin, have sugar cane juice or sugarcane in your diet regularly.

Provides Antioxidant for the Body

Sugarcane juice contains phenolic compounds and flavonoids, which have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and antiviral effects. When you’ve been out in the sun and are getting exhausted, sip a glass of sugar cane juice. This immediately decreases body heat and re-energizes the body. Despite the fact that sugarcane juice has many health benefits, we must ensure that we eat it from a hygienic source.

Boosts Immune System

Chromium, calcium, copper, cobalt, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc are all found in sugar cane. It contains a wide range of vitamins, like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B3, and Vitamin B6, as well as antioxidants, chlorophyll, fibre, protein, and other unsaturated compounds, many of which are beneficial to optimal health. It prevents cancer, stabilizes blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, reduces convulsions and fever, rejuvenates the stomach, purifies the kidneys, heart, skin, brain, lungs, and reproductive organs, lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, and provides relief from a variety of diseases.

Moisturize the Body and Ensures Skin Health

Sugarcane is ideal for dry throats caused by excessive sweating and high body heat in the summer. To keep the body hydrated, drink a glass of sugar cane juice. Moreover, it is also a common benefit of juice extracted from sugar cane. Regular sugarcane juice intake decreases skin irritation and inflammations, increases skin appearance, and reduces symptoms of ageing such as discoloration, blemishes, wrinkles, and scars.

Prevents Acne

Sugarcane contains alpha hydroxyl acid, which has a number of skin advantages and helps to preserve safe and attractive skin. It is used to eliminate acne, reduce acne inflammation, moisturize skin, and slow down the aging process. Sugar cane juice can be used as a face mask for exfoliating creams and applied to the face for naturally smooth and radiant skin. To treat sore eyes, eye pain, and red eye, apply clean sugar cane juice to the upper and lower eye lids with clean gauze. Mix two teaspoons sugar cane juice with turmeric powder and add to the skin many times a month or for 10 minutes once a month to remove wrinkles, then wash off with clean water.

Prevents Cancer

Sugar cane juice is an alkaline diet that is rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium. In alkaline conditions, cancers did not develop. According to the findings of the report, this beverage aids in the prevention of cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Helps during Pregnancy

Many women find that drinking sugarcane juice during pregnancy tends to reduce swelling and vomiting. For nausea during breastfeeding, combine fresh sugar cane juice and ginger and drink once a day. For women who develop moderate swelling in the first few months of pregnancy, sugar cane juice can be substituted for water. It successfully alleviates maternity complications while still assisting prospective mothers in feeling stronger. It increases metabolism, enhances digestion, decreases morning sickness effects, and gives you stamina all day. It also prevents constipation effects.

Cures Diabetes

Sugarcane juice has a lower glycemic level than soda or other fizzy beverages, and is calculated by the sugar types present in the juice. Sugars are absorbed steadily and controlled by the body, which avoids the sugar spike associated with high-glycemic drinks. When moderate quantities of sugarcane juice are drank by people who do not have type 2 diabetes, it can help to control blood pressure.

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