Palm Sugar – A Healthy Sugar Alternative?

Too much sugar is unhealthy. Every one of us probably knows that. But nowadays there are enough sugar alternatives that seem to let us enjoy the sweetness without a guilty conscience. One of them: is palm sugar. Sugar is obtained from palm trees. The most prominent example? coconut blossom sugar. But is palm sugar really harmless – or even healthy? We’ll tell you.

What exactly is palm sugar?

Natural palm sugar is an original rarity that is obtained from the nectar of various types of palm trees and through slow boiling and crystallization. Above all, Atta and sugar palms from South America, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, India, Southeast Asia, and Africa are used for this purpose.

Different palms, different types of sugar: All sugars obtained from palm trees are called palm sugar. The variety depends on the respective palm species. Sugar can also be made from the nectar of coconut palms, in this case, one speaks of coconut blossom sugar. The Canarian date palm on the island of La Gomera, on the other hand, gives so-called palm honey. A juice obtained from the palm fronds, but not processed into sugar. Like regular (whole cane) sugar, palm sugar can be used in moderation to sweeten.

How is palm sugar made?

Unlike conventional, refined sugar, palm sugar is usually not an industrially manufactured product. Rather, there is still real craftsmanship and tradition behind it. An example: coconut blossom sugar has long been celebrated as a specialty in India and Indonesia. Behind this is very time-consuming manual work. Since the approximately three inflorescences of a palm tree are full of coconut blossom nectar, they are slightly cut by hand. The nectar is carefully collected in special bamboo containers.

Since the freshly harvested coconut nectar ferments very quickly, it has to be processed quickly. By boiling down, reducing, cooling, chopping, and sieving. In the end, you get a golden, delicate palm sugar with a fine caramel note.

How does palm sugar taste?

The sugar obtained from palm trees can not only be used in baking. In Asia, it is mainly used to sweeten dishes, such as curries or exotic salads. The taste of palm sugar is not quite as sweet as regular sugar. Boiling and heating also give it its characteristic caramel aroma. Notes of malt and vanilla are also noticeable.

How healthy is palm sugar?

Just like normal household sugar, palm sugar consists largely of the disaccharide sucrose (fructose and glucose). 100 grams of palm sugar contain 400 calories. Sugar is just sugar. However, it contains traces of minerals and vitamins, but only in very small amounts.

Its antioxidant effect (contains antioxidants such as vitamin B, folic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine) and its comparatively low glycemic index should be emphasized. This value affects the blood sugar level. The lower the index, the less the blood sugar level rises. Palm sugar has (according to studies) a glycemic index of 35. Industrial sugar has a glycemic index of 68, honey has a glycemic index of 55.

Just like normal table sugar, palm sugar is not recommended for daily use and is not part of a wholesome, healthy diet. The safest thing to do is to reduce sugar consumption in general. Gradually train yourself to sweeten less or not at all (e.g. tea and coffee).

Where can I get palm sugar?

You can find palm sugar in well-stocked supermarkets and organic markets. Most are organic products from sustainable cultivation, often from Indonesian smallholder cooperatives. In terms of price, palm sugar is significantly higher than the usual whole cane sugar. A kilogram can cost up to 30 euros. The price is partly due to the long transport routes.

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Written by Ashley Wright

I am a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian. Shortly after taking and passing the licensure examination for Nutritionist-Dietitians, I pursued a Diploma in Culinary Arts, so I am also a certified chef. I decided to supplement my license with a study in the culinary arts because I believe that it will help me harness the best of my knowledge with real-world applications that can help people. These two passions form part and parcel of my professional life, and I am excited to work with any project that involves food, nutrition, fitness, and health.

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