Palm sugar is made from the saps of various palm trees. The species of palm used depends on the region in which the sugar is being made.
In the Canary Islands, syrup made from the sap of the palm tree was in use well before the arrival of Europeans. The islands’ inhabitants harvest the sap from the trees and reduce it in large pots over wood-fired stoves. It is during this process that palm sugar takes on its distinctive taste. It also acquires a dark brown coloration and a consistency similar to that of honey. It can be boiled further until it becomes hard and rock-like. This method of making palm sugar is similar to the production methods used in all regions where palm sugar made and consumed.
The date palm used to make Indian and Burmese palm sugar (also called jaggery) dates back to 4,000 BC and is thought to have originated in Africa.
Today, palm sugar is produced mainly in tropical Asia including India as well as in Africa.
Flavor profile of palm sugar
Palm sugar’s flavor is similar to that of brown sugar, but with strong notes of caramel and butterscotch. Palm sugar is not quite as sweet as refined white sugar, which may be due to the fact that it has less sucrose and more fructose when compared to cane sugar. You may need to add more of it when using it as a substitute for white sugar even though it dissolves in a similar manner and can be used in the same way. Another important fact about palm sugar’s flavor is that it lacks the metallic aftertaste that you get from brown sugar.
Health benefits of palm sugar
While makers of palm sugar tout its health benefits, it is not exactly a superfood; however, it does have some health benefits. The health benefits are due to nutrients in it such as:
- Potassium: This mineral is the main nutrient found in palm sugar. A single teaspoon can provide 1 percent of a person’s daily potassium requirement. If you consume 10 teaspoons of sugar each day, you will get 10 percent of your daily potassium requirement from palm sugar. Potassium is an electrolyte that is essential for the heart and other muscles and plays a major role in digestion.
- Energy: Like the different forms cane and beet sugar, palm sugar is a carbohydrate, which means that it provides energy. Sugar provides your body with the energy it needs to function.
- Inulin: Palm sugar contains a substance called inulin. Inulin is a fermentable fiber that can be beneficial to gut bacteria. It may help to control the sugar levels of people with type 2 diabetes.
- Phytonutrients: Palm sugar contains anthocyanidins, polyphenols, and other similar nutrients. These compounds have antioxidant benefits that allow them to scavenge free radicals and protect the body from disease.
Note that while palm sugar is said to be lower on the glycemic index, studies are conflicted. Some report that it is its glycemic load is exactly the same as that of cane sugar.
Palm sugar may help to treat or prevent these diseases:
- Heart disease: The antioxidant polyphenols in palm sugar may help to prevent heart disease and other major illnesses. Potassium also plays a role in heart health. Low potassium is associated with high blood pressure, which can cause narrowing of the coronary arteries and increased risk of heart attack. In addition, people who have moderate levels of potassium have been found to be less prone to heart attacks.
- Osteoporosis: Potassium is crucial for bone health, and there is evidence that you can stave off the loss of bone density by eating potassium-rich foods.
Common uses of palm sugar
You can use palm sugar exactly as you would regular sugar. Add it to desserts or beverages for its caramel flavor. Indonesians use to make cendol and in India it is used to make sweet pongal.