Palm sugar is a crystalline sweetener, rich in nutrients, that looks and tastes almost exactly like sugar. The difference between palm sugar and sugar is that palm sugar is natural and unrefined. Because it is not bleached and refined like white sugar, the nutrients are still there, which is rare for sweeteners. Palm sugar is a tastier substitute for brown or granulated sugar and possibly healthier.
Originally, palm sugar was made from the sap of the date palm, sugar date palm or Palmyra palm and now it is also made from the sap of the nipa palm and Arenga pinnata. A sugar palm begins to develop its first flower bunches when the tree is mature, in 6 to 10 years. Stems of the flower bunches are tapped regularly to obtain the sap.
The next step is cutting off the stem of bunches. The sap flowing from the stem is collected into containers. A thin next part of the stem is sliced off in order to keep the sugar-rich sap flowing. The sap is air-dried to form a crystalline sugar that is rich in vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals such as potassium, zinc, iron and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6. The sap ferments immediately and, after the fermentation, sap is known as “toddy”. For a good quality palm sugar is essential to preserve the sap freshness. The sap of the palm sugar it is used to make sugar, rum, ferment into vinegar or produce ethanol for fuel.
Even though palm sugar dissolves, melts and cooks like regular sugar, it is tastier, it has a rich flavor of brown sugar with caramel and butterscotch notes. In any recipe, if you use palm sugar as a replacement for white sugar, you will get a lower glycemic index (GI) for the finished food. It does not mean that palm sugar is a calorie-free sweetener. Like any carbohydrate, palm sugar has calories, but calories are absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower rate than regular sugar, due to its low glycemic index. Consuming low-GI foods such as palm sugar may reduce chances of breast cancer. But palm sugar is not medicine.
The nutrients and minerals from sap of palm sugar may help you prevent illness. Palm sugar contain more potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus and sodium than white or brown sugar. Nitrogen and potassium help prevent cardiovascular disease, sodium and magnesium are necessary for proper nerve function, iron is good for a strong immune system and blood health, zinc increases brain function and phosphorus helps kidneys function.
In conclusion, Palm sugar is a great substitute for brown or white sugar and superior to the refined sugar we consume because it has a rich flavor and, more important, it has nutrients and minerals that may prevent illness and help you have a strong immune system.