Sugar has quite the reputation in the vast world of nutrition. Sure, we all want sugar occasionally. No scratch that. We want it daily! However, do we need it that often? Considering all the health implications at play here, the simplest answer would be no. Life without sugar…sounds grim, right? Well, now that we have sugar substitutes, we don’t have to consider that prospect. So what is palm sugar? Palm sugar is a natural sweetener that you can use instead of ordinary sugar. But just how good is it for you? Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Palm Sugar Made Of?
What is palm sugar? And how is it manufactured? Simple. Palm sugar is produced from the sap of palm trees. That answers the “what is organic palm sugar” question you’ve been asking yourself, right? And yes, any palm tree can be used to manufacture palm sugar. This is why it’s sometimes qualified using the type of palm tree it came from.
For instance, coconut palm sugar. So if you’re ever wondering, “what is coconut palm sugar?” Now you have the answer to that question. So whenever you come across the palm sugar vs coconut sugar articles, it’s important to remember that they are virtually similar.
It also comes with a caramel flavor which is particularly popular in Southeast Asia and African recipes. Thai palm sugar is particularly popular for kitchen use in these regions. Despite the numerous different sources, palm sugar is processed using the same method. The sap is boiled until it crystallizes to form palm sugar. At this point, it’s still unrefined sugar since no chemicals are added in the limited processing it undergoes.
The longer palm sugar is cooked, the darker and richer it will become. Also, it’ll come in a wide range of colors and textures, so you’ll always have a variety to choose from. Whether you fancy palm syrup or granulated palm sugar, you can be sure you’ll always have leeway to choose.
However, this process is usually very labor-intensive. So you should expect a higher price tag on palm sugar in comparison to ordinary granulated and brown sugars.
That being said, what is the nutritional makeup of palm sugar? Do you gain anything extra when you use palm sugar instead of ordinary sugar? Let’s find out.
Palm Sugar Nutritional Information
Palm sugar is largely unrefined. Therefore it’ll retain most of the plant-based vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your health. Compared to other sweeteners, palm sugar has a surprisingly low glycemic index (7). This means that the chances of it causing an erratic fluctuation in your blood sugar are low.
Some research even suggests that it may be a better alternative for people with diabetes (3). However, processed or not, palm sugar is still sugar. Here’s what the sugar content in palm sugar is composed of.
You’ll find sucrose in just about any food. However, in added sweeteners used in desserts, processed foods and beverages have the highest sucrose content. While palm sugar has lower sucrose levels than other sugars, it’s still about 70-80% (7).
When you heat, sucrose, fructose, and glucose are produced. Also, your body will break down sucrose into these two components. Either way, where there is sucrose, glucose, and fructose will eventually appear.
Glucose And Fructose Content
Palm sugar is mainly made up of sucrose. However, glucose can also be found in small amounts in palm sugar (7). Your body rapidly absorbs glucose. So they are likely to cause a sudden surge in your blood sugar when consumed excessively.
Fructose, on the other hand, naturally occurs in fruits. You have the added benefit of getting extra nutrients like vitamins and minerals when you eat the fruit in this state. In certain cases, food manufacturers add fructose to sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup. So palm sugar will have some fructose in it, but not insignificant quantities.
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Some studies suggested that palm sugar had few caloric contents in comparison to sucrose and table sugar. It also indicated that palm sugar had similar amounts of calories as honey (2). However, more recent studies had different conclusions. It was established that palm sugar has the same number of calories you’d find in regular sugar (7).
High-calorie foods are only beneficial if they come with other crucial nutrients. If that’s not the case, you should limit your intake of these foods. Because ultimately, if you don’t, you’ll just be eating lots of empty calories putting yourself at risk of gaining weight.
That being said, here’s how the overall nutritional composition of palm sugar looks like per tablespoon serving (6):
- 54 calories
- 15 grams of carbohydrates
- 0 grams of fat
- 15 grams of sugar
- 0 grams of protein
- 0 grams of fiber
Additionally, palm sugar is a good source of the following minerals (6):
Manganese is probably the most important mineral in palm sugar. For starters, it will greatly enhance your bone’s health, reducing the risk of getting osteoporosis (5). Additionally, research indicates that palm sugar may have some role in reducing risk factors of diabetes like insulin resistance (3). Here’s how that works:
Palm sugar contains a beneficial fermentable prebiotic bacteria called inulin (3). The significant presence of inulin in palm sugar can help individuals with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. According to this study, inulin can enhance your insulin sensitivity. Not only that, but it also has unique metabolic effects on people with a higher risk of contracting diabetes (1).
A study done in 2013 found that inulin had considerable health benefits to women with type 2 diabetes. These included increased antioxidant levels that protect your body against diseases and damage and blood sugar control (4).
It’s, however, important to note that excessive consumption of sugar will always be counterproductive to your health. It doesn’t matter whether it is ordinary sugar or a natural sweetener like palm sugar. Always make sure you consume it in moderation.
With all the fuss about palm sugar, you can’t help but wonder what is so great about coconut palm sugar. Are there any significant health benefits it’ll have on your body? Next, we find out.
Health Benefits Of Palm Sugar
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, palm sugar will provide more than similar sweeteners. The problem is usually with overconsumption of it, which can lead to metabolic conditions like obesity. If you monitor your consumption of palm sugar, you may experience some health-boosting benefits like:
Inulin, which is a dietary fiber, can be found in palm sugar. Multiple studies suggest that plant-based fiber aids in controlling your gut bacteria while promoting good digestion (1). It can also help your body improve its effectiveness at absorbing minerals.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Palm sugar has lower quantities of glucose and, by extension, a lower glycemic index than table sugar and honey. A lower glycemic index will aid in stabilizing the levels of blood sugar in your body compared to other sweeteners (7). Your energy levels will, therefore, not spike and crash erratically. Eventually, the strain on your heart will also be reduced.
Increased Antioxidants Levels
Palm sugar has a higher level of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients than other sugars. One of the components that can be found in this nutritional makeup is phytonutrients. They are a plant-based compound that has an antioxidant effect. Translation: They prevent cell damage in your body that can lead to chronic illnesses (4).
Improved Nervous System Function
When you consider raw weight, palm sugars have more potassium than bananas and green vegetables. Potassium will maintain and ensure nervous system activity like muscle contractions, and regular heartbeats are working as they should. Also, in the right quantities, potassium can help manage high blood pressure (7).
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3 Healthier Alternatives To Palm Sugar
So what is palm sugar substitutes? See, sometimes the promise of a better digestive system is just not enough when it comes to sweeteners like palm sugar. You just can’t stop thinking about whether there are any palm sugar substitutes. If that’s the case for you, then consider trying out these alternatives:
Maple Sugar or Syrup
It’s interesting just how maple sugar and palm sugar are similar. Both are produced from sap, and each of them has a distinct butterscotch flavor. The bonus is that it comes either as sugar or syrup. So it all boils down to your preferences and needs.
First off, date sugar is not similar to date palm sugar. Date sugar is processed from dehydrated dates, which are ground to produce granulated date sugar. Its sweet, caramel-like flavor makes it an ideal replacement for palm sugar when you’re cooking or baking. You should also know that date sugar doesn’t dissolve like palm sugar because of the dates’ fibrous nature.
It’s true that some fruits are high in fructose. However, they are richer in minerals and vitamin content compared to sweeteners. So if you still have some doubts about sweeteners, switching to fruits may be just what you need.
“Excessive consumption of sugar is dangerous for your health” is probably the most mentioned phrase in the world of nutrition. It’s true though, too much of it will eventually harm you.
Sweeteners and substitutes may be better alternatives. However, how healthy they are is entirely dependent on how you use them. So yes, coconut sugar can is a good alternative, but always remember to practice moderation. That being said, it’s about time you made that switch don’t you think?
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Randomised Crossover Trial: The Effect of Inulin on Glucose Homeostasis in Subtype of Prediabetes (pubmed.gov)
- Characterization of the Types of Sweeteners Consumed in Honduras (2018, nih.gov)
- CHARACTERIZING COCONUT SAP SUGAR AND SYRUP AS A PROMISING FUNCTIONAL FOOD/INGREDIENT (2015, bmjopen.bmj.com)
- Effects of High Performance Inulin Supplementation on Glycemic Control and Antioxidant Status in Women with Type 2 Diabetes (2013, nih.gov)
- Manganese (n.d., nih.gov)
- Palm Sugar (2018, usda.gov)
- The unbearable sweetness of sugar (and sugar alternatives) (2017, nature.com)