Palm Sugar is a sweetener that is made from the sap present in the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. It is known as natural sugar because it involves minimum processing and no chemicals are used. The sap from the tree is heated to wick away the moisture content until a thick syrup is obtained, and this sweet nectar is then further reduced to crystals.
The sugar has a mild caramel flavour and in the granular state, it is not much different in taste as compared to normal white sugar.
Since palm sugar is an unrefined sugar it is known to be rich in vitamins and minerals. As a result, it has become increasingly popular as a substitute to white and brown sugar. Research studies have found that it contains minerals like potassium phosphorus, zinc, iron, manganese and copper; small amounts of phytonutrients such as polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanidin; antioxidants.
It is rich in B vitamins, especially inositol (Vitamin B8) which is needed for the formation of healthy cells, as well as thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid and choline. It contains the same 16 amino acids as present in the sap from which it is derived. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are needed for cell growth and repair.
Studies have also shown that inositol reduces triglyceride levels, increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and decreases blood pressure. Although it isn't proven, many women note that taking inositol helps reduce carbohydrate/sugar cravings and may even aid in weight loss.
One of the biggest reasons of the popularity of palm sugar is due to its low glycemic index a method of measuring how carbohydrates impact blood glucose levels. A high GI means that the food is rapidly absorbed by the body thereby increasing the blood sugar index and causing the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. A low GI indicates that the food is slowly absorbed, preventing the spike in insulin level. Researchers have found that the GI of palm sugar is 35, compared to honey at 55 and table sugar at 68.
Palm sugar also contains a dietary fiber called inulin, which is known to keep a check on blood sugar levels, and low amount of fructose, a type of sugar our body quickly converts into triglyceride - a form of fat.