Is palm sugar a superfood?
If you are from Europe and you think about sweetening your coffee or baking a cake, the first things that come to your mind are probably white or brown sugar. If you like old-school recipes or natural antibiotics, perhaps you thought about honey. However, none of those are the most popular sweeteners in Southeast Asia.
It bears many names: Barbados Sugar, khandsari, khand. Muscovado sugar is popular in the Philippines and some parts of China with India being the top producer. Its aroma resembles toffee and has a moist texture and rich brown color. It is not as sweet as the white sugar – and even has a slightly bitter aftertaste – which means you can use it in some savory recipes as well.
In the centrifugal process, white sugar loses most of its nutrients. It’s a different story with muscovado – calcium, manganese, potassium, and magnesium aren’t lost during manufacturing. This type of sugar contains more molasses than any other type, which makes it an antioxidant. But remember, it is still sugar – saying it’s healthy would be a major exaggeration!
Like Muscovado, jaggery is a sugar of many names depending on the country. In India, which, again, is the biggest producer, it’s called gur. Malaysian call it gula melaka (gula means sugar in Malay and Indonesian). Other names are Kokuto (Japan), Panela (Colombia), Namtan tanode (Thailand)…
Since it contains less sucrose (70%, while white sugar contains 99,7%) and more vitamins and minerals, some people call it a superfood. It’s worth noting that palm sugar has a lower glycemic index compared to refined sugar, which means it causes a slower rise in blood sugar levels. But again, it is sugar – let’s be more moderate and just say it is healthier than the white one.
Let’s have a look at the making process:
Palm sugar in my kitchen
Palm sugars have more depth and complexity in flavor. Coconut palm sugar has, obviously, a coconut aroma, others may resemble caramel. How to use it? Just like regular sugar. If you add it to your coffee it will gain a toffee flavour. If you add it to a savory dish, you’ll balance the salt. It’s perfect for sauces and marinates.
Palm sugar is often used in the preparation of desserts, candies, and confections. It is an essential ingredient in traditional Asian desserts like palm sugar dumplings, rice cakes, and sweet soups. But it’s perfect for Western cuisine as well. In a 2018 study authors replaced sugar with jaggery while baking muffins. Taste, appearance, and storability were the same. What was different? The nutritional value. So why not give it a try?