Today I want to take a break and share with you a new sweetener that is making a comeback into the market these days.... Coconut Palm Sugar.
All I can say is... this sugar is extraordinary and delicious!
Honestly, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about this alternative sweetener. I love my honey, but I want a variety when I make my sweet treats. After doing a bit of research and finding good reviews from some of my favorite food blogs. I decided to give it a try, so while we were in the states in July I stopped by an Asian market and picked up two different kinds (wet paste and hard round lumps) .
They are both from Thailand, but produced by different companies. I was surprised, but very pleased, to find that they both had slightly different flavors and smells. The hard round lumps has a very pleasant floral smell and taste. The wet paste has more of a light carmel smell and taste. They taste a tad bit like maple syrup and much lighter than honey or unrefined cane sugar. It has been wonderful to use so far. So, from what I gathered in my research, coconut palm sugar is...
made from the nectar produced from the coconut tree (coco nucifera). Once collected, it is boiled and processed into a granule.
Coconut palm Sugar is naturally low on the Glycemic Index (GI), which has benefits for weight control and improving glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). Coconut palm sugars are rated as a GI 35. By comparison, most commercial Agaves are GI 42, Honeys are GI 55 and Cane Sugars are GI 68.
Coconut palm Sugars produce slow release energy, which sustains the human body through your daily activities without regular sugar “highs”, and “lows”.
The major component of coconut sugar is sucrose (70-79%) followed by glucose and fructose (3-9%) each. Minor variations will occur, due to differences in primary processing, raw material source, tree age and variety of coconut. (source)
A Traditional Sugar
Made from the sap of coconut flowers, coconut palm sugar is given to us from nature. It is boiled down to create either dry sugar lumps, a wet paste or granulated form. To clear up any confusion... the names "palm sugar" and "coconut sugar" are the same according to the Wikipedia, but the sugars are different...
Palm sugar was originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm or the date palm. Now it is also made from the sap of the sago and coconut palms and may be sold as "coconut sugar." The sugar is a golden brown paste, sold in tubes, blocks or tin cans. It may be light-colored or dark, soft and gooey or hard. As a lightly-processed product of cottage industry, it varies greatly from batch to batch.
In Thai cuisine, palm and "coconut sugar" (nahm dtahn bpeep/buk and nahm dtahn maprao) are used interchangeably. However, it may be an important distinction that "coconut sugar" is not derived from the coconut fruit itself. "Although the names are used interchangeably, palm sugar and coconut sugar are not the same. One comes from the palmyra or sugar palm and the other from coconut palm, but both are produced from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds."
Read here how they traditionally make the sugar and watch this great video too!
Rich in Minerals & Vitamins
I was thrilled to find out that coconut palm sugar actually has a richer nutritional value than all commercially available sweeteners. It is rich in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron. It is also a natural source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. Wow!
On this website, you will see more nutritional information and the health attributes of coconut palm sugar. I also found a wonderful website that compares the nutritional values of unrefined cane sugar and coconut palm sugar, plus more information.
Low on the GI Index
I'm sure you caught this while reading through the two websites I suggested above. This is very exciting. This may be a good sweetener for those who have diabetes. I know most of you like using agave syrup for it's "low" GI rating, but there has been many reports and concerns about agave being no better than high fructose corn syrup (which is why I choose not to use it). Some of you like stevia, but there are some disadvantages (not great for baking and taste) as well.
Coconut palm sugar's GI index is given a low 35. Agave syrup's GI rating varies from 27-41, so coconut sugar is comparable. While researching, I was wondering if coconut palm sugar would be similiar to agave syrup by having a high fructose content, but the research shows that it doesn't (fantastic news!).
Coconut palm sugar is GI-35. The Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute used the following procedure to determine the Glycemix Index (GI) value of palm sugar:
- Fifty grams (240 ml) standard glucose tolerance test beverage (Medic Orange 50, Product no. 089) and fifty (50) grams of coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) sugar was fed in random order to ten (10) human subjects.
- Blood samples (0.3-0.4 ml) were collected after feeding through finger prick using a 7ml Vacutainer at zero (0) hour, and thereafter at every 15 min interval for 1 hour, and every 30 min or the next hour.
- The serum was separated from the blood using a refrigerated Effendorf centrifuge, and analyzed for glucose levels on the same day using a Clinical Chemistry Analyzer after calibration with the glucose standard (Glucofix Reagent1: Menarini Diagnostics, Firenze, Italy).
- The blood sugar levels of the ten (10) healthy human subjects given coconut palm sugar and reference glucose food samples were graphed against the time of study. The incremental area under the glucose response curve (IAUC) of the coconut palm sugar was calculated geometrically ignoring the area below the fasting level (Wolever et al.,1991). The Glycemic Index (GI) of the coconut palm sugar was calculated as GI = IAUC of the test food / IAUC of standard glucose multiplied by 100. It’s index value is 35. (source)
So, after research and learning that coconut palm sugar is... traditional, rich in minerals & vitamins, low GI and has a wonderful sweet flavor... I am now hooked on this stuff! You can find coconut palm sugar in your local health food store, but you can also find this at your local Asian market.
Another great advantage... when you buy coconut palm sugar, you are helping the small farmers!! Here's another video that shows the lives small farmers trying to make a living producing and selling coconut palm sugar:
I've been experimenting with the coconut palm sugar here and there, but everything I've tried so far tasted delicious! I am looking forward to sharing some sweet treats using coconut palm sugar starting next week (or maybe sooner!).
IMPORTANT NOTE: I received a message from Coco Palm Sugar explaining the different sugars more clearly, here's what he said: "One of the thing you need to be aware of is the prevalence of "palm sugars" disguised as sugar coming from coconuts. There are a number of palm trees from which palm sugar is made from and only those from coco nuciferas has been studied and proven to have low GI properties." So, when you buy your coconut palm sugar... make sure to read where the sugar is coming from coconut palm flowers. Check out his website and read up on great information about coconut palm sugar!
Now go get yourself some!