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Palm & Coconut Sugars

Health Benefits + How to Cook with these Sugars

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palm sugar

Breaking up Palm Sugar Cakes with a pestle & mortar

Copyright Darlene A. Schmidt
Health Benefits: The health benefits of using these unrefined sugars are only beginning to become known. The greatest benenfit so far is their low glycemic index (around 35), which means they don't have the blood-sugar spiking effect ('sugar high') that regular refined sugar causes. They are similar to agave syrup in this way, except better in the sense that they don't contain high amounts of fructose. In India, palm sugar (in the rock-sugar jaggery form) is actually used in traditional medicine, since it contains many minerals and has been found to heal throat and lung infections.

How to Use these Sugars: The paste-like form of these sugars is easy to use (similar to honey) - just add it as you would regular sugar to any dessert you might be making (taste-test as you go to make sure you've added enough).

The hard cake-like form (pictured here) is more challenging to use. You can either pound it or process it into a brown-sugar-like powder (see my second picture), or you can melt it with a little water in a sauce pan to create a syrup-like liquid.

The resulting taste is like a caramel-flavored brown sugar, but lighter, without any aftertaste (personally, I prefer palm or coconut sugar to any other low-glycemic index sugar substitute for this reason).

In Thailand, you can find fresh palm nector sold at roadside and market stalls (the Thais call it "palm water"). If you're in Thailand, try it - it's delicious.

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