Can you please explain what is palm sugar and its functionality?


Palm sugar is produced from the sap derived from a tropical coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) or a palm tree called Arenga pinnata. During production, the sap, also known as air nira, is placed in a large wok on a wood fired stove and is cooked at over 100°C for a few hours until it becomes concentrated. The exudates (palm sap liquid) are then poured into bamboo moulds to form a pure & solid palm sugar (Ho et al., 2008).

Palm sugars are minimally processed, their natural forms are complex and they contain other ingredients rather than sugars (Peterson, 2014). The major components of palm sugars are sucrose (~70-80%) with glucose (~3-9%) and fructose (~3-9) (Srikaeo & Thongta, 2015).

Functions/ Benefits of Palm Sugar

The functional properties of palm sugar in terms of their ability to improve the GI values in foods are that it would add extra benefits in the foods. Its glycemic index (GI) is one of its major health claims. It was normally marketed as a low GI foods. Palm sugars are also natural and do not contain any additives or artificial coloring and can last for years under proper storage conditions (Srikaeo & Thongta, 2015).

a. Lower Glycemic Index

Palm sugar has a glycemic index that is lower, about 35 while granulated sugar form is about 58. This indicates that it takes a longer time to process the sugar and slowly leads to a blood sugar level raise. Thus, palm sugar is normally suggested for diabetic patients as compared with granulated sugar (Srikaeo & Thongta, 2015; Djoni & Sukandar, 2013).

b. Lower Calorie Content

Palm sugar is suggested by the health experts because of its low calorie content when compared with granulated sugar (Djoni & Sukandar, 2013).

c. Amino acids, Vitamins and Mineral Contents

Palm sugar is nutrient-dense and unrefined. It has amino acids like especially glutamine and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It also contains B vitamins 1, 2, 3 and 6 (Peterson, 2014). Palm sugar contains 16 of the 20 amino acids, and it is specifically high in glutamine, an amino acid which is important for metabolic functions (Roosevelt, 2014).

d. Dietary Fiber Benefits

Palm sugar was reported to contain a significant amount of dietary fiber, especially inulin (Vayalil, 2012; Trinidad et al., 2010). This contributes in lowering its GI values when compared to refined sugarcane which contain almost 100% sucrose (Srikaeo & Thongta, 2015).



Djoni & Sukandar, R. (2013). Investigation Of Financial And Value Added Of Crystal Palm Sugar Agro Industry. International Refereed Research Journal, 3(1), 58-65.

Ho, C. W., Aida, W. M. W., Maskat, M. Y. & Osman, H. (2008). Effect of Thermal Processing of Palm Sap on the Physico-Chemical Composition of Traditional Palm Sugar. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 11(7), 989-995.

Peterson, L. (2014). Heal Something Good (pp. 73-74). Morrisville, North Carolina: Lulu Press, Inc.

Roosevelt, M. (2014). Superfoods for Life, Coconut: Reduce Inflammation, Improve Heart Health, Heal Digestion (pp. 153-154). Beverly, Massachusetts: Fair Winds Press.

Srikaeo, K. & Thongta, R. (2015). Effects of sugarcane, palm sugar, coconut sugar and sorbitol on starch digestibility and physicochemical properties of wheat based foods. International Food Research Journal, 22(3), 923-929.

Trinidad, T. P., Mallillin, A. C., Sagum, R. S. & Encabo, R. R. (2010). Glycemic index of commonly consumed carbohydrate foods in the Philippines. Journal of Functional Foods, 2, 271-274.

Vayalil, P. K. (2012). Date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera Linn): An emerging medicinal food. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 52, 249-271.

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