Palm sugar also called Panakarkandu | Panam Kalkandu in Tamil is a healthy alternative to regular white cane sugar because it is rich in nutrients as opposed to white sugar that is devoid of any nutrition. Since palm sugar does not go through any chemical process, it retains most of it’s nutritional benefits making it a healthy alternative to white sugar for everyone including babies, pregnant women and elders.
In Tamil Nadu, palm sugar usually refers to palmyra palm candy (crystals) as we don’t use coconut palm sugar much as it is a recent introduction whereas we have been using panakarkandu for years. But we do use both coconut jaggery and palm jaggery which are nothing but palm sugar in block form. But please remember though it sold in various forms as palm candy, palm sugar and palm jaggery, they are all technically the same with slight variation in taste but with the same health benefits.
What Is Palm Sugar?
Palm sugar usually refers to thickened sap sourced from different types of palm trees. The resulting sugar is brown to dark brown in colour with a very distinctive flavour and smell. Out of all the palm sugars, coconut palm sugar and Palmyra palm sugar are very popularly used all over the world.
How Is Palm Sugar Made?
Traditionally to make palm sugar, first an earthen pot is coated with slaked lime, slaked lime is coated to prevent the sap fermenting. In some countries like Thailand, they use bamboo sticks to which little bit of wood chips are added to prevent fermenting to collect the sap.
Then the sap is collected from the palm trees by cutting one or two palm flowers and then the earthen pot is placed around it to collect the sap fully. The collected juice can also be drunk and is very very nutritious. The collected sap is taken in large vats and boiled till thick. At this stage depending on the final product (palm sugar or palm candy or palm jaggery) the process varies a little.
To get palm candy, the syrup is poured into pots. In the middle, a small palm leaf is kept and then the pot is covered with a cloth and left undisturbed for about 3 months by then the syrup will crystallize into large crystals. This is called panakarkandu in Tamil. To get palm jaggery, the thickened syrup is poured into moulds to set. To get palm sugar, the thickened syrup is removed from fire and left to cool to a thick mass in the pot, all the time stirring till it gets dry to get palm sugar.
Types Of Palm Sugar:
1. Palmyra Palm Sugar:
This is the sugar got from palm tree, we call the sugar pana sarkarai in Tamil and the palm candy is called panakarkandu in Tamil and the palm jaggery is called Pana Karupatti in Tamil. We add panakarkandu to sweeten teas and milk and we also make sweets and candies with palm jaggery.
2. Coconut Palm Sugar:
Coconut jaggery is called thennai karupatti in Tamil and though not popular like palm jaggery, we do use it in recipes. Coconut sugar, the fine brown sugar we get in the markets is new to us but now it is getting popular slowly.
3. Date Palm Sugar:
Date palm is an another variety of palm whose sap is collected for making palm sugar. There are two varieties of date palm and one variety is found in Asia and the other in the Middle East.
4. Sugar Palm:
There is a variety of palm tree whose botanical name is Arenga Pinnata whose sap is used for making palm sugar. It is found in tropical regions of Asia in countries like China and Indonesia.
5. Nipa Palm Sugar:
This is also an other variety of palm whose sap is used to make palm sugar. It’s botanical name is Nypa Fruticans and it’s mainly found in South East Asia.
Palm Sugar Common Names:
Since mostly palm jaggery is used in India, We call palm Jaggery Taad Ke Cheeni in Hindi, Panai Sakkarai in Tamil, Tale Bella in Kannada and Thati Bellam in Telugu.
Palm Sugar Nutrition:
Though the nutrition content of the palm sugar got from different varieties of palm tree will vary slightly, all are rich in nutrients. Palm sugar is rich in phosphorus, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin C, iron, copper, since, magnesium and calcium!
Palm Sugar Health Benefits:
Health Benefits Of Palm Sugar:
1. Palm Sugar For Anemia:
2. Palm Sugar For Good Digestion:
3. Palm Sugar For Energy:
Palm sugar is a wonderful energy booster for both adults and children alike. It is rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin B, iron, calcium and keeps us energized. Encourage children to consume naturals sugar like palm sugar from their young age instead of white sugar which is devoid of any nutrients from young age itself. It can also be safely given to infants and babies.
4. Palm Sugar For Immunity:
5. Palm Sugar For Breast Feeding & Pregnant Women:
Here in our place it is a custom to take sweets and fruits for pregnant women. We usually make the sweets at home with either palm jaggery or regular jaggery. Pregnant and lactating women should try to avoid white sugar completely. Instead replace with nutrient rich natural sugars like palm sugar. Even women who are suffering from PCOS will benefits replacing white sugar with palm sugar.
6. Palm Sugar Has a Low Glycemic Index:
7. Palm Sugar For Common Ailments:
Palm Sugar Vs White Sugar:
Palm sugar is free from chemicals and additives whereas white sugar is highly refined. White sugar is free of all nutrients whereas palm sugar is rich in nutrients. Palm sugar has a low glycemic index as opposed to white sugar. Palm sugar is an apt sweetener (in moderation) for kids, adults and even pregnant women than white sugar as it is devoid of any nutrients.
How To Use Palm Sugar?
We can use palm sugar in all the recipes that call for white sugar, the color of the dish might be darker and the taste might slightly vary but it won’t change the taste drastically. At home, we use palm sugar in all the traditional sweet recipes and also for making herbal teas like ginger tea and also in remedies.
Where To Buy Palm Sugar?
We can buy palm sugar in all the departmental stores in India. In India, we get only palmyra palm sugar and coconut sugar and not other sugars I mentioned above. When buying palm sugar, try to buy organic palm sugar for best taste and flavour. I always stock palm sugar at home and try to use it instead of white sugar and would suggest the same to everyone too.