(NaturalNews) The search for healthy, natural sweeteners sometimes seems to involve a whirlwind of information. I've been writing about stevia since 1997 -- back in the day when the FDA was actually seizing stevia products and threatening to arrest the owners of stevia companies. But today, stevia is now widely accepted as a safe, natural sweetener. That doesn't make it super popular, however: Many people complain about the aftertaste of stevia, and it doesn't melt or cook like sugar does.
So the search goes on. For several years, many people in the natural health community have been turning to agave nectar, a low-glycemic sugar made from the bulbous roots of agave plants. While agave has a wonderful taste and a relatively low glycemic index, it has also been embroiled in controversy about whether it is truly "natural" or even low glycemic. Some agave nectar providers have, in the past, even been accused of adulterating the product with high-fructose corn syrup (although my sources tell me this practice has ceased for mainstream U.S. suppliers).
Now a new choice for a natural, wholesome sweetener emerges, and it has tremendous promise. It's called palm sugar.
Why palm sugar is the next big thing in natural sweeteners
Palm sugar is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic crystalline sweetener that looks, tastes, dissolves and melts almost exactly like sugar, but it's completely natural and unrefined. It's acquired from the flowers growing high on coconut trees, which are opened to collect their liquid flower nectar. This nectar is then air-dried to form a crystalline sugar that's naturally brown in color and naturally rich in a number of key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.
It is never refined or bleached like white sugar. So the nutrients it was made with are still there. That's rare for sweeteners, most of which are highly refined. Even stevia is highly refined in its white powder form (real stevia is a green herb).
The amazing caramel and butterscotch taste of palm sugar
Remarkably, even though palm sugar cooks, dissolves and melts just like regular sugar, it has a far superior taste. As Wikipedia states, "The taste of pure coconut palm sugar resembles that of brown sugar, yet with more rounded caramel and butterscotch notes, without the metallic ending flavor that brown sugar has. It has a rich flavor." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_sugar)
I completely agree with that assessment. Palm sugar adds a special richness to almost any recipe. I've been using it in smoothies, and I know raw food chefs who are thrilled about using it in raw food desserts (palm sugar is not raw, by the way, but neither is agave nectar). You can use palm sugar as a replacement for regular white sugar in any recipe. You'll get improved taste, improved nutrition and a lower overall glycemic index for the finished food.
Palm sugar is not a calorie-free sweetener. It has calories like any carbohydrate, but due to its relatively low glycemic index, its calories are absorbed into the bloodstream at a significantly slower rate than regular refined sugar. This property should be of interest to anyone who is monitoring their blood sugar levels and attempting to avoid blood sugar spikes. Palm sugar isn't medicine; it's a food with a surprisingly low GI, considering its sweet taste.
Now available in the NaturalNews Store
We have obtained several thousand pounds of organic, evaporated palm sugar from the Indonesian island of Java. This has been harvested in the traditional manner by local Indonesian farmers using sugarhouse drying techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation.
It has a glycemic index of 35. By comparison, the GI of honey is 55 - 60, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 62. Maltodextrin, a common powder often added to many sweeteners, has a GI of 105! (http://www.snac.ucla.edu/pages/Resources/Han...)
At just 35, our palm sugar has a glycemic index very similar to milk or cooked carrots. And yet it's a super delicious sweetener!
As with many healthy products, the price is higher than conventional, processed "junk" products. Highly-refined cane sugar is dirt cheap because it can be mass produced in sugar factories that churn out huge quantities of that white, nutritionally-devoid powder known as "table sugar."
But creating something healthier is more complex. Climbing coconut trees to harvest the nectar of their flowers is difficult work, and drying the liquid into crystals takes time (and patience). Palm sugar isn't fast sugar. It's slow sugar that takes time to grow, harvest, and dry. Not coincidentally, it also takes time for its complex carbohydrates to be disassembled during digestion, which is why it has a lower glycemic index.
Organic palm sugar usually costs anywhere from $8 - $10 per pound in the USA. There is an issue with adulteration when purchasing palm sugar overseas: Some low-integrity companies adulterate it by mixing in cane sugar. Our palm sugar, however, is 100% organic palm sugar with nothing else mixed in.
Even so, we've been able to get this for you at an extraordinary price. While supplies last at the NaturalNews Store, our 1-pound bag of organic palm sugar is just $5.95. That's about a 33% discount off the normal price for organic palm sugar.
When you purchase three 1-pound bags of organic palm sugar, the price drops to just $5.32 per bag. That's a 40% discount off the normal price.
These extremely good prices are only available while supplies last. As this product is seasonal, I don't yet know when we'll be able to get another shipment, especially at such a good price.
As you know, I only recommend products I use myself. I've been experimenting with organic palm sugar for about two months now, and I'm really happy with the results. When used as a sweetener in smoothies, it doesn't give me the "sugar jitters" that more refined sugars used to do. (I used to be borderline diabetic myself, so I'm very aware of how sugars impact the way I feel.)
It also doesn't make my teeth feel sensitive the way agave nectar sometimes can. I don't know if you've ever experienced this side effect from agave nectar, but it's something I've noticed. I still recommend agave nectar, by the way, because it has many good properties. But it does seem to make my teeth feel funny from time to time. (I'd be interested to hear if you've ever felt this, too...)
Palm Sugar mixes really well with water, but it doesn't mix 100%. There are a small number of palm sugar solids that do end up at the bottom of the smoothie shaker bottle, but this is no big deal as you can just shake it again. (I use a Blender Bottle to shake up my smoothies.)
I've been using this palm sugar to sweeten Boku Superfoods, Living Fuel, Rejuvenate Pro, and many other products. I've also been using it during my workouts, and I find that I experience a very healthy flow of sustained energy that keeps me powering through workouts. I can't say it's 100% due to the palm sugar, but it seems to be a very friendly carbohydrate that offers a "slow burn."
I personally haven't baked cookies or anything like that with the palm sugar because I don't bake cookies in the first place, so I don't have direct experience using it in baking, but I've heard reports from several others who were delighted with its properties in baking and cooking. It melts well, but doesn't burn easily. As Wikipedia says, "...it has a very low melt temperature and an extremely high burn temperature. This makes it a suitable sweetener for confectioners."
The future of palm sugar
With everything I've learned about palm sugar over the last several months, I expect this to become the next "big thing" in natural, organic sweeteners. Before too long, we'll begin to see it in health food bars and superfood smoothies.
You may even begin to see it next year in natural food products such as healthy cereals. I've come to really appreciate one cereal company called Nature's Path, and palm sugar is the kind of natural ingredient they may be interested in researching more. (They already have some really great natural cereal products.)
But you don't have to wait for the food products industry... you can try it yourself in your own smoothies and recipes! Enjoy your palm sugar. I think you'll really like this natural, nutrient-rich organic sweetener.
In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.
With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource now featuring over 10 million scientific studies.