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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Is palm honey better than bee honey?

Phoenix canariensis native to the Canary Islands.

Miel de palma (Palm honey or Palm syrup) is a unique food both for its flavour and for its nutritional composition. It is one of the flagship products of the cuisine of La Gomera and yet, even among people in the Canary Islands, palm honey is sometimes unknown. 

This food obtained from the sap of the Canary palm tree (Phoenix canariensis) is completely natural, very rich in sugars and trace elements, as well as other minerals. In fact, a recent study shows that it is even better than bees' honey. 

What is special about this substance to make it "better" than honey? 

Guarapo, the origin of palm honey

"Every day, a good palm tree can give around twelve litres of guarapo"

The Canary Island palm is famous for its great ability to adapt. Like all living things, the plant cells that make it up need nutrients to grow. Unlike animals, plants have a vascular system, as if they were veins through which the sap is transported. This substance is, roughly, the blood of plants; and it is full of nutrients, sugars, proteins ... The sap of the Canary Island palm contains a remarkable amount of nutrients that are especially concentrated due to its physiology. That same sap is the guarapo.

To be able to collect it, the guaraperos work for days, after as many months of preparation, and cut the new shoots from the palm leaves and the bud. The process leaves the palm tree ready to expel the guarapo, which is collected with a gutter. Every day, a good palm tree can give around twelve litres of guarapo. The less irrigated, the better the quality of the guarapo will be, as the more concentrated the sap will be. The technique used in La Gomera allows the palm trees to be preserved, which are allowed to be recovered later, so that it is not necessary to kill the plant.

Once the guarapo is obtained, which is traditionally collected in the morning, it is boiled almost at the same time, otherwise it begins to ferment due to its rich composition. When it is boiled, the substances it contains are concentrated, especially sugars, so that microorganisms cannot act. This causes the guarapo to become Miel de Palma (palm honey), sweet and rich. To get an idea, for every eight litres of guarapo you get one of honey. Once cooked, you just have to package it. 

The nutritional properties of palm honey

"The composition of guarapo is much higher in elements such as calcium, copper, phosphorus, potassium or zinc"

The recent study carried out by the professors of the University of La Laguna, Alberto Castilla and Pedro Abreu González, shows that the nutritional properties of palm honey are even better than those of bee honey. Specifically, this concentration is much higher in elements such as calcium, copper, phosphorus, especially potassium or zinc, which are not found in honey. It is not surprising either, since almost all the analysis showed that cane or plant-based honeys are nutritionally more complete.

Although they are still analysing the amount of proteins and vitamins in palm honey, we can say without too much fear of being wrong that the concentration of these substances will also be higher than in honey. And, as we said, despite the laborious bustle of these insects, the "blood" of plants is even more complex, so they find more nutritious and beneficial substances in it.

Honeys and nutrition

"The WHO recommends not to exceed 5% of the caloric intake in sugars, and in no case to exceed 10%"

But let's answer a question, is palm honey more worth consuming than bee honey? The answer is yes. The WHO recommends not to exceed 5% of the caloric intake in sugars, and in no case to exceed 10%. That means that from the food we eat, the energy it contains should come from the food itself and, at most, between 5 or 10% of added sugars. For this reason, refined sugar, cane sugar or honey are normally superfluous products, only recommended in special cases.

And it is that the nutritional profile of sweeteners does not serve any purpose beyond providing energy. Many times these foods are considered as carriers of "empty calories", due to their lack of nutrition. But in the case of having to choose between refined sugar or honey, honey is a slightly more beneficial choice. And, obviously, between honey and cane or palm honey, vegetable honey is much better.

But do not forget that nutrition is a complex thing. Nutritionists do not recommend sweetening foods unless necessary. Therefore, honeys, in themselves, cannot be considered as something inherently good for health. Now, yes, if we just want to indulge ourselves, palm honey is probably the healthiest way to satisfy our whim. That's without mentioning how delicious it is. 

¿Es la miel de palma mejor que la de las abejas?

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