Coconut Sugar – Is It Healthy?

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Coconut sugar (also called coconut palm sugar or coco sugar) is another natural alternative sweetener on the market, which is quickly gaining popularity. Recently I have been asked whether or not it is a healthier sweetener than ordinary white sugar or any other natural sweetener.  Good question!  With a list of questions in mind I did some research, and here’s what I found….

What part of the coconut plant does it come from?

Coconut sugar comes from the sap of the flower buds of the coconut palm (or these varieties of palm: the Palmyra palm, the date palm, the sugar date palm, the sago palm or the sugar palm).  Small info tidbit: a good percentage of the world’s coconut products come from Indonesia and the Philippines.

How is coconut sugar harvested and processed?

Basically, the flower buds are cut to drain the sap; the sap is then heated over medium heat to evaporate the water (the sap is approximately 80% water). Through this evaporation process the sap can be reduced to a thick syrup, crystal form or soft paste. The processing is minimal (only 2 steps) and the end product is generally unbleached and preservative free.

Is coconut sugar any healthier than ordinary table sugar?

Very controversial info here! Several sources indicate that it is healthier than table sugar because it is low glycemic (glycemic index of 35), making it safe for diabetics to use.  Low glycemic sweeteners are definitely better than high glycemic sweeteners (such as high fructose corn syrup). Other informational sources question whether it is any better than table sugar because it contains glucose and fructose, the same components as table sugar.

Does coconut sugar have any nutritional value?

Yes, it contains some vitamins, minerals and amino acids, which are not found in table sugar. While there are nutrients in coconut sugar, the truth is: it is much better to get your body’s requirement of vitamins, minerals and amino acids from other healthy food sources, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

NOTE: consuming huge quantities of any sugar is NOT recommended!

Does coconut sugar have an aftertaste or a chemical type taste to it?

No aftertaste or chemical taste. It tastes very much like ordinary brown sugar; it has kind of a caramel flavor.  According to my research, the color and flavor can vary from one bag of coconut sugar to the next depending on the exact type of coconut tree the sap came from, when it was harvested, and the exact processing to evaporate the water from the sap.

Can coconut sugar be substituted equally for ordinary sugar (1 to 1)?

Yes, it can be used exactly the same way as ordinary white sugar.  It has the same sweetness as white sugar and it comes in granular form so swapping it equally for ordinary sugar should not be a problem.

So – what is the conclusion about coconut sugar?

It is a natural, minimally processed sugar with some nutritional value to it, and theoretically (depending on what sources you read) it is low glycemic.  This makes it a reasonably good choice as a sweetener, possibly safe for diabetics.

Here’s the caveat (isn’t there always a caveat??):  ANY sugar or healthy sugar substitute should always be used in small quantities.   To add some sweetness to one’s diet, it is very beneficial to consume sweet vegetables and fruits, which have vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Are you interested in how to use fruits and vegetables to add some sweetness to your overall dietary lifestyle?  I have some ideas  – contact me, and let’s chat!

 

Informational Resources:

AuthorityNutrition.com – Coconut Sugar

Wikipedia.org  – Coconut Sugar

Livestrong.com – Benefits of Coconut Sugar

Video: Dr. Oz – Coconut Sugar

SugarCoconut.com

 

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