Coconut sugar is made by dehydrating and boiling coconut palm sap. It is becoming more and more common as an alternative to traditional white sugar. While some feel that sugar is sugar, and everyone should eat less of it, others believe moving away from refined sugars to other sweeteners offers sufficient health benefits. If nothing else, making the transition to coconut sugar may help lower overall sugar intake. Sugar of any type may never be considered healthy, but using coconut sugar in place of refined white sugar can be a smart choice.
There are several reasons to select foods that have minimal processing. They are generally healthier, have fewer calories, and hold on to more of their nutrients. Also, the less processing that occurs, the lower negative impact a particular food has on the body. White sugar is refined extensively before it hits supermarket shelves, including processing through natural carbon, which is often bone char. This is what gives refined sugar its white color.
People with diabetes are familiar with the glycemic index. It is a measurement used to determine how a particular carbohydrate will affect both glucose and blood sugar. Foods lower on the glycemic index have less of an effect, preventing sudden changes in insulin levels. While refined sugar ranks in the low to mid-sixties, coconut sugar is rated at 35.
Coconut is a natural source of magnesium, potassium, and sodium, nutrients typically added to rehydration drinks. As such, coconut sugar helps the body better regulate its fluid levels. This can be particularly beneficial during periods of heavy exercise and illness. Using coconut sugar to sweeten oatmeal before a workout or adding it to a smoothie during illness can be helpful.
Fruit is the only sweet food that could be called true health food, but coconut sugar does offer some nutritional benefits. Clocking in at the same 16 calories as a teaspoon of white sugar, you won’t save calories by switching to coconut sugar, but those calories will provide calcium, iron, potassium, and a range of antioxidants.
Coconut sugar is a natural source of inulin fiber, which provides the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria that can help with digestive issues and improve immune responses. It does this by encouraging the growth of bifidobacteria in the gut. In addition to these health benefits, bifidobacteria also produces nutrients such as vitamin K and several B vitamins.
Once ingested, the body turns fructose into fats. It is difficult to break fructose down, making it a less efficient form of energy. The process occurs in the liver, forming triglycerides in the process. Coconut sugar has lower fructose levels than white sugar, with fructose making up about 20 percent of the former's composition.
When shopping for coconut sugar, it is important to check the label. Some brands blend cane sugar into their product to lower manufacturing costs. Select a product that lists coconut sugar as the only ingredient. Also remember that coconut sugar has the same calorie count as refined sugar, so it should still be used sparingly.
Use coconut sugar in the same way as traditional sweeteners. It has a rich, slightly nutty taste that is a nice addition to a cup of tea or coffee or when sprinkled over a platter of french toast. Stirring a teaspoon or two into your favorite curry, casserole, or soup can add some freshness to the dish. Adding a small amount of coconut powder to a spicy dish can cut through the heat without sacrificing flavor.
Coconut sugar does tend to clump. They do not affect the flavor but can make it more difficult to measure and use the product. An air-tight container, placed in a cool, dry cabinet, is the best storage for coconut sugar. Avoid storing it in cabinets above the stove, or in canisters on the counter. Exposure to excessive heat or light will affect its texture.
The big benefit of coconut sugar may be its ability to help lower overall sugar consumption. While it is a fine substitute for white sugar when trying to reduce processed food intake, it still has its issues. Like any other type of sugar, it can negatively impact blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain. However, the rich, satisfying flavor of coconut sugar makes it easier to consume less once you become accustomed to the unique flavor.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.