Coconut sugar, also known as coconut palm sugar or coconut blossom sugar is a natural sweetener made from the flower buds of the coconut tree.
It has been used for centuries in countries in South-East Asia such as the Philippines and Indonesia in both sweet and savory dishes.
In recent years it has gained a lot of popularity in the rest of the world due to its low glycemic index value and trace minerals content. But is coconut sugar healthy enough to be considered a wholesome sweetener?
Coconut sugar is made by extracting the juice from the flower buds of the coconut palm which is then heated to evaporate the liquid. When it transforms into a thicker consistency it becomes coconut syrup or nectar, a natural product that is also used as a sweetener.
The syrup is then further heated until it becomes very sticky. It is then removed from the flame and stirred until it becomes granular.
Coconut sugar can be found in different shades of brown, depending on the type of coconut palm and production method and has a rich, caramely flavor.
Is coconut sugar healthy?
* coconut sugar is a natural product made from the sap of coconut flower buds.
The production method is very natural and doesn’t involve any chemicals, pesticides or synthetic ingredients.
* Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index of 35.
The glycemic index or GI measures the effect on your blood sugar level (glucose) two hours after the consumption of food (carbohydrates).
0 is the slowest a carb breaks down and causes the least blood sugar spike.
100 is the fastest a carb breaks down and causes the greatest blood sugar spike.
The body needs to release insulin in order to regulate the blood sugar level.
Different types of sugar have a different effect on our blood sugar level.
As a comparison:
White sugar’s GI is 68
Maple syrup’s GI is 54
Blackstrap molasses’ GI is 55
Brown rice syrup’s GI is 25
* Coconut sugar is the most nutritious of all sugars.
Trace minerals such as potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
Amino acids: 16 of the 20 amino acids which play an important role in metabolism.
Vitamins such as 12 of the essential vitamin B complex.
* Good quality organic coconut sugar is free from chemicals, pesticides, artificial coloring and flavoring
* Coconut sugar is not the same as palm sugar.
Palm sugar comes from a different palm tree and has a different taste and nutrient values.
* Coconut sugar can replace refined white sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
It’s great to cook and bake with, just keep in mind that it needs a little extra time to melt or blend with other ingredients.
Coconut sugar is still sugar
As mentioned earlier, coconut sugar has a lot of benefits, especially compared to many other sweeteners. But is coconut sugar healthy or is it just a slightly better alternative?
While coconut sugar is definitely a healthier choice than regular white sugar, it should be consumed in moderation.
* Coconut sugar contains approximately 35-40% fructose.
A diet high in fructose from added sugars can be an overload on the liver and can lead to several health issues and diseases.
Coconut sugar is still treated as sugar in the body.
* It contains the same amount of calories as regular white sugar.
If you’re watching your calorie intake, it’s good to know that coconut sugar is high in calories.
* Coconut sugar contains valuable vitamins and minerals, but mostly in small amounts.
It’s not recommended to consume a lot of coconut sugar or syrup as a way to ingest more nutrients. It’s better to stick to whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and legumes.
* Coconut sugar is usually not a sustainable product.
Coconuts are very sustainable, versatile fruits that can be used to produce many products.
On average it takes between 6-10 years for the coconut tree to grow its first fruit. It can then, under optimal conditions produce up to 100 coconuts per year. It takes about a year for the flower to grow into a mature coconut.
For a coconut tree to get to the peak stage of coconut production can take between 15-20 years.
Once you cut off the coconut flowers that are used to make sugar, they won’t grow into coconuts.
If this is done in moderation it’s fine, but the worldwide demand for coconut sugar has increased enormously. This affects the existence of coconut trees and the conditions in which they are grown.
My take on coconut sugar
While I try to limit added sugars in my diet as much as possible, I love sweet treats.
I usually make my own and aim to make them as healthy as possible.
When a recipe requires a sweetener, I like using a natural one such as coconut sugar, dates, maple syrup and blackstrap molasses. While they all have their own + and – I’m happy to use them once in a while.
To me personally it’s very important to seek a balance between what I enjoy, what is good for me and what is good for others, with special focus on the environment and animals. I try to be very conscious about it and base my lifestyle choices on it.
A year ago I bought two bags (250 grams each) of coconut sugar in Indonesia and I am half way through the second one.
I use a bit of it occasionally in my recipes.
It is also very good to make facial scrubs with as it’s very gentle on the skin and contains minerals.
So to conclude – is coconut sugar healthy or not? Sugar is sugar, the less you use of it, the better. Some types of sugar are worse for you than others. Coconut sugar is among the healthier sweeteners, but be mindful about your intake.
Eventually it all comes down to balance. The occasional use of small amounts of organic coconut sugar within an otherwise healthy lifestyle is better than using refined white sugar and many other sweeteners.
Do you know these other edible coconut products?