The inimical effects of added sugar are not unknown anymore. With time and increasing awareness amongst the masses, sugar seems to have done more harm than good. This has led to a rampant rise in the number of people turning to natural alternatives. Coconut sugar, a sweetener, is becoming increasingly popular over the last few years. As the name itself suggests, coconut sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree and is dubbed being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar. The question remains whether it can actually be a healthy substitute for sugar.It is important that people understand both the benefits and risks of using coconut sugar since many turns to alternative sweeteners such as coconut sugar to try to fulfill their cravings in a guilt-free way.
What is Coconut Sugar and how is it Made
As mentioned above, coconut sugar is derived from a natural source, the sap of the coconut palm. This sap circulates through the tree. To harvest coconut palm sap, farmers cut into the flower-bud stem of the tree so that the nectar flows out. To make coconut flower nectar, the sap is then mixed with water and boiled to turn it into syrup. Producers try to make granulated coconut sugar by letting the nectar dry and crystallize. They then rip the dried chunks apart to create the granules. Coconut sugar may have a look and texture as unprocessed raw sugar, but it may have more natural variants like light or dark granules or fluctuations in granule size.
DO NOT confuse coconut sugar with palm sugar. They may have a similar production process, but palm sugar comes from a different tree.
Coconut Sugar vs Other Types of Sugar
Two common sugars that most people know of and consume regularly are:
- White Table Sugar
- Corn Syrup or High-Fructose Corn Syrup.
Both these sugars have little to no essential nutrients.
- For every 100 grams (g) of granulated sugar, there are 99.98 g of carbohydrates of which 99.80 g is pure sugar, with the rest of the minute amount being minerals, including sodium and calcium.
- For every 100 g of high-fructose corn syrup, there are 76 g of carbohydrates of which 75.65 g is sugar. The remaining 24 g is water. Again, the tiny fraction that remains is mostly remnants of compounds such as sodium and iron.
- For every 100 g of coconut sugar, there are 100 g of carbohydrates of which 75 g is sugar. So far as trace elements are concerned, 100 g contains 625 milligrams (mg) of potassium and 125 mg of sodium.
In comparison to granulated sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, coconut sugar contains more iron, zinc, and calcium. Moreover, coconut sugar contains trace amounts of phytonutrients and antioxidants, such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanidin. Clearly, it has more benefits than other kinds of sugars.
Is it more Nutritious than Regular sugar?
Regular table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are largely devoid of any vital nutrients and therefore give “empty” calories. However, coconut sugar does retain quite a bit of the nutrient found in the coconut palm. Most notable of these are the minerals including iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium, along with some fatty acids like polyphenols and antioxidants.
Then it contains a fiber called inulin, which may mitigate glucose absorption and justify as to why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.
Even though coconut sugar contains some nutrients, do not miss out on your meals as the former cannot supply you with absolute nutrition that you get from real foods. The disadvantage can be that coconut sugar is very high in calories (almost the same as regular sugar) and you’d have to eat a ridiculous amount of it to satisfy your need for the above nutrients.
Does Coconut Sugar Support Weight Loss
Unfortunately, coconut sugar is not a weight loss wonder. It does contain additional nutrients when compared to sugar, but the difference is not significant. Furthermore, It is crucial to know that coconut sugar is still high in carbohydrates and contains calories, two things you must abstain from while trying to lose weight.
A 100 g of coconut sugar is still 100 g of carbohydrates, though only 75 g of these are sugars. It also contains about 375 calories. While these numbers are slightly less than regular sugar, they do not make coconut sugar a guilt-free food.
The recommended amount is 6 or 9 teaspoons per day of added sugar for women and men, respectively. This is regardless of whether it comes from coconut sugar, table sugar, or any other type of added sugar.
Other Benefits of Coconut Sugar
Low Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI)evaluates carbohydrate-containing foods and the impact they have on our blood sugar and glucose levels. High GI foods can cause your blood sugar to spike which becomes dangerous your insulin levels. Moreover, coconut sugar contains insulin which is known to slow down the glucose absorption.
Fructose is a variant of sugar which is instantly converted into fats by our body. Fructose is not easily broken down, and only the liver is capable of breaking it down. This breakdown leads to the formation of triglycerides (a form of fat). Coconuts sugar contains 70 to 75 percent of sucrose and about 20 to 30 percent of fructose as opposed to white sugar which is high in both fructose and glucose.
Being rich in potassium, magnesium, and sodium, coconut sugar regulates the body’s water content. It has whopping 400 times more potassium than white sugar! So, make sure you use this type of sweetener, although, in moderation.
Should Diabetics Eat Coconut Sugar?
In order to keep a check, people with diabetes need constant monitoring of their sugar intake. A good way of doing this might be going for a natural sweetener option. One of the more popular choices is coconut palm sugar.
The popular opinion is that coconut palm sugar is more healthful and nutritious because it is lower on the glycemic index (GI).
People with diabetes are encouraged to consume foods with a low GI because they will not raise blood sugar levels as much as foods with a high GI level. Any GI value of 55 or less is considered low, and anything above 70 is high on the GI. GI of coconut sugar was discovered to be 35. Therefore, it is a better option for people plagued by diabetes.
Replacing regular sugar with coconut sugar can be beneficial if consumed carefully. Make sure you do not rely on it completely and miss out on proper wholesome meals. There is not enough research to back up claims that coconut palm sugar is more healthful, better, or different than any other sugar for blood sugar. While coconut sugar contains inulin, it may not contain enough to significantly affect blood sugar levels. In addition, coconut palm sugar is also just as high in calories as regular cane sugar. Thus, doctors have been divided. However, incorporating it by substituting it with regular sugar will have only add to your overall well-being.