Coconut sugar – also known as palm sugar – is a type of natural sweetener derived from the sap of cut coconut flower buds. The flower buds are boiled and then dehydrated before being processed into a natural sweetener. Coconut sugar is particularly abundant in Asia and southeast Asia, where it’s been used for thousands of years.
For the most part, granulated sugar and coconut sugar contains the same amount of carbohydrates and calories, which is about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon. But how come coconut sugar is healthier (and more expensive) than your average table sugar? Apart from the minimal processing, coconut sugar contains traces of nutrients that are good for you. In addition, coconut sugar does not cause a spike on the blood sugar level, unlike most types of sweeteners. Below are reasons why you should give coconut sugar a try:
Vitamins and Mineral Content
Although coconut sugar is not exactly a health food, it does contain traces of vitamins and minerals, unlike granulated sugar. Palm sugar has a modest amount of vitamin C, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper. It also contains small amounts of polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanidin, and antioxidants. Coconut sugar also contains inositol. This is a type of B vitamin that regulates the mood.
Low Glycemic Index
The glycemic index measures the effects of carbohydrates on your blood sugar level. Although it’s a sweetener, coconut sugar ranks a measly 35 on the index. Compared to table sugar, which ranks between 60 and 75, coconut sugar has very little effects on your blood sugar level. What does that mean? It means when you use coconut sugar, the blood sugar level won’t soar and plummet. It won’t cause sugar crash and intense food cravings.
That said, although diabetics can use coconut sugar as an alternative to table sugar, it shouldn’t be treated any differently than white sugar. Again, table sugar and palm sugar are similar in structure although the latter contains more nutrients and antioxidants.
Low in Fructose
Fructose is a plant-based sugar that converts into stored fat. The liver breaks down this sugar and once broken down, fructose turns to triglyceride, which is a type of fat. Health experts advise against consuming fructose-rich foods because these foods can wreak havoc on the system. Unfortunately, sweet fruits are loaded with the stuff. Also, “healthier” natural sweeteners like agave nectar is 90% fructose while high-fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose. On the other hand, coconut sugar is only 45% fructose, which makes it a healthier alternative to agave nectar and corn syrup.
Did you know processing coconut sugar is more environmentally-friendly compared to processing table sugar and other sweeteners? Palm sugar is made from sustainable ingredients. Because coconut sugar is minimally processed, production requires less water and fuel. The main ingredients do not require food additives or preservatives too. Coconut sugar is not chemically altered in any way and that makes it very eco-friendly.
On the other hand, sugar cane production requires more water and fuel to produce table sugar. The ingredients have to be purified several times to achieve different levels of purity.