Coconut sugar is one of the regular sugar substitutes that have been deemed healthy by recent food trends. Tapped from the coconut palm trees, coconut sugar is essentially the boiled and dehydrated product of the tree sap. It’s often preferred over regular white sugar, but is it really healthy for you or is it all just hype?
What’s better about coconut sugar?
Similar Sugar Composition
In terms of composition, coconut sugar is made up of 70 to 79% sucrose and 3 to 9% of glucose and fructose each, whereas regular sugar is 100% sucrose. There’s not a big difference, but fructose is suggested to be taken in small amounts outside of fresh fruits. The caloric and carbohydrate content compared to regular sugar are exactly the same with 16 calories and 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon.
Lower on the Glycemic Index
Coconut sugar is ranked much lower on the glycemic index compared to regular sugar. The glycemic index is a chart that measures the effects of carbohydrates on your body. Foods that rank higher on the glycemic index can cause a spike in blood-sugar level, which means there can be a drastic increase in insulin levels. Because of this, foods that rank lower on the glycemic index are often more preferred by diabetics. But diabetics should still treat coconut sugar as any other regular sugar to avoid any negative consequences.
Higher Mineral Content
Although coconut sugar isn’t necessarily a considerable health food on its own, it does contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than regular sugar. Coconut sugar offers small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B8, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, and phosphorus, as well as various phytonutrients. You won’t get much out of the amount you would put in your daily coffee, but if coconut sugar is your go-to sweetener for cooking, then you might be able to reap its mineral benefits.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the World Bank deems coconut sugar as “the single most sustainable sweetener in the world” for several reasons. These tropical trees require very little water to thrive, and are an integral part of the ecosystem that help restoring damaged soils. They also produce 50-70% more sugar per acre than sugar cane and require just one 1/5 the amount of water and soil nutrients to produce.[i]
With a lower ranking on the glycemic index, a higher mineral content, and environmentally friendly properties, the coconut sugar is indeed a better option to regular sugar. But it’s important to note that this doesn’t make this sugar healthy, as too much of any type of sugar can raise blood triglycerides, reduce good cholesterol levels, and add unwanted calories. So if you pick any sugar, the coconut tree version is indeed a great option, but make sure to use it as sparingly as you would with regular sugar.