Sugar is an ingredient in almost everything you eat and drink. Due to this, it’s becoming exceptionally difficult to avoid illnesses related to high sugar intake. Thus, almost everyone is trying alternatives. One such substitute is coconut sugar, but is it really healthier compared to white table sugar? Learn the difference as well as its benefits.
What Is Coconut Sugar?
Also known as coconut palm sugar, coconut sugar is all natural. It comes from the liquid of coconut palm. The process by which it is created follows two steps. First, a small incision is done on the coconut palm’s flower. Through this cut, the liquid sap comes through. Second, it is then collected in a container where it is subject to heat. This allows the water to evaporate.
After the two-step process, the end result is a product that’s granulated and brown. It resembles raw sugar. However, unlike raw sugar, coconut sugar is smaller in its particle size.
Benefits of Coconut Palm Sugar
1. Packed with Nutrients
Apart from its main benefit of being unrefined and all natural, this type of sugar preserves all the important nutrients such as minerals and vitamins. These include:
Phytonutrients and Antioxidants
2. Reduced Amounts of Fructose
Also, in comparison with white sugar, coconut palm sugar contains approximately 3 to 9 percent of fructose. This amount is lower than white sugar which has 50 percent of fructose, which is a form of sugar that the body transforms into fat. The liver is the only organ in the body that can break down this sugar, and the end result is triglyceride. The more sugar you consume that has fructose, then the more triglycerides that your body will produce.
3. Reduced Impact on Blood Glucose Levels
A glycemic index or GI measures the influence of carbohydrates on one’s blood glucose levels. Food that ranks high on the GI can lead to a spike on one’s sugar levels. Moreover, a spike in one’s glucose levels causes a shoot in one’s insulin as well, which can cause serious reactions for diabetics. For coconut palm sugar, it ranks only 35 to 54 on the GI compared to white sugar that ranks from 60 to 75. This means that coconut palm sugar has a reduced impact on one’s blood sugar levels compared to other sugars. While white table sugar ranks up to 75 on the GI, other sugars rank as follows on the GI:
- Agave Syrup: ranks at 15
- Brown Sugar: ranks at 64
- Honey: ranks at 55
- Maple Syrup: ranks at 54
4. Reduced Impact on Earth
In 2014, coconut palm sugar had been deemed the most ecological sweetener by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The tree from which the sugar is sourced uses minimum amounts of water. The production also uses a little amount of fuel compared to the production of sugar cane. Moreover, it has no chemical compounds and artificial ingredients. So, its production and manufacture have little effect on the earth.
The Difference from Other Sugars
The two usual sugars usually consumed by individuals are high-fructose corn syrup and granulated sugar. With regards to carbohydrate and nutrient content, how do these sugars differ from coconut palm sugar?
In 100 grams of this sugar, 99.98 grams of it is carbohydrates. The minuscule grams left are the nutrient content such as calcium and sodium
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
For this sugar, in 100 grams it is made up of 76 grams of carbohydrates. Much of the remaining grams is water, and a minuscule fraction is traces of iron and sodium.
Coconut Palm Sugar
This sugar has 100 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams. Moreover, with regards to trace elements contained, every 100 grams has 125 mg of sodium and 625 milligrams of potassium.
Based on the nutrient content, both corn syrup and table sugar do not have any essential nutrients. Also, these sweeteners only provide one with “empty” calories. On the other hand, coconut palm sugar has a high nutritional value in terms of its nutrient content. Apart from the essential nutrients like potassium, calcium, zinc, and iron, coconut palm sugar is also packed with insulin.
Insulin is a fiber that slows down the absorption of glucose. This would best explain why coconut palm sugar ranks low on the GI compared with the other sugars. Take note, however, even with its nutrient content, and you can get more nutrients from healthy and real food. Consuming coconut palm sugar will not fill your recommended daily intake (RDI) of minerals and vitamins.
Is It Healthier or Better?
The main question, however, is coconut sugar healthier or better than the usual white table sugar? With regards to its caloric content, it’s relatively the same. Even if it has a low or has no fructose, it is still made up of 70 to 80 percent of sucrose and around 9 percent glucose. Thus, coconut sugar provides almost similar amounts as with the regular table sugar.
Too much coconut palm sugar can lead to decreased brain function and increased risk for a fungal infection. Moreover, too much sugar, whether it’s coconut or white sugar, can tax the liver and lead to toxic accumulation. Excess sugar in the diet can cause numerous health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
Alternatives to Sweeteners
Fruits such as strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries should be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. However, if you’re still adamant on using sweeteners or sugars, then stick to those that have little to no fructose in them. These include erythritol that comes from non-genetically modified corn, xylitol that comes from birch trees, or stevia.
The bottom line is that even if coconut palm sugar offers more nutrients and has a lower GI than white sugar, the effects on health is similar. Plainly put, it is still sugar. Just like the regular white table sugar, you should practice moderation in consuming coconut sugar.