Coconut Palm Sugar
Everything You Need To Know About Coconut Sugar: What Is It, Health Benefits, Disadvantages And More.
There’s no denying that the world loves sugar. It’s popping up in almost every food imaginable because let’s be frank, sugar makes everything taste better. But as people know, sugar is becoming a public energy in the fight against global obesity, up there with the likes of fat, salt and smoking. As sugar creeps into more recipes, we’re learning more about the dangers of eating too many sweets; connecting it with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease to name a few.
Stats and regulation bodies are bursting our sugar bubbles from every angle, with common news headlines found just in the last week:
- “One in three healthy 45-year-olds will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime”
- “Two in three Australian adults are obese or overweight, with 10 per cent more obese people than 20 years ago.”
- “Government calls for sugar taxes”
- “Food and Drug Administration recommend no more than 12.5 teaspoons of sugar each day, or about 50 grams.”
- “The World Health Organization endorses a limit of six teaspoons, or 25 grams, per day.”
- “The American Heart Association recommends nine teaspoons or 150 calories of sugar per day for men and for women, six teaspoons or 100 calories of added sugar a day.”
How do we keep up with it all?
Well, what we do know we still need glucous to survive. It ________
Health experts recommend fruits or natural sweeteners as a substitute for added sugar (all still in moderation). And this is where Coconut Sugar comes into play. It’s proven to be one of the most nutritious sugars available in the market that has outdone traditional refined sugar (i.e. cane sugar and brown sugar) in more ways than one.
What Is Coconut Sugar and How Is It Made?
Made from the sap of the coconut blossoms; coconut sugar tastes just as beautiful as it sounds. Coconut Sugar (or Coconut Palm Sugar) is collected by farmers climbing the coconut tree and collect the sugar blossom nectar by gently slicing the flower buds on the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera).
This lets the sweet sap ooze out. Afterwards, the coconut sap is harvested using traditional methods, boiled in large shallow pans and evaporated until water is dried up and it transforms into crystals – or coconut sugar.
Difference between Palm Sugar and Coconut Palm Sugar
It is often confused with Palm Sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree.
Coconut sugar is different both in taste, texture and manufacture methods from palm sugar, which is made from the sap in the stems of the Palmyra palm, the date palm, the sugar date palm, the sago palm or the sugar palm.
Compared to cane sugar, coconut trees produce 50-75% more sugar per acre but use less than one fifth of the soil nutrients and water, making Coconut Sugar an extremely sustainable product. Coconut palm sugars have been reported as the single most sustainable sweetener in the world by The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the World Bank.
Palm sugar is sold in rounded cakes, cylinders, blocks or large plastic or glass jars. Even when soft, it can be extremely dense and very sticky.
Coconut palm sugar – why is it called palm? Is there coconut palm sugar and regular coconut sugar?
Is it organic? Or is it both processed and organic? Does it affect orang-utans?
Coconut Sugar – Its Form and Taste:
Coconut sugar comes in three basic forms: granular form, rock-hard blocks or as a liquid. All forms share the same health benefits and the sweet taste similar to brown sugar, yet hint a bit of caramel and butterscotch. Without any processing and therefore loss of its taste, the coconut sugar comes in a diversity of colors – from cream-light to dark-brown, depending on how Mother Nature created it.
Since coconut sugar isn’t highly processed, the colour, sweetness and flavor can vary depending on the coconut species used, season when it was harvested, where it was harvested and/or the way the “sap” was reduced.
How do you use Coconut Sugar?
Coconut sugar has been used as a traditional sweetener for thousands of years in the South and South-East Asian regions.
It can be used 1:1 as a replacement for cane sugar in any recipe. It’s suitable for baking, and makes a great addition to tea and coffee. Like other unrefined sweeteners, the granulated form is much more coarse than white sugar. Because of that I like to give it a minute or so in a blender or food processor (I call it powdering), which makes it fine enough to use in recipes like buttercream frosting.
Baking and Cooking
As it is unrefined, it has an irregular texture which is different to standard sugar. It works best in recipes such as carrot cakes, ginger cakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, slices and biscuits – any recipes that don’t call for ‘beating/creaming butter with sugar or egg (recipes where a uniform crystal size and shape is essential for incorporating air into the mixture).
Perfect for: Sprinkling on porridge, adding a delicious toffee flavour Baking such as carrot cakes, brownies and biscuits Exotic and ethnic cooking such as curries and stir fries
Sweetening tea, coffee and cold drinks Sprinkling over natural yoghurt or fruit
Popular recipes it’s used in?
What are the health benefits of Coconut Sugar and is it more nutritious than regular sugar?
Is coconut sugar more natural and healthier? Is it a better-for-you alternative to brown sugar refined from cane? Is its GI lower than ordinary cane sugar? Is it really low in fructose? Here’s what we discovered.
Chemically speaking, much of coconut sugar is identical to white sugar (e.g. sucrose). Seventy to 79 per cent of coconut sugar is sucrose; the rest is made up of individual molecules of glucose and fructose (the two sugars than make up sucrose). When it comes to calories and carbohydrate content, there’s no difference between coconut sugar and white sugar – both have 16 calories and 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon.
According to the Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index (35) than white sugar (60 to 65), meaning it doesn’t spike your blood glucose and insulin like table sugar does. (Honey and agave syrup are low on the glycemic index scale too.) Glycemic index values of 55 or less are considered low; values of 70 or more are high.
KILOJOULES, SUGAR CONTENT AND GI RATING FOR MAINSTREAM SUGARS WITH GLUCOSE AND FRUCTOSE AS COMPARISON
|Brown dark sugar||1630||96||65|
Source: Food manufacturers except for GI values from the website http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com. Note: low GI is anything less than 55 while Medium is 56 to 69 and High is 70 and over.
Coconut Sugar retains many of the nutrients naturally found in the nectar of coconut blossoms, including Calcium, Iron, Zinc and Potassium; along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide health benefits.
Regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup don’t contain any vital nutrients and therefore, supply “empty” calories.
Coconut Sugar contains a fiber called Inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.
Coconut sugar provides 16 calories per teaspoon and contains relatively low content of essential nutrients, with the exception of potassium at about 25% of the Daily Value per serving of 100 grams (approximately 25 teaspoons).
The major component of coconut sugar is sucrose (70–79%) followed by glucose and fructose (3–9%) each. Minor variations will occur due to differences in primary processing, raw material source, tree age and variety of coconut.
- It is the most nutritious of the possible sugars.
- It’s the single most sustainable sweetener in the world.
- Coconut sugar has an extremely low glycemic index, at 35!
The fructose deal
“The major component of coconut sugar is sucrose (70-79 percent) followed by glucose and fructose (3-9 percent) each. Minor variations will occur, due to differences in primary processing, raw material source, tree age and variety of coconut.”
Good, yes? No! This is very tricky wording. Because sucrose – or just plain table sugar to you and me – is half fructose! So, in effect, coconut sugar is between 38 percent and 48.5 percent fructose. That is about the same as sugar and honey.
So, although coconut sugar isn’t all doom and gloom, we still steer clear and opt to use low-fructose sweeteners such as rice malt syrup and stevia. But, we do still love other coconut products, check out this post for more information on which coconut products we use.
1. Coconut Sugar’s Low Glycemic Index
If you are wondering what is Glycemic Index, the GI (short form) represents a numeric value showing how quickly foods turn into sugar. Therefore, the higher the index – the faster the food will transform to sugar. Now, as much as this index is higher, it poses a threat to our body, leading to obesity and obesity-related diseases as well as cancer, blood pressure and heart diseases. The cane sugar as we know it has a Glycemic Index of 50, therefore being one of the biggest enemies to our health, opposed to coconut sugar in which the number is 35.
One of coconut sugar’s big claims to health is that it has a low GI (Glycemic Index) which is a measure of how quickly any sugar or starch can get broken down and converted to your own blood glucose. The lower the number, the slower the conversion, the better. White or brown sugar has a moderate GI of around 65 while fructose is low at 25. Remember high is any thing over 70, moderate falls between 56 and 69, while low is under 55.
Most websites and packs claim coconut sugar has a low GI of 35 but this is based on only ONE study using 10 volunteers done in the Philippines, a country with a lot of coconut to sell.
I find it strange that a sugar product with 80 per cent sucrose could come in so low in GI. It should be closer to 65 as for the cane sugars. Perhaps this is due to the inulin content, perhaps it’s due to the minerals, perhaps the form of coconut sugar consumed played a role in this low figure. I can’t find any other GI figures on the internet including the Australian comprehensive GI database at SUGIRS so there’s no way to verify this number. And there is no published paper to review. It has NOT been analysed by the reputable GI sites and I would love to see this reanalysed. [See Footnote at end]
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Glucose is given a GI of 100 and if a food has a GI of 50, then it raises blood sugar half as much as pure glucose.
The Phillipine Department of Agriculture measured the glycemic index of coconut sugar and compared it to glucose.
According to them, Coconut Sugar is given a GI of 35, which puts it in the low range. This is much lower than table sugar, which is somewhere around 60.
However, another source measured the GI of coconut sugar to be 54.
Many people with an intolerance to fructose have found Coconut Sugar to be beneficial since it is primarily sucrose based (up to 89% depending on the crop). However, it is important to note that it isn’t entirely fructose free and can contain between 3 to 5%. Another point to consider is that sucrose is a disaccharide made up of a combination of glucose and fructose, so the exact amount of fructose may vary.
2. Coconut Sugar’s Amino Acids, Vitamins and Minerals
If you know what amino acids are, you practically know that our functioning is impossible without a proper intake of amino acids. Directly affecting our metabolism, weight loss and other processes, the amino acids are important and usually obtained from food. The coconut sugar is found to have 16 out of the 20 standard amino acids which are essential to our body, therefore a great nutrient when it comes to the amino acids.
When it comes to minerals and vitamins, coconut sugar also takes pride with its high content of these ingredients. The list of vitamins and minerals found in the coconut sugar includes copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and many more – all vital to our overall wellbeing. Another interesting fact to be pointed out is that coconut sugar contains all of the twelve B vitamins from the group, which are directly linked to our immune system and the tone of our muscles.
3. Coconut Sugar And Weight Loss
Obviously, many people find out about coconut sugar after finding out about the disadvantages of the cane sugar. Moreover, the coco sugar is an ideal sweetener for every healthy-eating enthusiast and directly promoted as a great substitute to losing weight. Simply, a tablespoon of coconut sugar has only ten calories – which makes it perfect to be added to food or drinks without any remorse.
|Nutrient||% (g per 100g)|
|Water||0.5 – 0.8|
|Sucrose||78 – 89|
|Fructose||1.0 – 4.0|
|Glucose||2.0 – 3.0|
Source: Philippine National Standards of Coconut Sap Sugar 2010, Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries, Produce Standards, Angelina A Bondad as at 7/11/2014.
Bottom line: Coconut sugar isn’t a miracle food. If you need to lose weight or have diabetes, you can’t switch to coconut sugar and expect a massive improvement as it still adds sugars, carbs and kilojoules/Calories. It’s in the same category as honey or agave syrup. It is slightly “less bad” than ordinary white sugar, but not something special you should eat every day.
Coconut Sugar however, is more nutritious than any form of sugar out there and doesn’t put stress on your blood sugar levels the same way that white sugar does. Because coconut sugar is unrefined, it retains all of its natural minerals and vitamins. The manufacturing process is more natural.
Where can you buy coconut sugar?
If you want to buy coconut sugar, then there is a good selection on Amazon with hundreds of customer reviews that are fun to browse through.
LEARN MORE ABOUT;
ice malt syrup and stevia.