Coconut sugar is an interesting substitute for traditional sugar: let’s see what it is and how to use it.
Coconut sugar is an alternative to traditional sugar and has interesting properties. Deriving from distant traditions (Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia) this type of sugar has been appreciated for some years also in the West and, so much so that it enriches various sweet recipes.
Not to be confused with palm sugar, obtained from another botanical species (Arenga pinnata), coconut sugar is a food product obtained from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) and, in particular, from the sap of its flowers.
According to the traditional production method, the lymph is subjected to a heating phase, gradually changing into a viscous liquid. The heating process continues further, and allows to obtain an increasingly concentrated product which, once cooled, can be remodeled into “loaves”. These will be further processed to obtain coconut sugar in the form of crystals.
Unlike white sugar, coconut sugar does not therefore arise from industrial refining processes and does not require the use of additional chemicals for its production. As a result, coconut sugar retains a “raw” appearance and appears to retain its nutritional properties. The latter will be explored in the next paragraph, as well as the glycemic index values, which are also different between the two types of sugar.
Coconut sugar: calories and nutritional properties
Wanting to describe the nutritional properties of coconut sugar, it may be useful to report some numerical values. Depending on the product purchased, 100 g of this sugar provide just under 400 kcal, equating to common white sugar. The energy value reported on the label can vary significantly depending on the brand and production batch.
In an intuitive way, the macronutrient composition of coconut blossom sugar tends towards carbohydrates, mostly represented by sucrose (from 50 to 80%), as well as fructose and glucose (from 3 to 24%). The percentages indicated link coconut sugar to palm sugar, and may vary depending on the raw material, technique, time and temperatures used in the production process of these sugars. As for the protein and lipid content, it is almost zero.
As can be deduced from the poor processing, as well as from the estimates made to date on the nutritional composition of the products on sale, coconut sugar seems to retain some micronutrients of origin, such as B vitamins and minerals (iron, zinc, calcium and potassium), as well such as vegetable fiber inulin. The latter is attributed, among other things, the moderate value of the glycemic index (GI), which, according to some sources, is equal to 35. In general, this value describes the speed with which foods raise blood sugar and, as we will see later, it is useful in the context of diabetic disease.
Coconut sugar: the health benefits
Reiterating what was stated in the previous paragraph, the composition of coconut sugar seems to boast the presence of micronutrients and other components, which would be eliminated, or in any case reduced, by any processing processes. Among other things, the presence of antioxidant substances seems to be added to the properties already mentioned.
In general, both the nutritional constituents and the biologically active components mentioned above, undoubtedly represent beneficial substances for human health and would theoretically bring added value to coconut sugar. However, their presence is still negligible if compared to the correct and conscious use of this food.
In other words, in order to get a significant amount of these substances starting from coconut sugar, the latter should be consumed in excess, while also taking too high a quantity of simple sugars. Like any other type of sugar, even coconut sugar requires moderate amounts of consumption, becoming absolutely not very beneficial, and even deleterious, if used improperly.
What Does Coconut Sugar Taste Like?
Although it can vary considerably depending on some factors (such as the variety of the plant, the area of origin, the harvest period, etc.), the taste of coconut sugar has some peculiar characteristics. It stands out for being intense and decisive, as well as for the pleasant caramelized traits. This sugar reveals similarities with cane sugar, both for the brownish color tending to brown, and for the flavor and degree of sweetness.
How coconut sugar is used
So what is coconut sugar good for? Quite simply, it can be used instead of white sugar for the same purposes, and therefore poured, for example, into coffee, tea, or other generally bitter drinks in order to correct the flavor. Similarly, coconut sugar can be used for the preparation of desserts, falling within its composition, or be part of the ingredients of other preparations, such as a common homemade jam.
As far as the sweetening power of this sugar is concerned, and as mentioned above, it does not differ much from that attributed to cane sugar or white sugar . Regarding the doses necessary to correct the flavor of drinks, or to make sweet recipes, they correspond to those considered for white sugar.
Therefore, even in the opposite case in which it is necessary to replace the coconut sugar with the traditional one, it must be done in the same proportions.
Can anyone with diabetes consume coconut sugar?
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease defined by excess glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia). In the treatment of this condition, diet is an aspect of great importance, requiring certain food choices and the evaluation of certain parameters, such as the glycemic index of foods.
As previously reported, coconut sugar is attributed a moderate glycemic index, which would make it less of a problem for glycemic control than white sugar. However, since it is still a sugar, it is always preferable to moderate its consumption, limiting any “exception to the rule” to a few periodic exceptions.
In any case, it is good practice to include the occasional consumption of sweets as part of a meal rich in fiber, replacing them with other sources of carbohydrates (eg: limiting the portion of bread provided for the meal). Among other things, it is useful to remember that the daily intake of simple sugars should in no case exceed 10% of the total calories, the total amount of which is calculated on the basis of subjective nutritional needs.
Does coconut sugar have any contraindications?
Although it is an almost natural product, and therefore with better nutritional characteristics than the common refined sugar, even coconut sugar can have contraindications. In general, and in a very similar way to other types of sugar, these contraindications are related to any excess in daily consumption.
Consuming too much sugar can in fact contribute to diabetic pathology, obesity and cardiovascular risk (in any case, it is a good idea to take care of your overall diet, and keep certain blood values under control, such as triglycerides and cholesterol). As it is rich in fermentable carbohydrates, coconut sugar, like its traditional counterpart, is also cariogenic (that is, it can cause tooth decay).
Does using coconut sugar help you lose weight?
Before seeing if coconut sugar helps you lose weight, it may be helpful to make a premise. A truly effective dietary program for slimming purposes will consist of many criteria that must, inevitably, fit together. Among these, the caloric intake is decisive in weight loss , having to be lower than the daily energy requirement. In this context, it is clear that no food, considered individually, can lead to weight loss.
In this regard, even coconut sugar, if used in place of or in addition to traditional sugar, must be well integrated into an overall low-calorie diet. It is useful to remember, among other things, how much the caloric intake of coconut sugar is definitely comparable to that associated with the same amount of traditional sugar. Ultimately, the use of coconut sugar in place of white sugar does not , in itself, bring real benefits in terms of weight loss.
Coconut sugar or stevia: which one to choose?
Among the substitutes for white sugar and, more specifically, among the sweeteners, there is also stevia, which stands out for its fame in the culinary and dietary fields. The great commercial demand for stevia is undoubtedly due to its distinctive characteristics, which sometimes make this product preferable over others.
Wanting to mention a comparison between coconut sugar and stevia , we can start from the caloric intake, which is almost zero for stevia (compared to the already mentioned caloric intake of coconut sugar); in addition, stevia has a much higher sweetening power than coconut sugar, so much so that a reduced amount can be used; based on current knowledge, stevia does not cause tooth decay and does not impact glycemic control, making it more suitable for diabetes. Like coconut sugar, stevia is also used to make drinks like coffee and tea more pleasant, or to create various types of sweet recipes.
Stevia has an aftertaste that refers to the taste of licorice, which may not be appreciated or not suitable for some preparations: in this case, it may be useful to prefer coconut sugar. If it is not possible to give up the more frequent consumption of sweetened foods, the use of stevia is instead preferable in the context of a low- calorie diet.
Coconut sugar: prices and where to buy it
Once the various characteristics of coconut sugar have been described, now let’s see where to find it. Although it is a less used product than common cooking sugar, coconut sugar is also in good demand among lovers of natural products. The availability may differ from case to case, but coconut sugar is often found in the largest and most well-stocked supermarkets, as well as in “organic” shops and at points of sale dedicated to confectionery products. Should it be difficult to find it in the area of origin, it is also easily available online.
As far as prices are concerned, they may vary depending on the brand chosen and the point of sale, although there is a certain uniformity. In general, however, coconut sugar is not among the cheapest types of sugars and sweeteners on the market: the average price for a 500 g pack is in fact between 6 USD and 7 USD.