Recently, several of my clients have asked me about coconut sugar. This sweetener has become very popular in the past few years. This sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree and is touted as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar.
Coconut sugar is not produced from coconuts. It is a product of the coconut tree, or more specifically the sap obtained from coconut tree’s flower buds. It is sometimes called coco sap sugar or coconut palm sugar. The blossoms are cut and the nectar is collected into bamboo containers.
The resulting nectar is about 80% water and is heated to evaporate the liquid. The remaining solid is granulated. The granules are brownish and larger than those you would find in standard table sugar. The taste is very similar to regular brown sugar.
Chemically speaking, 70% of coconut sugar is identical to table sugar. It is a disaccharide called sucrose, made up of 2 monosaccharaides: glucose and fructose. The rest of coconut sugar is composed of the individual molecules of fructose and glucose, as well as trace minerals.
Is it More Nutritious than Regular Sugar?
Regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup don’t contain any vital nutrients and therefore supply “empty” calories. From a caloric perspective, coconut sugar is identical to table sugar, 4 calories per gram. But despite being so similar, the glycemic index of coconut sugar (36) is substantially lower than that of table sugar (60). However, coconut sugar does retain quite a bit of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. Most notable of these are the minerals Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide some health benefits. Then it 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 is no miracle food. It is very similar to regular table sugar, although the manufacturing process is more natural and it also contains some minor amounts of nutrients to go with it. If you’re going to use coconut sugar, then use it sparingly. It is slightly “less bad” than regular sugar, but definitely not something you should eat every day.