Coconut sugar is a natural sugar that is obtained from the sugar circulating fluid of the coconut plant known as sap. Most people confuse coconut sugar with palm sugar because they are made using a similar method.
Coconut sugar is made using a natural two-step process. The first step involves making a small cut on the flower of the coconut palm and the liquid is collected into containers. The liquid obtained is then exposed to heat until most of its water is evaporated.
Coconut sugar comes at a higher price than granulated sugars. However, it provides the same number of calories and vitamins. Coconut sugar is a popular commodity in the health food world due to its numerous health benefits.
It also offers more vitamins and minerals than granulated sugar though it is not a nutritional superfood. Coconut sugar is rich in minerals such as magnesium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. It also offers vitamins.
There are also trace amounts of phytonutrients such as flavonoids, polyphenols, and anthocyanidin. The trace amounts of nutrients and minerals in the coconut sugar may force one to eat a lot of it to get an impactful nutrition. However, consuming a lot of sugar in any form is not advisable.
What Makes Coconut Sugar Popular?
Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index compared to the regular sugar. Glycemic index refers to the measure of the rate at which blood sugar is elevated after sugar consumption. Glucose has a glycemic index of 100.
The glycemic index of coconut sugar is 35 while regular sugar ranges between 65 and 70. Foods that have a high glycemic index cause blood sugar to spike leading to a sugar rush and subsequent crash. An elevation of the blood sugar can cause the insulin levels to soar within a short period causing severe consequences to people with diabetes.
Coconut sugar has less fructose content. Fructose is a form of sugar that gets converted to fats quickly. The liver breaks down fructose to triglycerides. According to the Harvard Health publication, you should not consume high amounts of fructose that exceed the amounts obtained from fresh fruits.
The Agave nectar has a 90 percent fructose content while high-fructose corn syrup contains 55 percent of the sugar. Coconut sugar has 45 percent making it the best alternative to other sweeteners.
Coconut sugar is also earth-friendly. In the year 2014, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization named coconut palm sugar as the most sustainable sweetener in the world.
The recognition was based on the fact that coconut trees utilize minimal amounts of fuel and water compared to the production of sugar cane. The trees also produce for more than 20 years. Coconut Sugar does not contain any artificial ingredients making it safe to many users.
Coconut Sugar Health Benefits
Promotes Gut Health
Coconut sugar is rich in inulin. Inulin promotes the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria. The organism is commonly present in probiotics, and it enhances the performance of the immune system. Bifidobacteria can also promote the growth of the good bacteria inhabiting the gastrointestinal system. The friendly bacteria can be destroyed by several factors such as chemotherapy and antibiotics.
The bacteria helps in the management of several conditions that affect the intestines including diarrhea and ulcerative colitis disease. Coconut sugar is also used in the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis which is a bowel disease that is common among infants.
Suitable For Diabetics
Coconut palm sugar is suitable for people with diabetes due to its low glycemic index. It helps lower the blood sugar levels. As already mentioned, coconut palm sugar contains a fiber known as inulin. Inulin slows the absorption of glucose. Its ability to reduce glucose absorption helps keep glucose levels in check.
According to a study conducted by researchers from the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences' Nutrition Research Center, the consumption of coconut palm sugar helps improve the glycemic and antioxidant levels in women with type 2 diabetes.
The sugar also helps lower malondialdehyde levels which are a marker of oxidative stress in the body. The American Diabetes Association encourages the use of coconut palm sugar among people with diabetes. However, the sugar should be used the same way regular sugar is used.
Great Choice For Paleo Diet Followers
Coconut palm sugar is a great choice for people who are on the paleo diet. However, some individuals on the paleo diet avoid it since it is processed.
Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Studies have revealed that a diet with a high glycemic index can raise the risk of developing heart disease. Foods with a high glycemic index raise the insulin levels in the blood which in turn leads to high blood pressure.
High insulin concentration in blood may also lead to higher levels of blood fats and low levels of good cholesterol.
Since coconut sugar has a low glycemic index, they result in a gradual and sustainable rise in blood sugar. The progressive increase in blood sugar levels keeps you feeling full and satisfied delaying the return of hunger between meals. High glycemic index carbohydrates result in short bursts of energy which satisfies you only for a short time.
Packed With Vitamins, Minerals, And Phytonutrients
Coconut sugar is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients though in trace amounts. Coconut sugar is also rich in iron and zinc.
According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, coconut sugar contains two times more iron and zinc than granulated sugar. The Food and Nutrition Research Institute also notes that coconut palm sugar is rich in phytonutrients such as anthocyanidins, flavonoids, and polyphenols. The phytonutrients have several health benefits.
They may help lower the blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and inflammation. The health benefits make coconut palm sugar the better option over other sweeteners. According to the American Cancer Society, the phytonutrients even offer health benefits to cancer patients.
Coconut palm sugar contains several amino acids such as glutamine. Studies have suggested that glutamine has anti-cancer properties.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Surgery, glutamine helps reduce the growth of tumors by enhancing the performance of the immune system. The amino acid also increases the selectivity of tumor therapy when it is administered alongside radiation and chemotherapy.
As already mentioned, coconut palm sugar is rich in phytonutrients including polyphenols, anthocyanidins, and flavonoids. Research studies have revealed that these phytonutrients have strong antioxidant properties.
The phytonutrients help remove free radicals that may damage the body cells through oxidative damage. The antioxidant properties may also help slow down the aging process as well as the risks that are associated with the development of disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular disorders.
Promotes Bone Health
Coconut palm sugar is rich in minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. All these minerals help improve the strength and health of the bone structure.
Coconut sugar is high in electrolytes including potassium, sodium, and magnesium. The potassium content in coconut palm sugar is 400 times the amount found in regular sugar.
The electrolytes found in coconut sugar help regulate the content of water in the body. Besides regulating the water content in the body, the electrolytes facilitate the functions of the heart, nerve, and muscles. The potassium found in the natural sweetener helps maintain normal blood pressure levels.
Coconut Palm Sugar Uses
Coconut palm sugar can be used as an alternative to white sugar or brown sugar. It also works well in baked goods, as well as chocolate. Coconut sugar is common in the Vietnamese Cuisine.
Coconut Sugar History
Coconut palm trees have been used for centuries in the production of sugar. Several continents such as Asia, Europe, and Africa have developed sophisticated techniques that are used in the production of sugar from the coconut palm.
The Indonesians have practiced ways of retrieving the sap liquid for hundreds of years. Coconut palm sugar is commonly referred to as coco sugar, coco sap sugar, and coconut palm sugar. It is important to note that coconut palm sugar is different from palm sugar.
Coconut Sugar Potential Side Effects
There is no sufficient information available on the potential adverse effects of coconut palm sugar. However, coconut sugar users are reminded that it contains the same amount of calories that is found in the regular sugar.
It is advisable to use the sugar in moderation to avoid the harmful effects of too many calories in the body. Too many calories in the body can lead to weight gain, inflammation in the body, and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. The American Diabetes Association cautions that many products in the market add regular sugar to coconut palm sugar.
Coconut Sugar Conclusion
It is important to note that coconut palm sugar is not a miracle food. It is similar to regular table sugar. However, its production process is more natural and it has minor nutrients that are not found in regular table sugar.