With the harmful health effect of regular and added sugar becoming clearer, coconut sugar is increasingly becoming popular. This is partly due to its acclaimed health benefits.However, it is still sugar, and consumption of any sugar in large amounts is considered unhealthy as it can result in some serious and chronic health conditions.
Coconut sugar is naturally obtained from the coconut palm tree. For that reason, some people refer to this sugar as coconut flower nectar or coconut palm sugar. Currently, the majority have been turning to it as a sweetener just to satisfy their cravings. Some still wonder if coconut sugar can have any health benefit or if it is just another road to health problems in disguise. Keep reading.
Coconut Sugar In Details and How It Is Made
As mentioned earlier, coconut sugar is simply obtained from the coconut palm tree. This tree has a sap that circulates naturally and is collected to generate coconut sugar. Coconut sugar should not be confused with palm sugar which is made in the same way but typically derived from a different palm tree type.
When they want to collect the coconut palm sap, farmers usually make a cut into the coconut flower stem. This will allow the nectar to flow out into a collecting vessel. Thereafter, this fluid can be mixed with water which is boiled down to a syrup to make coconut flower nectar.
On the other hand, if they want coconut sugar, the sap is boiled past the syrup which evaporates most of the water. After it has dried and crystalize, it is broken into granules which the coconut sugar.
Is Coconut Sugar Nutritious Than Regular Table Sugar?
There are no many nutrients in the regular table sugar and corn syrup. They basically provide “empty” calories. When compared to regular sugar, coconut sugar is believed to contain small amounts of nutrients that are found in coconut palm trees.
A good example of such nutrients include minerals like zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium. It also contains antioxidants and polyphenols which are short-chain fatty acids.
What’s more, coconut sugar contains a special type of fiber called inulin. According to the research findings by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, inulin gives coconut sugar a lower glycemic index compared to regular table sugar. This is because inulin slows down the absorption of glucose in the digestive tract.
Comparison Between Coconut Sugar and Other Sugars
Most of us know about only two types of sugars which we consume from time to time. They include corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup and white sugar. And just as it has been mentioned before, these sugars both contain no vital nutrients.
According to the database in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), granulated sugar weighing 100 g contains about 99.98 g of carbs of which pure sugar is 99.80 g. The remaining 18 g is occupied by minerals such as calcium and sodium.
According to the USDA’s database, corn syrup weighing 100 g, contains about 76 g of carbs of which sugar is 75.65 g. Iron and sodium occupy the remaining fraction.
The USDA’s database on coconut sugar, states that for every 100 g of it, there is about 100 g of carb of which sugar is 75 g. It contains trace elements in the following quantities for every 100 g: 125 mg of sodium and 625 mg of potassium.
According to the study of the Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute, coconut sugar is loaded with more calcium, zinc, and iron than corn syrup and white table sugar.
Coconut Sugar and Glycemic Index
Glycemic index (GI) is a nutrition tool used to measure how quickly a certain food can raise levels of sugar in the blood. As a determinant, glucose is used and it’s given a GI of 100. Therefore, any food that has a GI of 50 has the potential of raising blood sugar levels two-fold compared to pure glucose.Regular table sugar has a glycemic index of 60 and coconut sugar has a GI of 54. However, some factors may make the GI vary. These include the individual himself and coconut sugar batches.
One research that examined foods that are most commonly eaten in the Philippines and published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that coconut sugar has a markedly lower GI score of 35 to 42. What contributes to such a lower amount of GI score is the presence of inulin in coconut sugar.
It is, therefore, clear that consuming coconut sugar cannot result in a spike in blood sugar levels as compared to regular table sugar.
Coconut Sugar and Fructose Content
Consumption of added sugar has been considered unhealthy and can lead to health complications like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Virtually, added sugars contain neither vitamins nor minerals making them poor in the provision of nutrients.
Additionally, added sugar contains fructose which is also worse for your health. The content of fructose and glucose in regular table sugar is up to 50% for each whereas, corn syrup contains 55% fructose and glucose at 45%.
Many manufactures claim that coconut sugar doesn’t contain fructose. It is still made up of 70-80% sucrose of which 35-40% is fructose. Based on these analyses, coconut sugar pumps into your body nearly the same amount of fructose as that in table sugar at a ratio of 1 to 1. If you consume coconut sugar in large amounts, you are likely to increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. These are just the same effects associated with excess consumption of regular table sugar. So you need to moderately use coconut sugar as you would with regular table sugar.
Coconut has gained popularity recently as an alternative to regular table sugar. This type of sugar is made from the sap of coconut palm tree which is dried to form the sugar. It has a high mineral content than regular sugar as well as antioxidants. However, it still contains the same amount of fructose as regular table sugar. You, therefore, need to moderate your coconut sugar intake to avoid health problems.