Coconut sugar is created from the sap which is collected from blossom stems of the coconut palm tree. This sugar is light brown to reddish brown. It is a crystalline sugar which has quickly become very popular as a natural sweetener. Coconut sugar is mostly used because of its nutrient-rich profile and low glycemic index. A food’s GI rating is a measure of how much that food raises your blood sugar. Usually, the lower the index is, the netter the food is. But, is this sugar really superior to other sweeteners? Are there any coconut sugar substitutes?
Coconut Sugar Is Not a Superior Sweetener
Coconut sugar does not come from real coconuts. Instead, it comes from the nectar of flowers on the coconut palm tree. This nectar of flowers is boiled until the moisture is released, forming a solid product commonly known as coconut sugar. It is not necessarily a superior option than other sweeteners.
- When it comes to its calorie content, coconut sugar provides us with 16 calories per teaspoon, just as regular sugar does.
- Both coconut sugar and regular table sugar are produced by a plant source which is boiled down to a sweet liquid. This sweet liquid is sucrose. In coconut sugar 70 to 80% is sucrose, while in regular table sugar about 99.9% is sucrose. The remaining 20-30% of coconut sugar is fructose and glucose. But this doesn't make coconut sugar healthier than regular table sugar. During digestion, sucrose will be converted to fructose and glucose, so coconut sugar and regular table sugar actually have similar contents of fructose and glucose.
The Bottom Line
There is no reason why you shouldn’t try coconut sugar, but sugar is sugar, no matter what type it is. Too much white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, or honey sugar will lower the levels of HDL cholesterol. Sugar should be consumed in moderation.
Coconut Sugar Substitutes
As mentioned, coconut sugar is not necessarily superior to other sweeteners. You can try other substitutes as well. Note that these substitutes also have their merits and drawbacks.
1. Raw Honey
Raw honey has a sweet taste, somewhat floral and creamier. Honey is rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and some natural enzymes. Honey also has antimicrobial properties, meaning that it can be effective in fighting cold symptoms. The glycemic index of raw honey is 35 to 53 and one teaspoon of raw honey contains about 22 calories.
Raw honey, just like any other sweetener, is high in sugar. Consume it moderately.
2. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a coconut sugar substitute. Pure maple syrup is made from the boiled sap of maple trees. Its color and flavor depend on the time and season when it was harvested and the geographic region where it grows.
Maple syrup contains small amounts of zinc, magnesium, potassium and calcium. It also contains up to 54 different types of antioxidants. Some of the antioxidants are believed to have anti-cancer properties. The glycemic index of maple syrup is 54; one teaspoon of maple syrup contains about 14 calories.
Maple syrup is still high in sugar, with a glycemic index slightly lower than regular sugar.
Sucanat is produced from the extraction of the juice from freshly cut sugar cane. Sucanat sugar is as sweet as table sugar. However, sucanat has a stronger molasses flavor. One tablespoon of sucanat contains about 16 calories. Sucanat contains a small amount of potassium, iron and vitamin B6.
The glycemic index for sucanat has not been tested. However, it is believed to be similar to table sugar.
4. Stevia Extract
Stevia extract derives from the sweet tasting compounds of stevia plant, commonly found in the South America. There are liquid and powdered variations of stevia extract. Stevia extract is very sweet, much sweeter than regular table sugar but it has a bitter aftertaste. Stevia extract is not metabolized so it does not have an effect on the blood sugar levels. A good thing is that stevia extract has 0 calories.
Stevia extract leaves you with a bitter taste, so many don’t prefer this sweetener. Even though this sweetener has 0 calories, it can increase the appetite, leading to weight gain. Carefully consume stevia extract if you are not looking for some extra pounds.
5. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is produced from processing cane sugar after removing the maximum amount of sugar crystals. This type of sweetener is high in minerals and vitamins such as iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B. The glycemic index of blackstrap molasses is 55 to 60 and one teaspoon contains about 16 calories. Blackstrap molasses has a bittersweet taste.
It has a bitter taste, so some don’t prefer it as a sweetener.
6. Date Sugar
Date sugar is just dried dates, another coconut sugar substitute availble on the market. It is less sweet compared to other natural sweeteners, tasting like dates. Date sugar is rich in fibers, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The glycemic index of date sugar is 39 to 45. One teaspoon of date sugar contains about 15 calories.
Date sugar is mostly used in foods as it does not dissolve in beverages.
7. Yacon Syrup
Yacon syrup is made from the yacon plant. Recent researches have shown that yacon syrup can contribute to significant weight loss in overweight and obese women. Yacon syrup is high in fibers.
Consuming too much of Yacon syrup as a sweetener can result in digestive problems for a short period of time.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. It is sweet just as refined sugar. However, it contains only about 2/3 of the caloric value. It has been estimated that xylitol reduces the chances of getting a cavity. It also will not raise the levels of sugar and insulin in the blood, meaning that it is safe for diabetics.
Remember that xylitol is toxic to dogs. Anyone who owns a dog should be careful when using it.