Coconut Sugar : Is it a Healthier Substitute for Regular Sugar?

June 28, 2022

Coconut sugar, also known as coconut palm sugar, has gained popularity as a healthier version of regular sugar and can be used in beverages and desserts. It is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It is brown and in granulated form 1. But is it as healthy as proclaimed? 

First, let’s dive into How coconut sugar is produced?

The production of coconut sugar is an exciting and short process. There are many more processing methods for coconut sugar, like vacuum drying, dry granulation method, spray drying, etc 3. But, the most common method is heating.

In this process, a large volume of filtered sap is taken in a big wok and heated on wood or gas-fired stove for 3 to 5 hours at 100ºC until it is concentrated with a specific typical aroma. During this process, two major reactions take place, the Maillard reaction, and caramelization. Maillard reaction is a non-enzymatic reaction between sugars and proteins that causes the browning of some food products. 

After heating, the concentrated sap is poured into steel or bamboo molds. This results in the formation of ready pure solid sugar 2

Is Coconut Sugar Healthier Than Regular Sugar?

Low-sugar, sugar‐free, and synthetic sugar products are abundantly available in food markets. However, many of these are considered unsafe and unhealthy, as the synthetic sweetness that there is, is industrially prepared, like aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, etc. . Hence, they have the potential of causing side effects such as weight gain, brain tumour, and bladder cancer 4. They can also cause increased appetite, crashed metabolism, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, etc. 

As coconut sugar is produced from the sap of the coconut palm tree, it retains some of the tree’s nutrients. Thus it is a healthier alternative to regular sugar. It also has some kinds of metabolic impact on our bodies.

What Impact Does Coconut Sugar Have On Metabolism?

  1. Coconut sugar was reported to have a GI value of 35. The lower GI value of coconut sugar suggests it can be a better source of healthier sugar 5,6
  2. Coconut sugar has minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium 6
  3. Palm and coconut sugars provided a better starch digestion rate. 
  4. Coconut sugar does contain a small amount of fiber in the form of inulin, which is prebiotic. Hence, it could be beneficial for gut health. Inulin is also effective at lowering inflammation and plasma lipid levels 7.
  5. Coconut sugar contains 70-80% of sucrose, which is why it is high in fructose. This is the reason why coconut sugar can increase blood sugar levels.
    All foods have a significant impact on the metabolic activities happening inside our bodies. Even though coconut sugar is a better alternative to white sugar, it can still cause inflammation in the body. It is best to avoid all types of sugar, but if you must have something sweet, such as a dessert, you can choose one that contains coconut sugar.

Here are some organic coconut sugar brands that you can choose from. 

  1. Pure and Sure Organic Coconut Sugar, 500g : 
  2. Slurrp Farm coconut sugar - AEdu2pFePIcimm5yrGvV3kTVvNV4TxppdmM4nsgBgEi_N8Jh0hBDDoIXB0BoC1PEQAvD_BwE 
  3. Qidhan Coconut sugar - 
  4. Nutty Yogi Coconut Sugar- 
  5. Healthy Buddha Coconut Sugar (250gms) - 
  6. Sattvic foods Coconut sugar - 

References : 

(1) Alternative Sugars: Coconut Sugar. Br. Dent. J. 2017, 223 (10), 749–749.

(2) Ho, C. W.; Wan Aida, W. M.; Maskat, M. Y.; Osman, H. Effect of Thermal Processing of Palm Sap on the Physico-Chemical Composition of Traditional Palm Sugar. Pak. J. Biol. Sci. 2008, 11 (7), 989–995.

(3) Jayanudin, J.; Kurniawan, T.; Kustiningsih, I. Phenolic Analysis and Characterization of Palm Sugar (Arenga Pinnata) Produced by The Spray Dryer. Orient. J. Chem. 2019, 35 (1), 150–156.

(4) Kroger, M.; Meister, K.; Kava, R. Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes: A Review of the Safety Issues. Compr. Rev. Food Sci. Food Saf. 2006, 5 (2), 35–47.

(5) Trinidad, T. P.; Mallillin, A. C.; Sagum, R. S.; Encabo, R. R. Glycemic Index of Commonly Consumed Carbohydrate Foods in the Philippines. J. Funct. Foods 2010, 2 (4), 271–274.

(6) Asghar, M. T.; Yusof, Y. A.; Mokhtar, M. N.; Ya’acob, M. E.; Mohd Ghazali, H.; Chang, L. S.; Manaf, Y. N. Coconut (Cocos Nucifera L.) Sap as a Potential Source of Sugar: Antioxidant and Nutritional Properties. Food Sci. Nutr. 2020, 8 (4), 1777–1787.

(7) Hoving, L. R.; de Vries, M. R.; de Jong, R. C. M.; Katiraei, S.; Pronk, A.; Quax, P. H. A.; van Harmelen, V.; Willems van Dijk, K. The Prebiotic Inulin Aggravates Accelerated Atherosclerosis in Hypercholesterolemic APOE*3-Leiden Mice. Nutrients 2018, 10 (2), E172.

(8)    Srikaeo, Khongsak & Thongta, R.. (2015). Effects of sugarcane, palm sugar, coconut sugar and sorbitol on starch digestibility and physicochemical properties of wheat-based foods. International Food Research Journal. 22. 923-929. 

Jiya Pandey
Junior Nutrition

Jiya is a nutrition graduate and a Health and Wellness content creator who is pursuing her Master's in Nutrition. She is currently working as an intern with the nutrition team at iThrive. She has her own Instagram creator page, a Blog as well as a Podcast where she puts up content related to nutrition and lifestyle. She believes that our gut talks to us and all we have to do is listen. According to her, working on the gut and lifestyle is the ultimate way of leading to optimal health.

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