As more evidence about the effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup mounts people are looking for sustainable and palatable alternatives. Coconut sugar has earned a reputation as being a low-carb sugar substitute with more nutritional value than typical granulated sugar. And one of the biggest selling points and health claims is that it has a low glycemic index.
Before we begin it's important to note that coconut sugar and coconut palm sugar can be the same thing. "Coconut Palm Sugar" is made from the coconut palm tree (cocos nucifera), which is the same tree that grows coconuts for other purposes. Just plain "palm sugar" may be made from the same coconut tree, or it may be made from one of two other varieties of palm trees which also produce a sweet nectar (the Palmyra/Borassus palm tree or Aren palm tree).
Palm sugar is from a different type of palm (note that this is still not the variety of palm from which palm oil is sourced), and it is processed in exactly the same way.
It is a natural sugar made from sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It's a simple two stage process where a cut is made on the flower of the coconut palm and the liquid sap is collected. After this the sap is heated until most of the water has evaporated.
The simple answer to this question is yes. But as with most things it's not quite so straight forward.
The number of calories in coconut palm sugar is almost identical to the number in regular table sugar and its closer relative, brown sugar. But coconut palm sugar is notably higher in various micronutrients, probably because it is less processed than industrial sugars. 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.
It also contains a fiber called Inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar. Added to this it also has a low Glycemic Index (GI) of 35. But if your being truthful do you really every eat sugar because of health benefits.
Regular table sugar isn't bad for you only because of it's empty calories or that it has a high GI. The primary reason sugar is so unhealthy, is because it is loaded with Fructose.
Regular table sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose, 50% glucose.
Here's where it get's interesting. Many of the claims of the benefits of cocnut sugar are that it's low in fructose. An example may be something along the lines of "However, coconut sugar is 70 to 79 percent sucrose and only three percent to nine percent each of fructose and glucose"
But here's the thing. Because sucrose (plain table sugar) is half fructose coconut sugar's is in fact between 38% and 48.5% fructose which is about the same as sugar and honey. There's reasons to consider using coconut palm sugar as a substitute for white or brown sugar. One benefit is the richness and complexities of flavour. And, no it doesn't taste like coconut.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the World Bank reports that coconut palm sweeteners are the single most sustainable sweetener in the world!
The reason, coconut palms are a tree crop which benefits the environment ecologically as they restore damaged soil requiring very little water in the process. In addition, coconut palms produce more sugar per acre than sugar cane (50-75% more) while at the same time using less than 20% of the soil nutrients and water for that high level of production.
There was a rumor being spread that coconut trees being used for coconut sugar could not also be used to grow coconuts. Research conducted in the Philippines at the Davao Research Center demonstrated that it is possible to produce both sap for making coconut sugar as well as coconuts from the same tree. All that needs to be done is tap the coconut sap in the first half of the coconut blossoms and then allow the remaining half of the blossoms to develop into mature, 12 month coconuts. This method for tapping both sap and coconuts from the same tree yields 5-7 times higher productivity than traditional methods.
The Young Green Coconut
Peace, Love & Coconuts