Coconut seems to all the rage within the health community these days. We have coconut water, coconut milk, coconut chips, coconut yoghurt and even coconut ice-cream! And while all these products do score beaucoup points when it comes to good nutrition, not everything bearing the “coconut” prefix can be considered to be healthy.
Coconut sugar is one of the latest incarnations of sugar alternatives to make its way around health stores everywhere. The claims are certainly attractive: lower GI rating means less of a blood sugar spike, and there’s also nutrients like iron, zinc and calcium to consider – none of which are present in table sugar. Not too shabby right?
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean we can go about dusting our cakes and waffles with this sand-like sweetener just yet. As the old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” and this certainly applie to the case of coconut sugar. Here are 4 facts that show how coconut sugar might not be all that it’s cracked up to be:
1. Not really “coconut”
Unlike coconut milk or water, coconut sugar doesn’t actually contain the actual fruit. Instead, it’s derived from the sap of the cut flower of the coconut palm. This means that it’s largely devoid of all the useful nutrients found in coconuts and by extension, coconut products.
2. Absolute mineral amounts
Having essential nutrients like zinc, calcium and iron in your sugar might sound like a good deal, but their presence alone doesn’t amount to much in reality. The body needs these nutrients in specific amounts for it function properly, and when it comes to coconut sugar, the exact amount per serving falls woefully short.
3. Fructose concerns
Coconut sugar might not have much of an effect on your glucose levels, but that’s because its 38 to 48.5 percent fructose. While fructose doesn’t metabolised as quickly or as easily as sucrose, having too much is just as bad for you. The immeidate metabolic pathway for fructose is to be stored as liver glycogen, which doesn’t have a lot wiggle room due to its size. Beyond that, everything else gets shuttled off to adipose tissue, resulting in fat gain. Furthermore, frutose in large amounts can be toxic to the body.
4. Sugar is still sugar
Low GI or not, the body treats all forms of sugar equally. All sugars are eesentially carbohydrates, and will be metabolised as such. Consuming excessive amount of coconut sugar can lead to the same detriments as having too much table sugar: metabolic damage, decreased brain function, increased insulin resistance and even toxic accumulation.
This is by no means an attempt to demonise coconut sugar. Using coconut sugar in recipes is still a better choice than white sugar, but care should be taken when it comes to portions and frequency of use. A diet that’s low in added sugar is still considered optimal when it comes to long-term health and vitality. In the case of coconut sugar, saving it for special occasions ought to do just fine!
- Coconut Palm Sugar (n.d.), “Nutritional Information”. Retrieved from: http://coconutpalmsugar.com/Nutritional_Information.html
- Beck, L. (2014), “Coconut sugar: Is it healthier than white sugar, or just hype?”, The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/coconut-sugar-is-it-healthier-than-white-sugar-or-just-hype/article19187927/