Natural Sugar Alternatives

“As the harmful effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup become increasingly more evident, people are turning to natural alternatives.

A sweetener that has become very popular in the past few years is coconut sugar.

This sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree and is touted as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar.

There is a lot of talk about this sweetener online and I’d like to separate the facts from the fiction.

What is Coconut Sugar and How is it Made?
Coconut sugar is also called Coconut Palm Sugar.

It is a natural sugar made from sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It is often confused with Palm Sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree.

Coconut sugar is made in a natural 2-step process:

A cut is made on the flower of the coconut palm and the liquid sap is collected into containers.
The sap is placed under heat until most of the water has evaporated.
s it More Nutritious Than Regular Sugar?
Regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup don’t contain any vital nutrients and therefore supply “empty” calories.

However, coconut sugar does retain quite a bit of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. There isn’t a lot of data on this, but according to the Phillipine Department of Agriculture, coconut sugar contains several nutrients (1):

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.

Then it contains a fiber called Inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar (2).
Coconut Sugar May Have a Lower Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Glucose is given a GI of 100 and if a food has a GI of 50, then it raises blood sugar half as much as pure glucose.”
References:

Coconut Sugar – Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie? (2013, April 17). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-sugar/
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