COCONUT SUGAR: Is It Actually Better Than Regular Sugar?

By “Sacred Steve” Adler
COCONUT SUGAR: REDEMPTION OR RACKET

Being a chocolate maker (someone who makes chocolate from scratch), I am always on the lookout for great sweeteners to use in Sacred Chocolate. Several years ago, a vendor approached me trying to sell me coconut sugar (aka coconut palm sugar as opposed to palm sugar which is not from a coconut tree) as a healthy sweetener because of its relatively low glycemic index of 35.

coconut-sugar-benefits

Photo credit

I was excited about the possibility of a good tasting, inexpensive sweetener that was also healthier than refined cane sugar. Could this be the ultimate sweetener redemption? It seemed too good to be true to my sometimes skeptical engineering mind. I asked for proof, and was directed to this published paper:

http://www.pca.da.gov.ph/pdf/glycemic.pdf

My concerns with this study were twofold. The study was conducted on only ten people. And, the study was done by a government who is one of the largest producers of coconut sugar in the world. Personally, I was hesitant to make an informed decision until more independent studies were conducted. Unfortunately, the only other study I have seen since shows a glycemic index for coconut sugar to be 54 as shown here:

http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php?num=2659&ak=detail

A whole raw chocolate industry has popped up over the last few years touting coconut sugar as a low glycemic sweetener citing the first study above. However, as can be seen from the second study, further studies need to be conducted since there is such a difference between the two: 35 vs. 54.

I am not the only one with concern regarding the ambiguity associated with what is known about the glycemic index of coconut palm sugar as evidenced by these links:

http://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-sugar/

http://youarenotafitperson.com/2012/09/15/dr-oz-again-how-is-this-possible-coconut-sugar/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jj-virgin/coconut-sugar-healthier-s_b_5669084.html

Through my experience as a chocolate maker for almost ten years, I have learned that sugar is a necessary evil when it comes to making delectable chocolate. So in general, I advise people to eat chocolate at the highest percentage cacao content possible, that is still enjoyable for them, and to choose a chocolate with a “healthier” sweetener than refined cane sugar.

The idea that a sweetener is healthy if it is low on the glycemic index can be misleading. Certainly, a low glycemic index value is a desirable characteristic of a healthy sweetener for reasons I will not go into in this article (for more information, see http://nutritiondata.self.com/topics/glycemic-index ), but other factors also come into play that can still make a low glycemic sweetener problematic to health. For instance, coconut sugar happens to be approximately 70% sucrose (http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/19930319960.html;jsessionid=A8E24A6DE6707839BE2AEAF2F624358F ), which equates to about 35% fructose (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucrose ). Fructose has been implicated in health issues such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity. (http://authoritynutrition.com/why-is-fructose-bad-for-you/)

What makes coconut palm sugar healthier than refined cane sugar besides its supposed low glycemic index is the fact that it is higher in minerals than refined cane sugar and also contains some inulin, a starchy prebiotic fiber. (http://www.pca.da.gov.ph/coconutrde/images/cfs16.pdf and http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/Suppl_1/bmjopen-2015-forum2015abstracts.79.abstract ).

Here is a typical nutrition facts panel of a popular brand of coconut sugar:

Coconut_Sugar_Nutrition_Panel_aug12

Photo credit

As I experimented with coconut sugar in my chocolate making, I noticed that the flavor profiles of the coconut sugar I obtained from various vendors differed significantly. I wondered why. I considered it was due to variations in crops and processing methods since coconut sugar is not a highly refined sugar—think Turbinado, Demerara, Muscovado, Rapadura, and Molasses, all of which are less refined forms of regular refined cane sugar. However, the information I obtained from a colleague, Frederick Schilling, founder of Dagoba Chocolate, Amma Chocolate, and Big Tree Farms (a producer of coconut sugar), cast doubt on my reasoning behind the vast difference in flavor profiles I experienced. At a chocolate conference, he told me that the Indonesian government had cracked down on a 40 or so container export shipment of coconut palm sugar that was cut with cane sugar. In other words, it was not pure coconut sugar, but a blend of coconut and cane sugar. (Note: I have not been able to find evidence of this event online.) I started thinking about what would motivate someone to do this. The only reasons I could think of were cost and/or flavor. As I researched further, I found out that coconut sugar is not a desirable sweetener in Southeast Asia due to its bitter aftertaste. I came to the conclusion that a possible motivation was to improve the flavor to sell more effectively at a higher price. Also, since coconut sugar is an unrefined sugar, it retains many of the minerals inherent in it (as seen above) and, therefore, can be sold as a more nutrient rich sweetener, warranting a higher price. So, the key would be to make sure it tastes good, so it is not rejected in the marketplace based on taste.

Are these factors that make the coconut sugar hype more of a racket than redemption? Regarding the health claim of a low glycemic index, it is a hard call at this point until further research and lab studies are conducted; regarding whether or not your coconut sugar is pure, could be a tougher call.

In my opinion, it is safe to follow the advice of the American Diabetes Association which says to treat coconut sugar the same as you would treat regular sugar: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/coconut-palm-sugar.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

Diabetes woman patient make an abdomen subcutaneous syringe insulin injection with needle on a sofa at home

Diabetes woman patient makes an abdomen subcutaneous syringe insulin injection with a needle on a sofa at home.

Photo credit

sacred-chocolate-banner

 

Sacred Steve

Steve Adler, M.S., D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), AKA "Sacred Steve", is an ordained minister and chaplain in Spiritis Church.Steve also holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master's degree in aerospace engineering from Stanford University.Steve's first career was as a thermosciences engineer working on the design of the propulsion modules on Space Station Freedom.Later, Steve, along with a childhood friend, started NowComp, a computer brokerage company.Initially inspired by Anthony Robbins, Steve’s interest in raw foods grew in the 1990’s culminating in the creation of NatuRAW, an online store focused on the Raw Food lifestyle.

Inspired by the works of Glenda Green (www.LoveWithoutEnd.com), Steve’s mission is to teach humanity about the power of the Sacred Heart and the true relationship between the mind and the Sacred Heart.He believes that one powerful stepping stone to empowering the Sacred Heart is through the raw food diet.Steve loves to speak on the subect of his personal spiritual path.

Today, Steve is the creator of the highest quality RAW chocolate in the world - Sacred Chocolate®, an exceptionally flavorful superfood, and sacrament.Founded in 2006 by Steve, & Steve’s longtime friend, David Wolfe,Sacred Chocolate, LLC, produces the most incredible tasting RAW, Vegan, Organic chocolate bars on the planet, Sacred Chocolate.Sacred Chocolate® is certified organic, certified vegan and sold above fair trade standards; but, according to Steve, the most important aspect of Sacred Chocolate® is that it is made with Love & Gratitude.Sacred Steve prays over each and every batch of Sacred Chocolate with the goal that Sacred Chocolate becomes a sacrament to assist in humanity’s ascension on all levels.He gives thanks to all who have made the amazing superfood known as chocolate available to humanity.

Being an alchemist by nature, Sacred Steve is passionate about his creations—his most alchemical includes the mystical substance known as ORMUS GOLD.When he’s not experimenting with new recipes, Sacred Steve loves to spend his free time with his family, lecturing and meditating on the miraculous power of the Sacred Heart, and communing with Nature.Sacred Steve has always held a vision of Mother Earth covered in luscious fruit trees.As a result Sacred Chocolate® supports the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. (www.FTPF.org).

Latest posts by Sacred Steve (see all)

GET DAVID'S FREE E-COURSE!

PLUS Receive The David Avocado Wolfe BestEver Newsletter, Videos, Health & Lifestyle Strategies, Blog And Video Updates, and more!

3 comments
Benjamin Weingarten - December 17, 2015

Coconut sugar, more accurately coconut palm sugar, is made from sap of the coconut palm that has been extracted and then boiled and dehydrated. It provides the same number of calories and carbohydrates as regular cane sugar (about 15 calories and four grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon) so you wouldn’t be gaining any advantage in these respects by making a switch. However, coconut sugar is 70 to 79 percent sucrose and only three percent to nine percent each of fructose and glucose. This is an advantage, because you want to keep your consumption of fructose as low as possible, and cane sugar is 50 percent fructose.

Reply
    Optimized - April 23, 2016

    I don’t understand your math, since sucrose is a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose. If the sucrose in coconut sugar is, say 80%, then it’s 40% fructose. Maybe you misspoke? I found this page googling for the amount of fructose in coconut sugar. The info doesn’t seem very easy to find. Off to search more.

    Reply
Jeanie Panyszak - January 28, 2016

My rule of thumb is….if it’s not a whole food, use it sparing or not at all. Sugar is sugar. processed is processed. One may have a little more fibre or nutrients but i doubt it makes it a healthy option. Coconut oil is another good example (i use coconut oil a lot more than coconut sugar). I use it (oil) to brush my teeth, bath with it, moisturize with it, add to my bath water, use as hair deep conditioner and i cook with it. Its fantastic but i eat it sparingly. I’ve noticed how popular coconut oil is right now (coconut sugar is almost as popular but not quite yet). i read an article the other day to add 2 tablespoons into your coffee instead of cream. what?? I thought is was a bit excessive. I tried a teaspoon and found it very oily. 2 tb may have been an error but i bet there are many people pouring oil into their coffee because its been dubbed healthy. Anyway, My point is to keep it simple and use your logic instead of researching a ton of studies etc. stick to whole foods that nature provided for us and keep away from anything tweeked. hugs j

Reply
Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: