One of the trendier sweeteners right now, coconut sugar is advertised as a healthier ingredient, but what does the research say? Find out more in this guide!
Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from coconut palm tree sap. Once harvested, the sap is mixed with water, boiled into a syrup, dried out to crystallize, and then broken into small granules.
While the color is darker and similar to light brown sugar, the texture of coconut sugar more closely resembles raw sugar. As we’ll touch on more below, it’s important to make this distinction as this means it’s also not as moist as brown sugar, which could affect your baked goods if used as a substitute.
You may see coconut sugar listed as “coconut palm sugar,” which can get confused with palm sugar – also a sugar but made from a different type of palm tree.
Okay, time for the big question: is coconut sugar healthier than regular sugar? Yes. And no.
Coconut sugar contains approximately the same amount of calories as white sugar, about 45 calories per tablespoon.
However the main health claim I see is that it’s supposed to be a lower carb option.
To compare, coconut sugar contains approximately 12 grams of carbohydrate and sugar per tablespoon, and white sugar contains 12.6 grams of carbohydrate and sugar – almost exactly the same as coconut.
But what about it’s glycemic index. Table sugar has a GI of around 60, while coconut sugar is closer to 54. A lower GI may mean that it results in lower rises in blood sugar; however, the actual effect of these sugars can vary by person and composition of the meal in which they’re consumed. The research also isn’t convincing that coconut sugar’s lower GI translates into a meaningful health benefit.
However, unlike white sugar, coconut sugar does contain small amounts of inulin (a prebiotic fiber), minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, and antioxidants. So it is more nutritious.
Bottom line: coconut sugar is not a miracle health food, but it can be a more natural option compared to granulated white sugar. While it does have more nutrition than traditional sugar, it’s still high in calories and sugar and should be consumed in moderation – just like all other sweeteners.
When buying coconut sugar, make sure to read the ingredient list as some brands will mix it with cane sugar or other fillers.
Keep your sugar stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Properly stored it should keep for 2 years.
Coconut sugar can be substituted for brown or white sugar in cooking or baking in a 1:1 ratio. However, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
So, how can you start using coconut sugar? As I alluded to above, pretty much anytime you’d use sugar feel free to add it in. Specifically, it works well in denser baked goods like chocolate chip cookies, brownies, fruit crisps, pancakes, muffins and quick breads.
On the savory side, it can be added to a dry rub or marinade for a hint of sweetness.
Share your tips and favorite recipes in the comments below! And be sure to pin this guide for reference later.
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