If you’ve been trying to reduce refined sugar in your diet, it’s likely that you’ve come across packets of coconut sugar in the grocery store. Considered a natural sweetener, coconut sugar is a relatively new sweetener joining the ranks of sugar substitutes. It isn’t derived from coconuts. Rather, coconut sugar is a plant-derived sugar made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It’s sometimes also labeled as coconut palm sugar, or as coco sap sugar. The coconut nectar sap collected from the tree’s flower buds is heated to evaporation, resulting in solid brown coconut sugar granules that can be used as a replacement for regular table sugar.
Coconut Sugar vs Table Sugar
Compared to granulated table sugar, coconut sugar contains more vitamins and minerals. It consists of trace amounts of Vitamin C, as well as minerals like iron, potassium, sodium, zinc, and copper. Coconut sugar also contains antioxidants and fiber inulin. However, you would need to consume a lot of coconut sugar to reap any of its benefits.
On a molecular level, sugar is a carbohydrate that the body uses as a source of energy. Both coconut sugar and table sugar are primarily sucrose, a disaccharide, while their remaining molecular makeup comprises two monosaccharides, fructose, and glucose.
Coconut Sugar’s Low Glycemic Index
The significant difference between coconut sugar and regular table sugar can be seen in the glycemic index (GI) levels of the two sugars. The GI measures how a particular sugar affects the body’s blood levels after consumption.
Foods with high GI levels cause large spikes in blood glucose levels as they are quickly broken down by the body in a “sugar rush.” This increase in blood sugar levels can have a negative impact on people with diabetes.
Repeated consumption of foods high on the GI scale can result in insulin resistance and obesity. Coconut sugar has a GI of 35, which is approximately half that of regular table sugar. This makes coconut sugar a healthier alternative for people with diabetes, as its disaccharide, sucrose, breaks down into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose much slower.