Coconut palm sugar is a rising star in the health food world. While it has been used in Asia for centuries, it has become especially popular in vegan cuisine in the West since it is plant-based and minimally processed. Let’s look at why this sugarcane alternative has become so popular—what are some of the coconut palm sugar benefits?
1. Coconut Palm Sugar Can Be Nutritious
Most forms of sweetener contain nothing in the way of vital nutrients. Sugarcane products, corn syrups, and artificial sweeteners are often referred to as “empty calories,” that is, they don’t contain anything of nutritional value outside of their sweet flavor. Coconut palm sugar, however, does retain some of the nutrients from its source (the coconut palm) including iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, and some antioxidants.
A study from 2015 found that coconut palm sugar also contains significant amounts of inulin, a fermentable prebiotic fiber that is great for overall gut health. Inulin can also be helpful for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, as it might improve insulin sensitivity and lead to fewer blood sugar spikes, although more research is needed. While inulin can be helpful as a part of a healthy diet, it is important to be aware that eating large amounts of coconut palm sugar would not be beneficial to overall health.
Studies have begun to show that it is a good idea to keep your fructose intake as low as possible. This is one of the coconut palm sugar benefits: compared to cane sugar, which is made up of 50% fructose, coconut palm sugar contains less fructose (45%). If you’re trying to keep your fructose intake low, coconut palm sugar is a great choice!
4. It May Have a Lower Glycemic Index
If you or someone you love struggles with a diabetes diagnosis, coconut palm sugar may be a good substitute for cane sugar. Some studies have shown coconut palm sugar to have a much lower glycemic index (GI) than cane sugar: as low as a GI of 36 compared to table sugar’s 60. This means that coconut palm sugar is likely to have a lower effect on blood sugar than processed cane sugar, giving you more consistent energy without a huge crash.
Keep in mind that the GI number can vary based on how a particular batch of coconut palm sugar was processed.
5. It Is Not Refined
Granulated cane sugar, powdered sugar, and even brown sugar are highly processed and refined forms of the sugar cane plant. In contrast, coconut palm sugar is an unrefined sweetener—meaning it has gone through far less processing before it reaches your kitchen.
This is why it retains some nutrients, as well as its beautiful color and caramel-like taste. This also means that it does not have any additives or preservatives.
6. It Can Potentially Reduce Weight Gain
Because coconut palm sugar contains less fructose than other forms of sugar, it is possible that it can reduce your risk for weight gain. That difference in fructose content means that your body, specifically your liver, metabolizes coconut palm sugar differently.
Your body loves to convert fructose into triglycerides (a type of fat.) Other “natural” sweeteners like agave nectar contain up to 90% fructose, while coconut palm sugar only contains 45% fructose.
If you’re concerned about potential weight gain, one of the coconut palm sugar benefits is that it may be better for your waistline!
7. Coconut Palm Sugar Tastes Great!
While many sweeteners contribute little to a dish besides sweetness, coconut palm sugar has a unique flavor that is complementary to many dishes.
Because of the way in which it is processed, the appearance and taste may vary.
Regardless of differences in color or level of sweetness, this sugar is often described as having a “caramel-like” flavor, tasting a little bit like a richer alternative to brown sugar (and often sharing its golden brown color.)
8. Easy 1:1 Substitute for Cane Sugar
Maybe you’re wanting to substitute a healthier, less processed alternative for your usual granulated table sugar…or, maybe you just ran out of the sweetener you usually use and have some extra coconut palm sugar in your cupboard.
Regardless of your reason for needing to substitute, one of the coconut palm sugar benefits is that it can be used in a 1:1 ratio with cane sugar.
So, if your recipe calls for 1 cup of granulated sugar, you can easily substitute it with 1 cup of coconut palm sugar, easy as pie!
9. Coconut Palm Sugar Is Eco-Friendly
Did you know that coconut palm sugar is more eco-friendly compared to some of its counterparts?
First, it is a sustainable, renewable resource. The sap is collected from the coconut palm tree’s flower blossoms, unlike other forms of sugar where the entire plant must be harvested.
This sugar alternative also requires less water and fuel to produce than sugarcane, and it does not require any additives, preservatives, or chemicals.
10. Coconut Palm Sugar Is Vegan
Another reason coconut palm sugar is eco-friendly is that it does not contain any animal products.
Some brands of table sugar are processed using animal bone char, in order to attain the classic white color and smooth granulated consistency that we’ve all become so used to.
This means that it is almost impossible to know if white table sugars are vegan. Because of the way coconut palm sugar is made, however, you never need to worry about whether animal products were used in the process.
The Coconut Palm Sugar Benefits Are Many
Hopefully, you can now see that coconut palm sugar is a great alternative sweetener. Vegan, eco-friendly, minimally processed, lower in fructose, lower in glycemic index, higher in nutrients and minerals…the list goes on and on! And don’t forget, the complex flavor and beautiful honey color of this sugar will add new elements to your favorite recipes and dishes.
Try it out in your next batch of banana bread, add it to your favorite cookies, or just stir it into your coffee or tea—regardless of how you use it, you’re sure to love this delicious sweetener.