Product spotlight: coconut sugar
What is coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar is an unrefined brown sugar with a delicately sweet caramel flavour. It comes from the flower buds of coconut palm trees in the Philippines and Indonesia. It works well in baked goods as a direct replacement for standard sugar.
Production of coconut sugar
The production of coconut sugar is a simple one, which is centuries old. Trees are tapped just underneath the blossoms of a coconut tree, and the liquid sap is collected into containers. This sap is then heated moderately so that the water is evaporated and crystallised to a block or soft paste.
Health benefits of coconut sugar
Due to minimal processing, coconut sugar is a lot less refined that other sugars. It contains many minerals and vitamins including potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin B1, B2, B3, and B6. These are found in lower levels than fruits and vegetables, but it compares favourably to other types of sugar.
Lets get something straight… no sugar can truthfully be considered healthy. Sugars are ’empty calories’ and should consumed in moderation. No more than three tablespoons per day (or 5% of your total calories) is a good rule of thumb, even for a natural sweetener. That said, we all like a little sweetness in our lives! By choosing a sweetener that has less impact on blood sugar levels you can avoid sugar crashes which for some people lead to irritability, nervousness, headaches, sweating, and reduced concentration levels.
The glycemic index of coconut sugar
The glycemic index (GI) is a measurement of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI cause a spike in blood sugar, as sugar absorbed quickly causes the pancreas to release insulin in the body. In contrast, foods with a low GI are easier on our bodies, absorbed more slowly and don’t lead to a drastic increase in insulin.
Here is the glycemic index of many common sweeteners on the market (higher GI = higher blood sugar spike).
- Stevia 0
- Xylitol 7
- Agave 15-30
- Brown rice syrup 25
- Coconut sugar/nectar 30
- Raw honey 35-58
- Sucanat 43
- Organic sugar 47
- Maple syrup 54
- Blackstrap molasses 54
- Evaporated cane juice 55
- Raw sugar (Turbinado) 65
- Corn syrup 75
- White sugar 80
- High fructose corn syrup 87
- Glucose 100
Using coconut sugar
In comparison with other sweeteners, coconut sugar has a relatively low GI. What makes it such a good choice for cooks is that it is so easy to substitute for regular sugar, using a 1:1 ratio. You’ll find most baked goods turn out well and aren’t as intensely sweet as white sugar, but ultimately delicious. Experimenting with it as an ingredient is easy.
Try coconut sugar in one of these recipes
- Vegan Florentines
- Chestnut & Caramelised Fig Vegan Cheesecake
- Blissful Blueberry Banana Spelt Muffins (vegan + refined sugar-free)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies – Vegan, Low Gluten & Low Fat