Is Coconut Sugar Better For You?
Recently, many people, including Dr. Oz, have been touting coconut sugar as a "healthy" sugar.
While I am happy to see the attention moving away from the popular agave nectar (mother nature's high fructose corn syrup), I would rather see the attention being shifted to whole foods rather than sugar. Yet the spotlight continues to shine for a few primary reasons, including the fact that coconut sugar is:
- Minimally processed
- Contains trace minerals, including potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron and amino acids
- Was found to be low on the Glycemic Index compared with other sweeteners (a measure of the effect of carbs on blood sugar)
However, after listening to several coconut sugar enthusiasts explain the health benefits of this miracle sugar, I decided it was time to dive into the science to see for myself if there was any legitimacy to their claims.
Is Coconut Sugar Nutritious?
While it is true that coconut sugar is minimally processed, the same could be said for raw cane sugar and honey. You don't find people pouring spoonfuls of that sweet stuff onto their food for the health benefits do you (Please say no!)?
What IS true is that by not refining coconut sugar to the extreme of certain other sweeteners (such as high fructose corn syrup) it is able to retain more of the vitamins and minerals found in the coconut itself. In fact, pure coconut sugar has around:
- twenty times as much potassium as honey,
- twice as much iron as agave nectar, and
- twice as much magnesium as maple syrup
...though it is also higher in sodium than the other sweeteners.
Can Coconut Sugar Stabilize Blood Sugar?
Several bloggers and even manufacturers stated coconut sugar had a low rating of 35 on the glycemic index, making it a "smart choice for diabetics" and yet not a single one cited a source where I could find their information. Onehttp://www.thesweetbeet.com/coconut-sugar/ "> blogger even found a disclaimer posted on the back of a coconut sugar package which highlighted those very lovely glycemic benefits:
“* Sweet Tree does not believe GI is a safe indicator of a sugar’s “friendliness” toward diabetics. In our experience we have found that while coconut sweeteners have been shown to have GI levels as low as 35†, continued tests have shown fluctuations. We believe this is dues to natural variables. Because of this fluctuation, we do not endorse the use of this product by diabetics.” (†Cane sugar is usually in the 60′s.)
When I contacted the company to find out why this information was not posted on their website, rather they relayed masses of misleading information, I was informed that “changes are being made and a statement of this regard will be published on our website as well”.
Wow. The manufacturer sounds quite confident in their product, don't they?
This Dietitian's Opinion of Coconut Sugar:
While it is true that coconut sugar contains more minerals than other sweeteners, you would have to consume 25 teaspoons to reach even half of your potassium needs for the day. And with about 15 calories per teaspoon - the same amount as is found in table sugar - that would add up to 375 calories - more than is found in many frozen meals!
If you are choosing coconut sugar for its unique taste and natural vibe, that's great! However, if you are opting for coconut sugar for its nutritional benefits, please reconsider. Sugar in ALL forms should be limited to a mere 5-10 teaspoons per day and therefore the amount of minerals would be negligible if that.
Much better idea? Get a full range of nutrients for colorful produce, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins instead.
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