Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener that may be more expensive than regular granulated sugar, but it’s worth it since it yields some tremendous benefits that make it a much better choice than many other sweetener options. For instance, coconut sugar is better for diabetics and the gut than your normal, everyday sugar, and it holds trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
How to Use Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar can be used the same as you would use regular sugar, but you may want to start with half the amount until the desired sweetness is reached.
Coconut Sugar Benefits
1. May Help Diabetics
Coconut sugar and coconut nectar contain a fiber known as inulin. This fiber may help slow glucose absorption, offering an alternative for those dealing with diabetic concerns. Some studies show that inulin may help reduce the absorption of glucose, therefore, keeping glucose levels in check. (3) One study in particular conducted by the Department of Biochemistry and Diet Therapy at the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences’ Nutrition Research Center suggests that it helps women with type 2 diabetes, improving some glycemic and antioxidant levels while decreasing malondialdehyde levels, a marker of oxidative stress.
With a taste much like brown sugar, coconut sugar (and coconut nectar) is gaining popularity as a sweetener in everything from coffee and tea to delicious food recipes. The American Diabetes Association shares that while it’s OK for those with diabetes to use coconut sugar as a sweetener on a diabetic diet plan, it’s important that they use it the same way they would use table sugar because it contains just as many calories and carbohydrates — about 15 calories and four grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon. Another important note is that it’s often found blended with table sugar, so take a look at the label before making a purchase. (5)
2. Paleo-Approved, Sort Of
If you are on the Paleo diet, coconut sugar is an option that you can use to satisfy that sweet tooth, according to the Ultimate Paleo Guide. Some hard-core Paleo followers still avoid it since it’s often processed. However, it’s thought to have been used in Paleolithic times, which is part of its claim to being OK for Paleo lovers.
Studies lead us to think that our “ancestors obtained about 35% of their dietary energy from fats, 35% from carbohydrates and 30% from protein.” (7) Coconut sugar would lie in the carbohydrate category, but it’s still a processed form of the coconut flower. Perhaps the coconut nectar or a liquid form is a little closer to Paleo for those who want to maintain a more strict Paleo lifestyle.
3. Contains Vitamins, Minerals and Phytonutrients
Coconut sugar contains vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, though in small amounts. Iron and zinc, for example, are found in coconut sugar, containing about two times more than granulated sugar according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).
The FNRI also notes that there are a decent amount of phytonutrients, specifically polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanidins. These phytonutrients help reduce blood sugar, inflammation and cholesterol, making coconut sugar a better option than many other sweeteners. The American Cancer Society explains that phytonutrients that come from plants offer many health benefits and are better choices than supplements or pills.
4. Good for the Gut
As noted earlier, coconut sugar contains inulin. Inulin has the ability to stimulate the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria, commonly found in probiotics, which can provide an overall boost to the immune system. Though bifidobacteria are a group of bacteria that normally live in the intestines, they can be grown outside the body and taken orally as medicine. Bifidobacteria have been known to help restore the good bacteria in the gut that may have been destroyed through chemotherapy, antibiotics and the like.
This bacteria helps many conditions that may affect the intestines, such as diarrhea, ulcerative colitis,and pouchitis, and it has even been used to prevent a particular bowel infection found in infants called necrotizing enterocolitis.