In 2015 the United states of America consumed over 10.8 metric tons of sugar (1), the scary part that this figure is expected to rise year on year. As people are getting fatter and sicker they are turning to alternatives (like coconut sugar) which still taste like sugar but will not be as detrimental in terms of their waist line and health.
Everywhere you look you will find sugar free products on the shelves. People are slowly but surely realizing that the real poison in our processed foods is the amount of sugar. Some of these products are full of artificial sweeteners and others with so called natural sugar alternatives.
One such natural sugar alternative is coconut sugar also known as coconut palm sugar. This sugar is derived from the actual sap of the coconut palm tree. This sugar is not the same as palm sugar, which is made from a different palm tree.
As with most artificial or natural sugar alternative there is a fair amount of hype over whether it is healthy or just as bad as ordinary cane sugar. We are here to ask and answer the question, is coconut sugar Paleo approved?
What is Coconut Sugar?
Coconut sugar is collected from the sap of the coconut palm tree, a cut is made in the flower buds of the tree and the sap is allowed to collect. Thereafter the sap is placed over heat until the water has evaporated leaving the coconut sugar behind.
Food for thought: An interesting fact to note is that as soon as the the blossoms on the coconut palm have yielded the sap to make the coconut sugar that same tree cannot go on to supplying coconuts. Within the industry there is concern that growing worldwide demand for coconut sugar could interfere with the supply of coconuts. This also obviously translates to increased prices of our favorite coconut oil, coconut cream and coconut milk. I don’t know about you, but I would far rather have my precious coconut oil than another sugar alternative (2).
Let’s look at some facts:
- In terms of rough composition (depending on the batch): coconut sugar is 70-79 percent sucrose, 3 percent glucose and 9 percent fructose (3) . But hang on a moment, sucrose is already half fructose !? The problem with this is that fructose is the sugar we mostly want to avoid.
- Coconut sugar has been touted as being a better alternative to sugar due to it containing nutrients. This is in comparison to cane sugar, which is completely nutrient empty. This may be true-but unfortunately you would have to eat a load of the stuff to benefit from any of the micronutrients.
- Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (GI). Maybe. The department of science and technology in the Phillipines found the GI of coconut sugar to be 35, which is great! Except the University of Sydney found the GI of coconut sugar to be around 54 (which is higher than cane sugar and honey). No one else has followed up to see who was right.
Is Coconut Sugar Paleo?
As with most ‘alternatives’, the experts do not agree and the answer is of course complicated.
The short answer is yes, coconut sugar is Paleo appropriate as it would most probably have been available to us (in one form or another) during the Paleolithic era.
Before you rush out and buy it however:
- Coconut sugar could most probably be lumped with traditional honey, in that it is not terrible for you in small doses but there is no need to consume this additive on a regular basis.
- For anyone who is trying to lose weight or has a particularly sweet tooth, having this food around will not help as gram per gram coconut sugar has the same amount of calories as ordinary sugar (4). In addition if you have weaned yourself off sweetened tea and coffee, the only other application would be baking Paleo goodies. In which case you would be consuming the baked goodies in moderation and very occasionally.
When making decisions about including sugar alternatives in your diet it is best to make them based on your knowledge of how you reacted to sugar before your Paleo journey. If you found that you had problems with ongoing sugar cravings or that you suffer from insulin resistance it is best not to tempt yourself with bringing unnecessary sweetness into your home.
Alternatively if this does not describe you, coconut sugar can be used as a slightly healthier alternative on an occasional basis to assist with baking delicious treats like these.
(Read this next: Is Hummus Paleo?)
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