What is Coconut Sugar? Is it Healthier than Table Sugar?

Coconut Sugar

Recently, several Fooducate community members have asked us about coconut sugar. So here is a quick rundown for all.

Coconut sugar is not produced from coconuts. It is a product of the coconut tree, or more specifically the sap obtained from coconut tree’s flower buds. It is sometimes called coco sap sugar or coconut palm sugar. The blossoms are cut and the nectar is collected into bamboo containers.

The resulting nectar is about 80% water and is heated to evaporate the liquid. The remaining solid is granulated. The granules are brownish and larger than those you would find in standard table sugar. The taste is very similar to regular brown sugar.

Chemically speaking, 70% of coconut sugar is identical to table sugar. It is a disaccharide called sucrose, made up of 2 monosaccharides: glucose and fructose. The rest of coconut sugar is composed of the individual molecules of fructose and glucose, as well as trace minerals.

From a caloric perspective, coconut sugar is identical to table sugar, 4 calories per gram. But despite being so similar, the glycemic index of coconut sugar (36) is substantially lower than that of table sugar (60). Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how a food affects blood glucose after being consumed. The higher the GI, the more of a spike you will experience in your blood glucose. These spikes are not good.

The lower GI of coconut sugar has made it popular is the diabetes circles. The American Diabetes Association says it is OK for people with diabetes to consume coconut sugar, but not to treat it any differently than regular sugar.

Have you used coconut sugar?

  • Lisa Bluford

    I have tried it, but it made my coffee seem dirty. I guess there were parts that didn’t completely dissolve. I’ve done a lot to clean up my eating, but one horrible habit I’m still hanging on to is many cups of sweetened coffee a day. It’s probably my worst health habit right now. I feel addicted to the sugar and keep trying different things to break my dependence.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      There’s a simple and gradual fix to this sugar addiction. Every week add a tiny bit less sugar to your coffee (0.25 tsp less). You’ll hardly notice the difference in taste, but in a month you will have reduced 1 entire tsp of sugar. Continue until you are down to zero. Within a few months you won’t be able to stand the taste of sweetened coffee.

      • kfay

        I did the same thing with Splenda. Now I can’t believe how sweet I used to drink coffee

      • Yvonne

        I did this and it really truly works, but doing it gradually is key! I used to have two heaping teaspoons (i.e. the small cutlery spoons, not the measuring spoons) of sugar in my tea or coffee, and now I’m down to one level measuring teaspoon…and I can’t believe how I used to drink it so sweet!

        PS: Please bring the Fooducate app to Canada! :)

      • Mimi Soto

        I agree. I would buy a venti Starbucks coffee and put in 12 packets of raw sugar. I went cold turkey and started just using creamer. Now I can’t stand any sweeteners in my coffee, it now ruins the coffee for me.

  • Judi

    I use Organic Coconut Sugar and love it. I started for two reasons. First because it is unrefined and natural. Second because of the lower GI. I use it in all my baked goods and any where I would use white sugar.

  • Lisa

    You didn’t mention the nutrients that coconut sugar retains during production. Can you add that in? I have read that that is one reason is it a good sugar substitute. We use it in almost all of our baking, pancakes, etc and no one ever notices a difference.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      It retains a tiny amount of minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper.

  • Leah

    It tastes TERRIBLE as a replacement for Sweet Tea. I didn’t like it in my coffee either. However it is great in chocolate chip cookies.

    • Doreen Shababy

      I use it in my French press coffee/cocoa-bean brew, and it’s fab! That is to say, it works for me!

  • OhtheIrony

    It makes better tasting homemade ice cream than cane sugar does, that’s for sure. I never really even liked ice cream so I didn’t miss it, but then I made some with coconut sugar for the family and it was AMAZING!

  • lalo2

    have you done a similar analysis for brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup and the other sweeteners? I’d love to see it.

  • Robin@tabletalkblog.net

    I use it on occasion because I bought some to try. More expensive than other sugar though. Since I don’t have diabetes and I keep my sugar consumption under the recommended amounts for an adult woman, I don’t particularly worry about the kind of sugar I consume. If I ate huge amounts of sugar then perhaps I would make it coconut sugar.

  • Carol H.

    The lower GI of coconut sugar vs. cane sugar (assuming the data given is even correct) is probably due to small amounts of indigestible impurities/fibers and the higher percentage of fructose (broken down in the liver via a more complicated, insulin-independent process)… which has its own set of potential health problems. Then there is the issue of whether GI is even of any significance when foods are eaten together (who is really eating sugar by itself?). If it has the same calories as sugar, it is basically the same.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Good point regarding the GI.

  • Eva H

    There is a huge sustainability issue with coconut sugar. By harvesting flowers
    you are killing the production of coconuts. Considering how beneficial coconuts are it doesn’t seem wise to be creating demand for coconut sugar. REad http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm for instance.

    • Richard A

      While I do not deny the issues regarding the potential benefits of using coconut sugar as compared to regular table sugar the question of sustainability is highly alarmist. I live in the Philippines and in every area I have been there are coconut trees growing – even in most residential areas in the back yards of peoples homes – and if you travel out to the less populated areas they grow everywhere imaginable. There is no threat now or for the foreseeable future to the existence of coconut trees whether for use as the source of sugar sap or for regular coconut production.

    • Praetorian

      Greetings Eva

      Harvesting the flowers to produce coconut nectar and then coconut sugar , does not kill the production of coconuts. The usual practice is to leave one spadix for coconut fruit production and 2 for tapping.

      I hope this clarifies your concerns somewhat.

  • JohnnyKahakaloha

    Is it healthier to use Coconut Nectar (the unprocessed liquid product such as that sold by Coconut Secret) vs. the granulated form? It is raw, enzymatically-alive, minimally evaporated at about 80 degrees to remove excess moisture and contains minerals, 17 amino acids, vit C, broad spectrum B vitamins and has a neutral PH with 13g of sugar per tbps.

  • Mish Weibel

    As far as the sustainability issue, the stuff I’ve read seems to indicate that it’s actually more sustainable/environmentally responsible than cane sugar. The trees produce more sweetener per acre by a significant amount, while using only 20% of the nutrients and water. Also it seems like tapping for sap just means those individual flowers won’t produce coconuts, not ruin the tree for future coconut production. It seems to have an additional benefit too, since apparently more people are killed each year by falling coconuts than lightning, so tapping trees near residential areas helps reduce that risk. That’s enough to convince me, it might be a little more expensive, but with as little sugar as we use in our house and the same basic nutrient profile, helping support something that’s that much more productive is worth it these days. See link

  • http://www.pancakeorganics.com/ Benjamin Weingarten

    Organic coconut sugar contains natural minerals that support a healthy lifestyle for people who are active. The organic coconut sugar is 100% natural and non-GMO, which means the sugar is chemicals free and has no genetic modifications commonly seen in western food products.

  • http://www.pancakeorganics.com/ Benjamin Weingarten

    Nice Blog you have shared. By this, everyone should know about the Sugar and their positive and negative effects. Hope everyone should understand the plus points of organic coconut sugar and prefer to use it and remain healthy through out the life.

  • Rexy Rexon Tapayan

    We produce, made or cooked Sugar and Honey.

    When our youth organization the Working Youth Club of Tubay ADN, Inc. (WYC) were graced by the government Gross Participatory Budgetting (GPB) by 2013 which is now new called BuB or Bottoms-up-Budgetting, we tried to select a coco sugar & honey production which the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is the major sponsor or almost 85% were funded by them and the rest is by our Local Government Unit (LGU) of Tubay, Agusan del Norte.

    For those who wants to buy or see our products, just message me at my Facebook account or in a Messenger.