Coconut Sugar – Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie?

Man Drinking From CoconutAs the harmful effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup become increasingly more evident, people are turning to natural alternatives.

A sweetener that has become very popular in the past few years is coconut sugar.

This sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree and is touted as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar.

There is a lot of talk about this sweetener online and I’d like to separate the facts from the fiction.

What is Coconut Sugar and How is it Made?

Coconut sugar is also called Coconut Palm Sugar.

It is a natural sugar made from sap, which is the sugary circulating fluid of the coconut plant. It is often confused with Palm Sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree.

Coconut sugar is made in a natural 2-step process:

  1. A cut is made on the flower of the coconut palm and the liquid sap is collected into containers.
  2. The sap is placed under heat until most of the water has evaporated.

The final product is coconut sugar, which looks something like this:

Coconut Sugar in Measuring Spoons

Is it More Nutritious Than Regular Sugar?

Regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup don’t contain any vital nutrients and therefore supply “empty” calories.

However, coconut sugar does retain quite a bit of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. There isn’t a lot of data on this, but according to the Phillipine Department of Agriculture, coconut sugar contains several nutrients (1):

Most notable of these are the minerals Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants that may also provide some health benefits.

Then it contains a fiber called Inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar (2).

I’d like to point out that even though coconut sugar contains some nutrients, you would get a lot more from other real foods.

Coconut sugar is very high in calories (same as regular sugar) and you’d have to eat a ridiculous amount of it to satisfy your need for the above nutrients.

Coconut Sugar May Have a Lower Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Glucose is given a GI of 100 and if a food has a GI of 50, then it raises blood sugar half as much as pure glucose.

The Phillipine Department of Agriculture measured the glycemic index of coconut sugar and compared it to glucose (1).

Coconut Sugar Glycemic Response

According to them, Coconut Sugar is given a GI of 35, which puts it in the low range. This is much lower than table sugar, which is somewhere around 60.

But I do have a problem with making any conclusions based on this study alone.

GI can vary greatly between individuals and this study included only 10 people. GI can also vary between different batches of food, meaning that products from other manufacturers might have slightly different effects.

In the graph above, they are comparing coconut sugar to glucose, not table sugar (sucrose). I’d like to see it compared to regular table sugar, because that is what coconut sugar is being used to replace.

Overall, I’m not convinced that coconut sugar is really as low on the glycemic index as they claim. Perhaps the Inulin fiber in it slows absorption somewhat, but I’d like to see another study before I make a conclusion.

Houston, we Have a Problem – it is Still Loaded With Fructose

Glass Full Of Sugar Cubes

Regular sugar isn’t bad for you because it is empty calories or has a high GI, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The main reason sugar is so unhealthy, is because it is loaded with Fructose.

Regular table sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose, 50% glucose.

But here is the kicker… even though I see claims all over the web that coconut sugar is effectively fructose free, it is made of 70%-80% sucrose, which is half fructose (3)!

For this reason, coconut sugar supplies almost the same amount of fructose as regular sugar, gram for gram.

Consumed in excess, added sugars will cause all sorts of problems like metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

I don’t see any reason why the same shouldn’t apply to coconut sugar.

The Bottom Line

Coconut sugar is no miracle food. It is very similar to regular table sugar, although the manufacturing process is more natural and it also contains some minor amounts of nutrients to go with it.

If you’re going to use coconut sugar, then use it sparingly. It is slightly “less bad” than regular sugar, but definitely not something you should eat every day.

I’m going to have to put coconut sugar is in the same boat as honey. It is healthier than refined sugar, but definitely worse than no sugar at all.

160 Comments

  1. Mark Vaughan says:

    Great article! Couldn’t agree more! All we can do is to keep fighting the hype with facts!

    • Stacey-Jane says:

      Hey Kris! Great article!

      I am a nutritionist and food scientist and I have been trying to locate published data on coconut sugar and even agave, really not able to find anything conclusive, not relevant to GI, more to the point of GL.

      Strange that there is so much hype around all these seemingly new sweeteners in the market place when there is so little peer reviewed evidence to make conclusions from, huh.

      • Hi Stacey-Jane .

        We have always used brown rice syrup or barley malt as sweeteners, as these grain sweeteners are very complex sugars and are slow release.

        I am curious as to whether coconut palm sugar is a complex or a simple sugar, sounds similar to maple in lots of ways.

      • Thanks for clearing that up! Bottom line: eat in moderation and enjoy every mouthful of it, slowly! Rather than go without and be sad :(

    • Molly Malone says:

      Just so we are all aware, I want to quote what I found on another site that sells coconut products:

      “As retailers in the U.S. and elsewhere also cash in on this new demand, sadly, the other side of the story is not being told. What no one is warning consumers about is that coconut palm trees cannot produce both coconuts and coconut palm sugar! When the sap used to make coconut palm sugar is collected from the coconut palm tree, from the flower bud that will eventually form a coconut, that tree can no longer produce coconuts!

      Think about that for a minute. No coconuts = no coconut oil, no dried coconut, no coconut flour. Is coconut sugar worth giving up these other valued products that come from the coconut? Some claim that if a coconut palm tree is producing coconut sugar, which means that it cannot produce coconuts at the same time, that it can still be converted back to producing coconuts at a later time. However, in Marianita’s experience in growing up in a coconut producing community, she has never seen this happen, and we have not seen any studies that have been conducted published anywhere to back up this claim.”

      http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

      This is serious information. For those that need the low GI of coconut sugar, carry on, but for the rest of us that don’t, perhaps we should look to date sugar, molasses, rapadura, sucanat, maple sugar/syrup and raw honey. Just a thought and hopefully a solution so we can have both the sugar and the coconut rather than just one or the other.

      • Gene Ingram says:

        Hi,

        I lived in the South Pacific in the 1960′s for a year and lived with the island people of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands and watched the men of the islands collect the sap or as they called it “Tody” from the trees everyday, it was given to the kids like we would give ours orange juice or V8. They only cut off one shoot, the tree still had many other shoots that produced the coconuts.

        The Tody cups were made from empty coconut shells with a fiber string to hold the cup on the end of the shoot; the Tody was collected every morning, except when the man wanted to have a more manley drink, and it was left for 3 days at which time it fermented enough to have the alcohol content similar to beer.

        We all ways knew when a man was collecting the “Sour Tody” as he would be singing and the tree would be swaying back and forth. Some of the villages did not allow this. Back then as it still is on some of the islands the coconut was the only source of income, as the nuts were dryed and sold as copra, it took 10 coconuts to produce one pound of copra, and they were paid six cents a pound for number one grade copra, which I never saw, most people got three cents a pound.

    • Eileen Gett says:

      Has anyone heard of Natvia Sugar?

      • Natvia is stevia (sweet herb) and erythritol (naturally found in fruit). Still very processed to turn it white – stevia is a green leaf. So don’t think this is very good for us either from what I have read. Just cut sugar – easier said than done for some of us!

  2. And lets not forget that your reference “The Phillipine Department of Agriculture” has much to gain from the beneficial “studies”. So I have to share your doubts in this matter.

    • Hi,

      1st please read the book of Dr. Fife, he is an American. 2nd, there are lots of books pertaining to this “doubts” you are claiming, thanks for your comment though. If you are still in doubt, take the regular sugar if you please.

  3. While I agree with everything you said, it is still by far the best sweetening agent on the market apart form stevia, but like any refined food, should be consumed in extreme moderation.

    Keep up the excellent work. I applaud your efforts and techniques!

    • The best sweetening agent on the market is erythritol – even better than stevia.

      • Erythritol is from corn and most likely from genetically engineered corn. There might an organic source but I have never seen it labeled as organic or non GMO. Also, it is a sugar alcohol which many people find distressing to their digestive tract. Stevia has neither of these issues.

        • Bputley says:

          Sugar alcohol may seem like a great alternative to replace sugar but for people with diabetes it still raises their blood sugar.

        • Erythritol does not cause digestive distress like other sugar alcohols, at least in my experience.

          • What about agave? Isn’t that a good alternative sweetener?

          • I used erythritol once, never again. Caused horrible cramps and gas. I know, TMI. Now I use stevia and that is benign.

          • Laz – agave is mostly fructose, so no, it’s not a good alternative. It has a low GI rating, but that’s because of the preponderance of fructose.

          • I agree. I have been using erythritol for more than one year now and have not had any gastric problems with it… in stark contrast to maltitol for example.

        • NOW foods’ erythritol comes from non-gmo corn, but like someone else mentioned, unlike Xylitol, sorbitol, and others, erythritol is the least likely to cause any gastric reactions. In addition, it has virtually no impact on your blood sugar whereas Xylitol has a GI of 7.

          • I have tried them all. The best thing is to not eat any of them but it has been my experience that if you need to sweeten things, locally raised honey is the best way to go. Notice I say “locally raised” – I mean in your area. The reason is because there was testing done of all store bought honey and there was no bee pollen in the honey, which indicates that it is not technically honey.

            See this link: http://www.rodalenews.com/research-feed/most-store-bought-honey-isnt-honey-all-tests-show. It is amazing to me.

            Stevia is a great product but you have to get pure stevia, not “Stevia in the raw” – always read the label because there is usually an artificial sweetener added to it and it is always aspartame and its many names, which is dangerous.

        • Susan Kirsop says:

          I think I saw some organic at Winco, if you have those in your area.

  4. I can always count on you to write an article about things that trouble my mind :)

    Thanks!

  5. Thanks for this Kris.

    I find it interesting that we, as a society, are trying to find ‘more acceptable’ versions of table sugar. It doesn’t take much thinking to realise that ANY food that’s so high in refined carbs is gonna be trouble, not just in empty calories, but also in the trickle down effects from eating carbs that just don’t satisfy the brain or cells.

    The sooner we all get rid of our desire for processed carbs, the better, as I’m sure your experiences will agree.

    Thanks again, shared on FB

    George Adventures In Health

  6. ANOTHER great article Kris.

  7. I usually don’t post comments – but like all you articles, this is very informational. Thank you, always great info. Love your site.

  8. What are your thoughts on Date Palm sugar? It is generally listed amongst the ‘healthy’ alternatives to sugar. Thanks for all of your hard work and great info. It has helped me immensely!!

    • I haven’t looked into it, but I’m pretty sure it is very similar to coconut sugar, just extracted from a different type of palm tree.

    • Molly Malone says:

      Actually, though your assumption makes sense, date sugar really is better – and the ‘healthiest’ sugar there is so far. Here’s why: date sugar is not extracted, it is dried dates, dehydrated to dry, and ground. That’s it! All the nutrients in the date are still in the sugar, along with all the fiber. The fiber does slow down the sugar absorption a bit, and because of the fiber this sugar will not dissolve like other sugars – this is the insoluble fiber.

      Like you, I do not advocate sugars in the diet, but this seems like the best one around. Second to this one is molasses – for the vitamins and minerals – but unlike date sugar which has some (not all) of the sugar still bound in the fruit, molasses does not and gets into the blood stream quickly.

      Excellent article. Really, evaporating any sap – coconut or maple or cane – produces concentrated, unbound (in the food) sugar, and probably not so good to eat in any great quantity.

      • Dates/date sugar has slightly more vitamins and slightly less minerals than molasses/blackstrap and rapadura/panela/muscovado.

  9. Just when I think “i wonder if I can get away with this?” Yet another great article to keep me on the right track! Many thanks :)

  10. The Masarang Foundation in Indonesia has tested the Arenga palm sugar produced by its palm sugar factory on the GI and found the index at 29.

    Arenga palm sugar is made from the tree sap of palm tree species – Arenga Pinnata. Yes, it is the tiny amount of natural nutrient that makes all the difference on the GI.

    Regardless of the GI, palm sugar is a natural sweetener, just evaporating the water content from the tree sap, how simple it is, how delicious it is. Most of all, we should honor the farmers who keep the traditional wisdom of tree tapping and save our rainforest!

  11. Coconut sugar also has about 1/3 the amt of protein (1.3%) as whole milk. There are also other growth factors and phytonutrients that contribute to make the coconut.

    Rather than dissecting the fructose content of sucrose and deciding it’s bad! maybe look at coconut sugar as a whole food that provides every nutrient and growth factor necessary to create a coconut.

    Sure don’t go overboard but if you eliminate the other processed foods with high fructose content from your diet then the amount you get from coconut sugar eaten in moderation is not such a problem.

    It also has a content of b vitamins and electrolytes and overall if you are of the mind not to eliminate all sugar from your diet then this is the one you might keep.

    In my opinion the by volume bigger problem in the average diet apart from hidden corn syrup is fruit juice.

    Families who go through litres and litres of concentrated or fresh squeezed fruit juice are putting many times more sugar into their system than someone who has a coconut sugar in their coffee!

    • Mary Titus says:

      I use it and have had good results from it. However, I use everso sparingly.

    • Katie Newville says:

      The sugar-fruit juice thing really hit home for me after we ‘gave up sugar’ and I gave my children fruit juice pop sickles. They went crazy and became emotional and wild as if I had given them caffeine. I had never realized that fruit juice could have so much sugar in it. It’s amazing to me how for every step I take trying to give my children the best food I can, I end up uncovering more things to concern me.

      • Elizabeth Scott says:

        Did you check the ingredients on those pop sickles? Preservatives and artificial colorings/flavorings can have a wild effect on kids’ behavior.

    • Plus, if it is 70-80% sucrose that would mean it’s only about 35-40% fructose. Which is better than 50%.

    • Love your article, thanks… One tablespoon of organic coconut palm sugar is all the sugar I have all day, besides fruit!

  12. Margot B says:

    Don’t all carbs turn to sugar in the body?

    • Technically, the word sugar can mean lots of things. Sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose are all classified as “sugars.”

      But what people generally refer to as “sugar” – which are the added sugars sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, is different.

      These added sugars have both glucose and fructose and it’s the fructose that’s the bad guy.

      Most complex carbs (starches) get broken down into glucose, which is completely different than table sugar. Glucose is fine, as long as you’re not diabetic or doing a low-carb diet.

      That’s why I think it is misleading when some people say that all carbs get turned into “sugar” – because what people commonly associate with the word sugar is sucrose/HFCS.

  13. Mary Titus says:

    I have tried coconut sugar, and monitored it, although in small amounts. It did not spike my blood glucose.

  14. I’ve given up nearly all sugar following my Paleo routine. The few instances where I want to sweeten something, I will use a teaspoon of honey. I thought I would have a harder time giving up sugar, but so far (4 months) I’ve cheated very little and don’t have any serious cravings for sweets. Don’t know why this is, but am happy about it.

  15. Dixichuk says:

    Thanks for a great straightforward commentary. All sweet is naughty, not nice. But a little naughty now and then can make life more fun.

    However, if an otherwise healthy individual is eating enough of any of this stuff to make a difference in whether it is sucrose, fructose, glucose, or some chemically altered pink goo sprayed out of can, then it is too much.

    All sweetening products currently available, if consumed in excess, over time, will have negative health effects that far outweigh any benefits from “accessory” nutrients.

    I am looking forward to trying this in my next devil brownie recipe for it’s flavor aspect, and will monitor the effect on blood sugar, but I always try to remind myself that “if it’s sweet, it must be a treat”… and then run an extra mile or two.

  16. I use Splenda which seems to be the better of all those artificial sweeteners. Here’s another good article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    • Chris Gursche says:

      Sucralose (marketed as Splenda) starts breaking apart at 118° and disintegrates molecularly at about 180°. At the point of breaking apart, it forms dioxins. I don’t have the study handy, but you can google it.

      Worse, using Splenda kills off your beneficial bacteria, without affecting the harmful ones. Double whammy. If I wanted leaky gut, that’s the first thing I would turn to.

      There are no safe artificial sweeteners.

    • Splenda is artificial – As much as sugar in any form is not good for us – artificial anything interferes with the digestive and enzyme process plus the good bacteria in the gut – all of which helps us absorb nutrients, perform metabolic biochemical processes and basically keeps us alive. We are what we eat and its source. Here is an article by Dr. Mercola – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2000/12/03/sucralose-dangers.aspx

  17. This was a very interesting article, I liked that you pointed out the small size of the study. So if I’m baking for my kids, would you say it is better to use honey or coconut sugar? Clearly, they would not be eating any zucchini bread without some type of sweetener!

    • I’d say honey and coconut sugar are probably pretty similar, so I suppose it comes down to which flavor your prefer.

      There are more studies behind honey though:

      http://authoritynutrition.com/is-honey-bad-for-you-or-good/

    • I have read articles saying Splenda is chlorinated sugar and leads to fatty liver. I cannot believe that something so processed is better than something more raw in nature :-/

    • I would use coconut sugar in baking rather than honey as honey changes when heated at high temperatures, to something that in Ayurvedic philosophy creates “ama” (toxins) in the body. Honey is best consumed raw.

    • The best thing you could feed your kids is stevia, unmixed with any other artificial sweeteners. It is a plant. It has no calories at all and does not spike blood sugar. You need half as much to have same amount of sweetness. There are some sites on the web for recipes to convert the sugar quantities one is used to into stevia quantity.

    • I use a combo in my recipes starting with the least amount of sugar – coconut or date, add a heaping tablespoon of organic “raw” local honey or organic dark maple syrup and sometimes will add some organic stevia – usually the combo will give me a sweet enough treat. You may have to wean your kids off of really sweet. When making paleo recipes I use either a banana, homemade applesauce or organic pumpkin which also helps make things sweeter and add fiber to the recipe. I also add chia gel to add fiber and a little flax meal with the eggs so whatever they eat it will be satisfying with enough good fats with the fiber.

  18. But beet sugar which is what white sugar is made from is GMO. I would much rather use Coconut sugar as it is non GMO.

  19. Everything in moderation.

  20. Good article,

    I have removed regular white sugar from my families diet, and went to cane sugar, and removed Brown Sugar for Coconut Sugar, and now use mostly Agave, raw Honey (local) and Coconut Sugar, as a family of 3 small ish children, I am a stay at home mom who cooks homemade, gardens, eats local free range meat, eggs, breads (very little, but are heirloom ancient grains like spelt which is fresh ground of red fife).

    All of this information is very nice to have but also very hard to know which facts are correct, which make sense. For me it’s moderation and my thoughts are “what did my great grandparents do” – not that there weren’t bad things and poorly experimented fads (ie: radioactive water) it’s living with intent.

    The reality is, that I will sweeten my children s cookies and cakes and do my best to make it the best it can be, but we want that damn cookie! ;) However, one is not be all end all especially when you are choosing the “reasonably” better choice.

    Let’s take a look at the stress it causes us, to be stressed about feeding ourselves and families — heart disease is on the rise? Hmm maybe if we could have confidence in our gov’t we could make dinner without thoughts of poisons, or grocery shop in less then 2 hrs…

    • Katie Newville says:

      I want to be friends with you!

    • Holly Harris says:

      I want to be friends too! Awesome response!

    • Shiloh, you are so on point. Everything I eat these days whether it be healthy, non- GMO or not I feel so guilty that I can’t enjoy eating anymore. Thank you for your response to this article.

    • I grew up before processed food and we all survived without having a nutritionist vet our every bite. No pizza bars, no fast food. Pain free eating.

    • The power of thought is indeed a mighty force and affecting our feelings all the time. True, there are so many concerns with the amazing amount of contaminants and misinformation in our current society. Healthy thought patterns in the mind are as essential to well-being as healthy matter into the body.

      This is the concept behind the offering of food to the gods or to god or a supreme source/being in various religions. I am a yogic practitioner and when I began to eat with consciously created healthy thoughts and gratitude while eating good unprocessed foods, it gave me so much more energy. Believe the food you eat is going to serve the highest in you and be grateful and it will actually help…

  21. Everyone should check out Xylitol, a natural sweetener from the bark of the birch tree. No spikes, great for diabetics, fights tooth decay. Looks and tastes just like sugar.

    • I use Xylitol exclusively for controlling tooth decay. I use coconut sugar for sweetening and I enjoy the flavor but use it sparingly. I think the best is just avoid white, refined sugar of any kind.

      Also, I heard that Agave is bad for one of the major organs; that it causes deterioration like fructose which turns into a alcohol that can’t be neutralized.

  22. Michael says:

    I use Coconut sugar every day for coffee. That is my only use of sugar on a day to day basis. I find it has a ton more flavour and no aftertaste. This sugar is 1:1 but if you were to eat a 1/2 tsp of this straight, you would actually taste flavour and not just sweet. If you eat sugar straight it tastes like candy with no flavour.

    My point is – if I eat it everyday and you are saying you should not eat it everyday then what are the benefits to mixing this up with other refined sugars? Do they have any benefits? Because to me, it seems to be something that just makes sense. I can eat it straight (quite nice if you need a sweet fix and don’t want to hit the complex carbs) or use it in coffee or even on cereal and it is 10X more satisfying that refined sugar.

    I recently looked up the downsides to most other sweeteners and I see no warnings about coconut sugar except for excessive use of. Excessive use of anything is bad for you. Coconut sugar is 100% what you expect it to be – I can’t say the same for any other sweetener or refined sugars.

    • If you’re eating coconut sugar every day and aren’t having issues, then I don’t see a problem. This all depends on the individual, some people can tolerate small amounts of sugar, others can’t.

      • I am surprised that no one is talking about xylitol. Looks and tastes like sugar. No aftertaste that stevia has.

        • Xylitol is great for cold things like ice cream, but I don’t like it in baked goods, because of it’s strange cooling effect. Also, it is a laxative, so you have to use it very very sparingly! Some people cannot tolerate it at all.

          I use coconut sugar for a sometimes treat for my child or husband, or a tiny bit to round out stevia flavor. I notice it does not cause blood sugar spikes in small amounts.

          • Francesca says:

            Xylitol has numerous health benefits and even some medical uses. But… It is fatal to pets, which is why I don’t purchase anything containing xylitol. I keep people food away from my dogs (except human grade dog food) but accidents happen, and I would be devastated if they died because they scrounged my Xylitol laden snack.

  23. Jodie Egan says:

    Rice malt syrup is fructose free and has a GI of around 25.

  24. Are you sure about the fructose content of 70%-80%? I just read the study you cited and it quotes the fructose levels are between 3% and 12%. Am I missing something?

    • The sucrose content of coconut sugar is 70-80%.

      Sucrose is half glucose, half fructose, so if coconut sugar contains 80% sucrose, it means that at least half, or 40% of the coconut sugar, is fructose.

      • It’s a stretch to say that coconut sugar therefore contains 40% fructose – sucrose act like sucrose in the body not like all of it’s constituent parts. Coconut sugar contains 3% fructose.

        • No, sucrose gets broken down into its constituent parts before it is absorbed. Coconut sugar contains 35-40% fructose (from sucrose) + 3-12% free fructose.

  25. If it were as simple as that the GI would be higher like the constituent parts.

    • Like I clearly stated in the article, there is only one source for the low GI of coconut sugar and it seems like it may be a biased source.

      There may be small amounts of fiber and other nutrients in it that slow breakdown and cause it to have a lower GI, but eventually all those sugars will be broken down and absorbed into the body. Coconut sugar contains almost as much fructose as regular table sugar, period.

      • Bputley says:

        Kris have you ever looked into the Chia seed? It has many benefit and one of the huge benefits is the slow absorption of carbohydrates and sugars in the body so people with diabetes can regulate their blood sugar levels. There is a ton more benefits, just look it up on google.

  26. Francine says:

    Thank you for a great post. I have been advocating my nutrition since the age of 23, now 61 I am amazed at the dramatic changes in the food industry. At one time I quit sugar altogether, the benefits were a lean figure. Now (not diabetic) I monitor my sugar intake, drink only water and don’t do starches or wheat.

    I have a moderate sweet tooth and I monitor it carefully because I am still health and body conscious. Not to encourage sugar, but I discovered gymnemma sylvestre (GS) an herb from Paraguay taken before your sugars daily, naturally mimics your sugar intake and tells your body it has all it needs, and to eliminate the rest as waste. Some companies put it in products for diabetics.

    I never binge but since I don’t do starches I maintain balance with sweet treat 1x a week or every other week. Even if I am just having coffee I do GS, I tested the difference doing sweets with it and without it several times, on the digital scale. It does make a difference in my weight after sugars, I have been using it for years. I am going to try out the coconut palm nectar on my buckwheat waffles, which I just discovered yesterday.

    I am attracted to the fact its unrefined (unlike agave) and has lots of nutrients. I think our nutrition is a matter of exchanges, everything in moderation. Thank you for this excellent post and the excellent comments in this community. Namaste

    • Hi Francine,

      Like you, I have been health and nutrition conscious since my early twenties. I was overweight and finally after reading many back issues of Prevention magazine, I gave up junk food and ate whole foods. I lost the weight without even trying, and I became a preventative health advocate for myself and my family.

      I am now 54, have some health issues I am working on, but overall doing well. I would love to know more about what you do for health and wellness and for anti-aging.

      Kathryn in IL

  27. Paul Krautter says:

    Get a home glucose meter. Take a measured portion, 50g, of a food, ex. coconut sugar, eat it, check your sugar in one hour, do it several times, compare to other foods, and you have something better than any book or theory, you have the result in you, yourself a unique creature.

  28. Kris: I found your website about a week ago and have been reading all of your articles. Thank you so much for writing articles with LINKS TO THE REFERENCED LITERATURE! I’m a scientist (but nowhere near nutritional sciences) who is skeptical of everything I read and so its been helpful to go straight to the articles for verification of any claims.

    I have a question about 2 “natural” sweeteners for low carb diets I’ve read about: Yacon syrup and Monkfruit sweetener. Do you have any info about these? For Yacon syrup, I’ve read that its made up of 50% FOS (fructooligosacharides) which means it won’t spike your blood glucose, but I can’t figure out what the OTHER 50% is. For Monkfruit sweetener, apparently its sweet not because of natural sugars but because it contains an antioxidant called mogroside. Comments?

    • Hello Sabine, thanks!

      I’ve never heard of either of those sweeteners so it’s tough for me to answer your question without investing time researching them. Maybe you can find something on PubMed or Google Scholar, if you’re looking for the actual studies.

      I found a Wikipedia article on Yacon syrup, seems to be legit with some studies behind it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yacon_syrup

      • Kathi Williams says:

        I saw Yacon Syrup featured on Dr. Oz about a month ago. It was featured for weight loss. The premise was that it contains prebiotics that your body needs to reduce fat in your system.

        Dosage is 1 teaspoon prior to meals. I tried it, loved the flavor. I wish it was available as pancake syrup, salad dressing, bbq sauce, I wish there were recipes for Yacon cake, brownies, cookies. It’s absolutely delicious. It rivals chocolate in my book as far as favorite foods.

        Some people liken it to figs or raisins. Interestingly, I detest both of those things. It reminds me of brown sugar with more intensity, not buttery but a deeper sweetness. The aftertaste has a slight warmth to it which is quite pleasant.

        I am a dedicated Xylitol user and would quickly change over to Yacon completely if it were in crystallized form because I could bake with it.

        I have a persistent sweet tooth and Yacon satisfies it.

  29. Christina says:

    I went to the reference for the fructose content numbers and you read the reference incorrectly. It says,

    “Sugar contents found in Malang samples (mean of 8) were 70.85% sucrose, 3.00% glucose and 2.92% fructose, with (mean of 3) Aw 0.69, equivalent to moisture content 13.5% on DM; corresponding contents in Yogyakarta samples were 78.97%, 3.45%, 3.12% and 13.2% (Aw 0.69) and in Denpasar samples 70.52%, 8.96%, 9.00% and 10.8% (Aw 0.63).” (This was reference 3 in your article)

    That means the fructose in coconut sugar was 2.92%-13.2% (I couldn’t tell in the citation if the final percentage for each sample set was a fructose number or not, so if it isn’t, the highest number was 9%). That’s not 70-80% fructose!

    Even if we draw the numbers out and say half the sucrose listed is going to be converted to fructose in the body, we still have fructose numbers of 38.35%, 42.61%-52.69%, and 44.26%-46.06%. Still close to half your numbers.

    • Where did I say that coconut sugar is 70-80% fructose? Please read the article again.

      I think I state pretty clearly that the fructose content of coconut sugar is “almost the same” as sucrose, implying that it is close to 50%.

      Maybe I should fix this part of the article, since many people seem to be confused about it.

      • Christina says:

        Ah, I see where I misread it. I think it is a bit difficult (though clear if I’m really reading more closely) to understand that by saying it is 70-80% sucrose, you are meaning that it is 35-40% fructose, since that is still quite a bit less fructose than in table sugar. If it has 35% fructose, that’s really not bad, especially if it also has a lower glycemic index than table sugar (though as you said, it would be good to see a better comparison on that point).

  30. Thoughts on “Just Like Sugar”, from chicory root? I eat it in Quest Protein Bars and the taste is good.

  31. I definitely agree that the best solution is to eat very little of any sweetener, and that we should stop looking for a miracle that will magically let us carry on eating sweet, carb-heavy diets and still be healthy. However, since I have Fibromyalgia and multiple food sensitivities, cane sugar and some other sweeteners actually make me feel really terrible. Like, dizzy with headaches.

    So I was really glad to find coconut sugar so I can have a treat occasionally. It has never made me feel sick, even the few times I’ve gone overboard with it, so there must be at least one positive difference.

    • Fibromyalgia, food sensitivities? It’s not what you’re eating. I had an allergic reaction to anything w/MSG for 20 years – heavy itchy rash when I ate anything w/MSG or “natural flavors”. Try opening your mind and body to EFT (emotional freedom technique) Try a website called EFT with Brad Yates. Rash gone in 10 minutes, incredible results and it’s free! I can eat anything, no aches & pains – it’s all upstairs, try it.

      • Lynda Kirkness says:

        I tried to believe that it is “all upstairs”. It was alright–eating cane sugar-no matter how natural caused headaches and sinus congestion for weeks and only antibiotics would make it stop. I will try the coconut palm sugar-expecting it to not be cane sugar.

    • Lynda Kirkness says:

      I just learned from you why cane sugar makes me sick. I have fibro and allergies. I bought coconut palm sugar tonight expecting to not be allergic to it. I cannot eat any cane sugar-even organic, natural etc. I hope I can eat this sugar in my oatmeal and baking. I will find out tomorrow morning. What is stevia like? Isn’t xylitol too processed to be natural? I was told that by someone working in a health food store.

  32. Hi, I’d just like to say that there is one big difference between coconut sugar and ordinary table sugar – nutrition. If you buy organic coconut sugar it is full of minerals and vitamins which make it a much better choice than many conventional sweeteners. I know that like Heidi, where I react to other sweeteners (even high sugar fruits) I don’t react to coconut sugar.

    And as far as the whole obesity thing goes, how many obese Thai people do you see in traditional Thailand? They use coconut sugar in many dishes – sweet and savoury and it has been a part of their staple diet forever.

    • I agree with Heidi and Sue. I am insulin resistant and have very evident and immediate physical reactions to simple carbs. While, yes, all things in moderation, my insulin clearly does not react to coconut sugar the same way it does to simple carbs (including table sugar). This is evidence for me that the glycemic index/load is, in fact, low.

      I am with you, though, that I would love to see more studies done to substantiate the claims made for this sweetener. Bottom line, what we believe is healthy today will likely change in 10 years or less. Not so long ago, it was all about cutting the fat and things like pasta and pretzels, with little or no fat, were the thing to eat. Before that, it was all about just cutting calories.

      Now we know better, or at least we think we do ;)

  33. Can you tell me how coconut syrup differs from coconut sugar?

  34. In your opinion, is coconut sugar a better choice than raw sugar?

  35. I have Klebsiella, it’s like yeast in that it feeds on sugar so I try to have a sugar free diet. Although, I do eat a small amount of rice and fruit.

    I was also allowing small amounts of coconut sugar in my diet. Do you think it’s likely to feed the klebsiella bacteria?

  36. Stephanie Jospa says:

    Thanks so much for this… great info, and great discussion to be had. Here’s some other info from Tropical Traditions, whom I respect and trust:

    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

    They discuss how turning the market towards production of coconut palm sugar is unsustainable and causing shortages of all other coconut products. To me, it’s much more important to have access to coconut oil, and other (sustainably grown) coconut products, than to have the sugar.

    • Stephanie 80% of coconut production was for copra for its glycerin – yes as in nitroglycerin for bombs/munitions) up until a few years ago – there are millions of acres that are being converted to coconut water/flour/oil and sugar now and it’s giving the farmers a diverse income. Coconut sugar production is the most sustainable of all sugar production.

      Just need to get the bomb makers to move over – they were paying peanuts – coconut sugar is great for the farmers as are all the other products comming from these wonderful trees.

  37. Annamarie says:

    Hi Kris, thank you for your article, have you done much research on birch xylitol…? That is what we use as an alternative. Also, is there a natural sweetener that is safe to use?

  38. Thank you for this. I am very new to “eating clean” and there is so much misinformation out there… everyone wants to say this product and that product performs miracles.

    Seriously. Thanks.

  39. Maria Carr says:

    I have not tried coconut sugar simply because I researched and found that it was almost as bad as cane sugar. I have not had sugar in such a long time and if once I ate something sweet on my birthday and ended up with a massive headache. It is like a drug and I do remember going through withdrawals when I quit.

    However, I have recently stumbled across (in my quest for optimum health), rice malt syrup. It is delicious and none of the nasties that are in sugar.

    Do the research yourself and you too will want to try this delicious sweetener. You can use it in place of honey too, great drizzled on protein pancakes.

  40. Beverley Denman says:

    This is very interesting. I have been researching this topic for some time now. I read something quite startling, and would appreciate your take on it.

    Has to do with agave syrup/nectar. Seems we all have been duped. It apparently is worse for us than hfcs. The article I read says that hfcs contains 55% fructose where as agave nectar contains over 90%.

    Also, the agave plant is not a fruit… therefore does not contain fructose naturally. It has been chemically altered. Do you have any thoughts on this topic?

  41. I just used some coconut palm sugar on my paleo chocolate mousse. Before I would use raw honey, agave nectar, stevia and worried about the high sugar contents. Hard to know what is best to sweeten with. Pretty much I’m sticking to coco sugar and raw honey in very small doses and infrequently. I still struggle with totally sugar free eating.

  42. Nice website Kris! Thanks for your hard work.

  43. Wow. I just scanned all the comments… basically everything is “good” but will kill you somehow eventually.

  44. I have been using the Organic Coconut Sugar every day now for a few months. First, you have to make sure it’s not machined processed because some of them, although the claim to be organic, are ruined in the processing. I use the Wholesome Organic Coconut Sugar, that the Food babe suggested on foodbabe.com, she stated that it’s not only packed with health benefits, but it’s not bad for you like white sugar.

    The result I’m seeing is, I have gained a few pounds, but it could be due to some other things as well, but I have to say with 100% certainty that it has given me a TON of energy. I am so much more productive throughout my day, especially after drinking it in my coffee in the morning, which is all I use it for daily.

    I have baked with it, it’s very good, and plan on using it in all my recipes that call for sugar from now on. AND, I am sensitive to sugar, especially in the morning, it makes me feel sick, but this sugar does not. I feel great after my coffee. I use two tsp. in my coffee every day, and that’s it, so the thing about not giving you energy nutrients unless you use a lot of it, is not the case at all, it’s packed with the energy vitamin B, and I can tell the difference.

    I was thinking of using Stevia but it has so many bad issues with the processing that it causes health risks, along with a lot of other sweeteners some of you mentioned here, go to food babe and see what she says about them. There’s only one stevia product she will endorse because it is processed naturally, which I do plan on trying, but I just love the energy I’m feeling. I also switched to unrefined organic virgin Coconut Oil too. Good luck and good health to everyone.

  45. Ben Ripple says:

    Kris,

    First of all, great blog. Since bumping into your site today I have been reviewing your articles and I find your content really engaging and helpful.

    Second of all, I wanted to comment on Coconut Sugar. I speak both as a parent of two amazing daughters who are growing up on coconut sugar and honey as the only sweeteners in a household, as well as (drumroll) an owner of the pioneering brand of coconut sugar in the global market, Big Tree Farms.

    I have been living on-farm in Indonesia with my wife Blair (and now two daughters) for the past 13 years. Coconut Sugar (which is a specific form of palm sugar produced purely from the fresh flower nectar of coconut palms) is truly an incredible product.

    We are (as far as I know) the only company that is actively testing the Glycemic Index of our product on a monthly basis in order to be able to speak with authority on how GI is affected by naturally occurring variances. On average our GI tests show 37 for our most popular granulated format “Blonde” which is available under the name SweetTree at WholeFoods nationwide in the States.

    I would very much like to support you in your effort to learn more about coconut sugar as I personally think this is a game-changing sweetener at every level (personal health, social development and environmental benefit). Let me know if you would like to speak more.

    Best,
    Ben Ripple

    • I think your product is fantastic. I am hypoglycemic AND a sweet-aholic! I pay dearly for my addiction to sugar and have tried every substitute available. I liked Agave, but from all the studies it is not the healthiest choice. Xylitol in small amounts is a great substitute for cooking recipes. The coconut sugar I have used in baking and ice cream, among others. Although Stevia is supposedly the best substitute for you, the bitter taste of it is intolerable (for me at least).

      For some reason it doesn’t not taste like that in Red Mango frozen yogurt, but when I use it, whether liquid or power, it is terrible. Your coconut palm sugar has no such bitterness. It is the closest substitute for brown sugar in cookie recipes as well. I love and I really try to stay away from sweet things as much as possible. But if I decide to splurge, it better taste good! Thanks for a great product.

  46. Great articles! Surely something will kill someone some day!

    But we need to eat healthy in order to have good conscience.

    Me and my family feed on moringa, quail eggs and stevia. We are very healthy. Try it out!

  47. Thank you for this information. I have just ordered some organic palm sugar. But I reserve these things only for special occasions which is once in a while. I agree with a lot of people here that if it’s sweet and a relatively “empty” carb/sugar it can not be good and must be used in extreme moderation.

    I pulled my own sweet tooth a couple of months ago and it’s definitely worth it. I’m a much healthier person and enjoy food in its natural unsweetened state.

  48. I’m a type 1 diabetic and used coconut sugar once to treat a hypo – it didn’t work! So I think it truly does have a very low GI, but as you say is still pretty much empty calories.

  49. Thanks Alisa.

    Yes I have heard a similar story before regarding coconut sugar failing to lift the blood sugar quickly when a type 1 diabetic has a low blood sugar episode (hypo) so thanks for reinforcing this point.

    Under those circumstances, the diabetic is looking for a quick lift in blood sugar so would be better off with table sugar or any high GI sugar and this is further proof that this natural coconut sugar is more complex than its component parts – otherwise the sucrose component would have quickly broken down to its component parts – fructose and glucose and lifted your blood sugar Alisa.

    I think there is a lot more to the coconut sugar story than is first apparent – don’t forget that it provides all nutrients for the formation of the coconut including plant hormones and growth factors. As far as I can see – with coconut sugar we have an all natural product that does what it is supposed to do – it’s blood sugar friendly and tastes great – it’s easy to cook with and is safer than any synthetic alternative.

    If you need a natural sweetener, it is my first choice – but that doesn’t mean you can go overboard with it as it still has calories and if you use common sense you will use coconut sugar in moderation.

  50. I read so many people using/recommending xylitol yet I remember reading that while it may come from a natural source it is highly processed and by the end is no more than a chemical. This from Wikipedia is enough to put me off it:

    “industrial production starts from xylan (a hemicellulose) extracted from hardwoods[10] or corncobs, which is hydrolyzed into xylose and catalytically hydrogenated into xylitol.”

    No thanks, I’ll stick to stevia and honey.

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