Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener with a golden to brownish color and a crystal or slightly granular structure. As it consists mainly of sucrose, its taste can be compared to that of caramel.
Coconut sugar is extracted from coconut palms /Coco nucifera/. This type of plant belongs to the Arecaceae family and is found in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Tanzania and Malaysia.
The coconut palm can grow up to about thirty meters in height. It has green, feathery leaves that reach a length of four to six meters. As the leaves age, they fall out and the trunk of the plant remains bare and smooth.
Palms produce between 10 and 150 fruit per year, weighing up to 2.5 kilograms. Each coconut has a white hard nut inside, which is consumed, as well as the coconut water, which can also be used for food purposes.
Interestingly, however, coconut sugar is not obtained from the fruit of coconut palms, but from their flowers. It has been used as a traditional sweetener for centuries by the peoples of Southeast Asia, where a large number of these trees grow.
Coconut sugar content
Coconut sugar is a source of vitamins and minerals. Since this type of sweetener is not processed, it contains the same sixteen amino acids, that are present in the liquid from which it is produced.
It turns out that it contains aspartic acid, glutamic acid, serine, threonine, as well as small amounts of various other essential and non-essential amino acids.
Meanwhile, coconut sugar also contains valuable minerals such as magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, manganese, copper, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, boron, zinc, iron, protein, fat and carbohydrates. This natural sweetener is also a source of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B8 and vitamin B12.
Coconut sugar production
In order to produce coconut sugar, you must first extract the juice from the flowers of the coconut palm. For this purpose, the flowers are cut and an almost transparent liquid substance flows from them. The juice is then collected in special bamboo containers.
The material thus obtained is subjected to heating, so that it can be released from the water content. After this process, a thick substance is obtained, which in turn is subjected to cooling to obtain the coconut sugar available on the market.
Cooking with coconut sugar
Coconut sugar can be used to sweeten coffee, teas, natural juices and smoothies, but also in the preparation of homemade pastries such as cakes. It adds a special fine texture to creams and dough, unlike ordinary sugar.
For cakes, it is usually melted after 5 minutes in the liquid, which is needed for the composition (milk, butter, yogurt, liquid cream, fruit sauce, melted butter, etc.). No special tricks are needed in the recipes: just replace the usual amount of sugar needed for this recipe with an equivalent amount of coconut sugar. The resulting pastries will have a more porous appearance due to the granulation of the sugar.
In recent years, it has become a worthy substitute for agave in many vegan recipes, as well as in the sweet temptations preferred by people who enjoy raw foods. It usually replaces white sugar in a ratio of 1:1.
It can also be used to sweeten fruit salads, fruit milks and baked fruit. It is especially suitable for flavoring nectars, juices and hot drinks such as coffee and tea.
Benefits of coconut sugar
It is believed that this natural product is very healthy for our body and is superior in many respects to other sweeteners (especially aspartame, cyclamen and saccharin).
With more sugar substitutes the glycemic index is over 69 and with refined sugar it can reach even 90. On the other hand, with coconut sugar it is only 35, which means, that after consuming the product, the body releases balanced energy from the incoming energy, without it having a drastic effect on blood sugar levels. It is this invaluable quality of coconut sugar that makes it extremely suitable for people who suffer from diabetes, as well as for those of us who are prone to the disease.
Undoubtedly the most tangible property of coconut sugar is its ability to charge the body up with energy. Taken in the morning with coffee, it quickly invigorates and in the evening - helps to overcome the fatigue accumulated during the day..
However, the positive qualities of this sweetener do not end there. As already mentioned, it is a source of vitamins, minerals, essential and non-essential amino acids. All of them are necessary for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
It turns out that using this type of sweetener helps to get rid of depression and it relieves anxiety. It also affects the human metabolism. It is also needed for cell growth and repair, as well as hormone production.
Coconut sugar has long been used in Asia, but not only as a sweetener in sweet temptations, but also as an additive in some herbal medicines. Real and quality coconut sugar does not contain preservatives or other additives and for this reason it can be found in specialized organic stores.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this type of sugar substitute is among the most common sweeteners currently available.
Coconut sugar can take the form of:
- sugar paste;
- powdered sugar;
- ordinary sugar granules;
- sugar blocks.
This way, coconut sugar has different colors: from very light yellow to dark brown.
Coconut sugar is less processed than other types of sugar, less sweet, but more nutritious, full of minerals and vitamins.
Coconut sugar is also processed, but it does not go through as many stages of refining as regular sugar, such as white sugar. And in this case we are talking about a minimum stage of processing.
Which makes it a much more natural sweetener, that retains much of its nutrients: iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B8, polyphenols, phytonutrients, flavonoids, antioxidants, vital to our body. What other sugars and sweeteners are that nutritious and beneficial?
Inulin, which is found in the fiber of the juice from which coconut sugar is extracted, has a much lower glycemic index than regular commercial sugar (ie 35 vs. 60).
This means that coconut sugar does not raise your blood sugar levels and is the only natural sweetener that can do this. In addition, coconut sugar helps lower bad cholesterol in the body.
Even the fructose content in coconut sugar is much lower than that of other sweeteners: 45% compared to 90% fructose found, for example, in agave syrup. All this eventually turns into a much less sweet taste than other types of sugar and sweeteners. At the same time, we need to know that the aroma and taste vary depending on the type of palm from which the coconut sugar is extracted.
Harm from coconut sugar
Like most sweeteners, coconut sugar can cause some damage to the body. Such phenomena can be observed if it is taken regularly in excessive amounts. Then there is a risk that the product will cause overweight or even obesity.
Although slightly healthier than cane sugar, the "common" we are used to, coconut sugar should be used sparingly, in small amounts and after discussion with a nutritionist, especially if we suffer from diabetes, metabolic diseases, digestive, liver or renal. The doctor can tell us how much and in what combinations we can consume coconut sugar.
In addition, we must not forget that this sweetener also contains fructose, a type of sugar that is quickly converted into fat in our body. Therefore, we should not consume large amounts of fructose other than the one, that we get from fresh fruit. By default, we should not use large amounts of coconut sugar every day, but only occasionally - when we want to prepare a cake, for example.