We all know that the humble coconut can have a variety of health benefits. But do you know much about coconut sugar? Nutritionist Cassandra Barns reveals three benefits of coconut sugar over refined sugar.
1.) Minerals and vitamins
All natural sources of sugar come with other nutrients found in the plant, particularly minerals. But because white sugar is refined, it is stripped of most, if not all, of these other nutrients. This makes it little more than a source of ‘empty calories’. In fact, it uses up more of the body’s nutrients to process it than it actually provides!
Unrefined coconut sugar, on the other hand, is pure coconut palm sap with the water evaporated and isn’t processed or refined in any other way. It naturally contains minerals such as potassium, zinc, iron and calcium, and it can be a source of vitamin B1 too. The amounts of these nutrients are generally small, but this does mean coconut sugar is not just ‘empty calories’.
2.) Better for your blood sugar balance
Being unrefined, coconut sugar may also have a lower glycaemic index (GI). Glycaemic index is a measure of the effect of the food on our own blood sugar: high-GI foods tend to contain quickly absorbed carbohydrates and cause a greater peak in our blood sugar; lower-GI foods have a smaller effect on our blood sugar, helping to keep it more stable.
This can have several benefits, including more balanced energy and improved mood, focus and concentration. Eating lower-GI foods can also be better for our long-term health, as high blood sugar levels are associated with developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Again, the difference between coconut sugar and white sugar may be small, but it does make coconut sugar a better choice.
3.) Avoid unwanted chemicals
Several different chemicals may be used to bleach refined white sugar, similar to white flour. As those chemicals aren’t actually ingredients in the product, they don’t have to be listed on the label. Of course, food production standards will require that any chemical traces remaining in the sugar are below safe levels. But if you had the choice, would you prefer to eat a food that may contain traces of bleaching chemicals, or a natural sugar that has never come into contact with these chemicals? The answer is obvious to me!