Is Coconut Sugar Healthier than White Sugar?
Coconut nectar sugar
What is it?
A natural sweetener from the sap of the coconut flower. Coconut nectar sugar is available as a liquid syrup and solid crystals.
The health claims?
- Coconut nectar sugar is sugar-free
- It’s low calorie
- It is more nutritious and healthy than white sugar
The scientific facts?
- Contrary to popular health claims, coconut nectar sugar is not sugar free or low calorie. It contains around 70% of the sugar found in normal table sugar (sucrose – which is made from fructose and glucose) and around the same calorie count as white sugar.
- The reason coconut nectar sugar is seen as the superfood alternative to regular sugar is because it has a lower glycaemic index (GI) score i.e. it doesn’t cause blood sugar to rise as dramatically as regular sugar. Specifically, white sugar has a GI rating of 60 whereas coconut nectar sugar has a score of 35. And if you’re interested, a high GI food is one with a score of 70 or more, a medium GI food has a score of 56-69 and a low GI food has a rating of 55 or less. The Glycaemic Index Foundation has more details.
- Unlike white sugar, which is essentially just sugar, coconut nectar sugar has other nutrients like the fibre inulin (which is why it has a lower GI score), vitamins B1, B2, B6, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc and small amounts of protein (16 whole amino acids). This is what earns it its superfood status – however, you’ve got to bear in mind that most people will only have a small quantity of coconut nectar in a dish and that is not going to provide a significant amount of the key vitamins, minerals and amino acids in coconut nectar.
- It’s also important to point out that scientific studies on the nutritional value of coconut nectar sugar are not plentiful. One by the Food and Research Institute in the Philippines demonstrates the low GI score of coconut nectar sugar, but with a small study size, its accuracy can be questioned.
Nutritional facts – Coconut nectar sugar versus white table sugar
Is coconut nectar really that much healthier than white table sugar? Here’s how they compare (100g):
- Kcals: Solid coconut nectar sugar 392 v White sugar 387
- Protein: Coconut nectar 2g v White sugar 0g
- Carbohydrate: Coconut nectar 92g v White sugar 100g
- Sugars: Coconut nectar 88g v White sugar 100g
- Fibre: Coconut nectar 2g v White sugar 0g
- Fat: Coconut nectar 2g v White sugar 0g
- Vitamins and minerals: Coconut nectar contains a whole host of amino acids, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and zinc that white sugar does not.
Winner: Coconut nectar sugar – it’s just as sweet as white sugar but contains less actual sugar (sucrose) and more protein, vitamins and minerals.
Worth the hype?
That’s down to personal preference. Its low GI score and lower sucrose levels makes coconut nectar a better way to consume sugar than going for refined white sugar. But, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re ‘sugar-free’ if you’re eating coconut sugar all day every day. It’s still a sugar, which means that it should be consumed in moderation just like honey, maple syrup and any other natural sugar.