What is coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar?
The reasons why I can’t trust nor recommend coconut sugar
I knew that those natural sweeteners that have a low glycemic index (polyalcohols), do not form caramel: both these properties are due to their chemical structures that are different from that of sugar’s.
Of course I live with a good amount of healthy scepticism: I can accept any surprising fact if it is supported by sound scientific evidence. I would have been very happy about a low GI natural sweetener, that smells like caramel when heated.
1. It consists mainly of simple table sugar
So I did some reading on coconut sugar. Based on Wikipedia and this page, it consists primarily of 70-90% sucrose, or simple table sugar/cane sugar/beet sugar. So I understood where the caramel comes from. It is also rich in minerals, compared even to brown cane sugar. This is sweet, but, in my opinion, if someone consumes sweets in moderate amounts, one teaspoon of coconut palm sugar in their morning coffee contains only negligible quantities of magnesium, potassium, etc. There is no use of the high mineral content if you increase your sugar intake to make use of it.
2. Low glycemic index – according to whom?
About the low glycemic index: I just simply don’t buy it. If the glycemic index of beet sugar is 65, then coconut sugar really needs to be something special so that the GI of sucrose could be 35 in this composition and 65 in the other. I know about two things that can lower a food’s glycemic index: fibers and fats. Both work basically the same way: they “wrap up” the carbohydrates in the digestive tract, so our digestive enzymes have a hard time getting to them. This way, it takes more time to digest and absorb these nutrients so foods with a low glycemic index elevate our bloodsugar levels more slowly. Coconut sugar does not contain fibers or fats in considerable amounts that could be responsible for a glycemic index lowering effect.
So where is this GI=35 values coming from? Who did the study? Clicking through some articles I stumbled across the original certificate, based on the up-to-date only study on this subject. I cannot accept the results, as the test has been performed with 10 participants, only. Our metabolism shows a great personal variety: it even depends on our daily rhythm, previous physical activity, etc. If this test has been performed with e.g. 10 athletes, it is hardly representative of the whole population. Moreover, coconut sugar has been consumed in solid form, while the glucose used for the comparison has been given in a solution. As nutrients can only be absorbed from solutions, coconut sugar had to form a solution to be available for digestion – a comparison like this is not fair.
Moreover, this study has been performed in the Philippines, in an institution of public interest, while this country is the biggest exporter of coconut sugar in the world nowadays. This fact definitely does not enhance the authenticity of the presented data. Only if more indepenent studies carried out with more participants gave similar results could I trust the low glycemic index of coconut palm sugar. Of course, I would still be interested why sucrose is supposed to be absorbed more slowly from coconut sugar, but like I said before: I can be convinced of practically anything with sound scientific evidence.
3. Coconut palm sugar production is not sustainable
More voices raised against coconut palm sugar
I am not the only one who does not trust coconut sugar, as a healthy sugar alternative: other health bloggers are also raising questions about the hows and whys, e.g. here.
Do you have a personal experience with coconut palm sugar? If there are any facts that you would like to share, especially if you monitor your blood sugar levels, please do!