Coconut Sugar: Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects, & How To Make

Medically Reviewed by Avantii Deshpaande, MSc in Food Science & Nutrition, Certified Nutrigenomic Counselor
Written by Aparna Mallampalli, BEd (Biological Sciences), MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition

Many people avoid sugar to maintain their overall health or are switching to better alternatives like coconut sugar. The benefits of coconut sugar are getting attention from many health enthusiasts. It is unrefined, has a low glycemic index compared to regular white sugar, and takes longer to digest. Coconut sugar may prevent the spike in blood sugar levels up to a certain extent.

Read this article to learn more benefits of coconut sugar, its nutritional profile, and possible side effects. Scroll down.

What Is Coconut Sugar And How Is It Made?

Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut trees. It is said to retain certain nutrients from the coconut palm and is used as a sweetener in many cuisines. It is unrefined has a low glycemic index when compared to regular white sugar.

Coconut sugar is made through a simple process. Nectar is collected from the coconut palm, mixed with water, and boiled until it attains a syrupy consistency. It is dried and allowed to crystallize, which is then broken down into sugar crystals.

What nutrients does coconut sugar have? Let’s find this out in the following section. Keep reading!

Nutritional Profile Of Coconut Sugar

100g of coconut sugar contain (1):

 

Energy400 kcal
Protein0g
Total lipid (fat)0g
Carbohydrate, by the difference100g
Fiber, total dietary0g
Sugars80 g (sucrose)

3 to 8 g (fructose)

Sodium, Na240 mg
Fatty acids0g
Cholesterol0 mg
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)Trace amounts

Coconut sugar is minimally refined, especially when compared with regular white sugar. So, what health benefits does it have? Keep reading to learn about them.

Potential Health Benefits Of Coconut Sugar

1. Helps Manage Glucose Levels And Post-Meal Sugar Spikes

Many people with diabetes prefer coconut sugar as an alternative to table sugar due to its low glycemic index. This sugar is also relatively less refined, and may potentially cause fewer sugar spikes.

In diabetic rats, coconut kernel protein was found to reduce the spike in glucose and insulin levels. It also normalized glycogen levels in the liver and the activities of carbohydrate-metabolizing enzymes (2). However, coconut sugar contains no protein. Hence, more studies are warranted to further understand this benefit of coconut sugar.

Other studies suggest that the xylose (sugar) in coconut controls postprandial (post-meal) spikes in glucose and insulin levels by acting as a sucrose inhibitor (3). However, more quality research is warranted in this regard.

2. May Promote Gut Health

Studies show that coconut sugar contains inulin (a starchy substance) (4). Inulin was found to modify the composition of gut microbiota and improve their function (5). It also improved satiety and intestinal discomfort, and decreased cravings for sweet and salty foods. However, more research is warranted to understand the benefits of inulin from coconut sugar.

3. Is Rich In Antioxidants

Studies show that coconut sugar retains many antioxidants, including ascorbic acid (vitamin C) (6). Ascorbic acid helps prevent damage caused by free radicals, reduces the severity of allergic reactions, and fights infections (7). However, coconut sugar contains only trace amounts of ascorbic acid.

4. Is Minimally Refined

Coconut sugar is usually unrefined, unlike other sugars. A study found that minimal refining of sugars may retain more nutrients (8). This may exhibit many beneficial effects on health. However, more extensive research is warranted in this regard.

How does coconut sugar compare with other types of sugar? Let us understand in the following section.

Coconut Sugar Vs. Other Types Of Sugar

NutrientsCoconut Sugar(1)Refined Sugar(9)Brown Sugar(10)
Energy400 kcal401 kcal375 kcal
Protein0g0g0g
Total lipid (fat)0g0.32g0g
Carbohydrate, by the difference100g99.6g100g
Fiber, total dietary0g0g0g
Sugars80g99.8g100g
Sodium, Na240 mg1 mg0g
Fatty acids0g0g0g
Cholesterol0g0g0g

Excess intake of coconut sugar may pose potential risks. What are they? Continue reading to know them.

Potential Risks Of Coconut Sugar

1. Is High In Calories

Coconut sugar, although derived from a natural source, is still high in calories (equal to that of white sugar). Research links excess sugar intake with obesity and diabetes (11). Hence, consume it moderately (as suggested by your health care provider) and increase physical activity to avoid these side effects.

2. May Aggravate Coconut Allergies

Anecdotal evidence suggests that coconut sugar may aggravate coconut allergies. These are generally rare and are characterized by skin rashes, scratchy throat, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea (12). Discontinue its consumption and consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

3. Is High In Fructose

Coconut sugar contains high amounts of fructose (13). Research shows that excess fructose intake may cause insulin resistance, obesity, liver disorders, and diabetes (14). Hence, avoid excess intake of coconut sugar.

Coconut sugar may not be suitable for all. Listed below are a few healthy alternatives you may opt for. 

Healthy Alternatives

  • Date Sugar: It is made from raw dates. It is comparatively richer in vitamins and minerals.
  • Light Brown Sugar: It has the same texture, color, and taste as coconut sugar.
  • Sucanat: It is whole cane sugar with lesser sucrose content.
  • Stevia: It is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has no calories and is suitable for regular moderate intake (15).

Takeaway

Coconut sugar is natural unrefined sugar obtained from coconut sap. It has a low glycemic index coupled with the goodness of coconuts, making it a good substitute for refined white sugar. Coconut sugar benefits range from better gut health to regulated blood glucose levels. It is also replete with antioxidants like vitamin C that can help boost immunity and fight free radical damage. However, if consumed in excess, coconut sugar may lead to unwanted weight gain, increase the risk of diabetes, or trigger coconut allergies. Hence, if you experience any adverse effects, limit the consumption of coconut sugar or opt for healthier options like stevia, date sugar, or sucanat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is coconut sugar better than regular sugar?

While both have the same amount of calories, coconut sugar is believed to be better as it is less refined and retains additional minerals. However, coconut sugar may also have negative effects if consumed in excess.

Can people with diabetes eat coconut sugar?

People with diabetes can take coconut sugar moderately as it has a few proven health benefits associated with diabetes (3). However, medical advice is highly recommended before starting its intake.

What is the healthiest sugar?

All sugars contain glucose, fructose, and sucrose, and may have negative effects if consumed in excess (16). However, unrefined sugar is considered healthier than refined sugar, though moderation is advised (17).

Key Takeaways

  • Coconut sugar is minimally refined and has a low glycemic index.
  • It may improve gut health, manage glucose levels and sugar spikes, and provide antioxidant benefits.
  • However, it is high in carbohydrates and fructose, which are not good for your health.

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. [HISTORICAL RECORD]:COCONUT SUGAR
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/520260/nutrients
  2. Arginine rich coconut kernel protein modulates diabetes in alloxan treated rats
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21050842/
  3. Coconut-derived D-xylose affects postprandial glucose and insulin responses in healthy individuals
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3259296/
  4. CHARACTERIZING COCONUT SAP SUGAR AND SYRUP AS A PROMISING FUNCTIONAL FOOD/INGREDIENT
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319284705_079_CHARACTERIZING_COCONUT_SAP_SUGAR_AND_SYRUP_AS_A_PROMISING_FUNCTIONAL_FOODINGREDIENT
  5. Effects of a diet based on inulin-rich vegetables on gut health and nutritional behavior in healthy humans
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6537941/
  6. Antioxidant properties of coconut sap and its sugars
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282279556_Antioxidant_properties_of_coconut_sap_and_its_sugars
  7. Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3783921/
  8. Antioxidant activity nutritional and physicochemical characteristics and toxicity of minimally refined brown sugar and other sugars
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC7500760/
  9. Sugars granulated
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746784/nutrients
  10. [HISTORICAL RECORD]: CANE SUGAR
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/589490/nutrients
  11. Harmful effects of sugar consumption on health
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30673177/
  12. Coconut Allergy Revisited
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5664015/
  13. Processing of coconut sap into sugar syrup using rotary evaporation microwave and open-heat evaporation techniques
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32337729/
  14. The negative and detrimental effects of high fructose on the liver with special reference to metabolic disorders
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6549781/
  15. [HISTORICAL RECORD]: STEVIA
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/917968/nutrients
  16. Impact of sugar on the body brain and behavior
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29772560/
  17. Some nutritional properties of unrefined sugar and its promotion of the survival of new-born rats
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3870685/
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Avantii Deshpaande

(MSc in Food Science & Nutrition)
Avantii Deshpaande is a nutritionist, author, speaker, and entrepreneur with over 20 years in the field. She is also a... more

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