Coconut sugar has gained popularity in recent years as a seemingly healthier alternative to traditional table sugar. With its claimed benefits and natural appeal, many individuals, including those with diabetes, wonder whether coconut sugar is a safe choice for managing blood sugar levels.
In this article you will learn:
What is Coconut Sugar?
Coconut sugar, also known as coconut palm sugar or coconut blossom sugar, is derived from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It undergoes minimal processing, which gives it a granulated texture similar to that of traditional sugar. Unlike refined sugars, coconut sugar retains some of the nutrients present in the coconut palm sap, including minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium ().
Is Coconut Sugar Good for Blood Sugars?
One of the main reasons coconut sugar has gained attention is its lower glycaemic index (GI) compared to table sugar. While table sugar has a GI of around 60-65, coconut sugar typically has a GI of 35-40, making it a popular choice for individuals looking to manage their blood sugar levels ().
Research suggests that coconut sugar may cause a slower and steadier increase in blood sugar levels compared to regular sugar. This can be attributed to its higher fibre content and the presence of inulin, a type of prebiotic fibre that slows down glucose absorption in the body ().
However, it’s important to note that coconut sugar still contains carbohydrates and will affect blood sugar levels, although to a lesser extent than refined sugars. Individuals with diabetes should consume coconut sugar in moderation and consider its impact on their overall carbohydrate intake.
What is the Glycaemic Index?
The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed, causing a sharp spike in blood sugar levels, while foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed more slowly, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels. The GI scale typically ranges from 0 to 100, with pure glucose having a GI of 100, serving as the reference point. Foods with a GI below 55 are considered to have a low GI, those between 55 and 70 have a moderate GI, and those above 70 have a high GI ().
What is a Substitute for Coconut Sugar?
For individuals with diabetes who are looking for alternative sweeteners, there are several options available. Stevia, a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, is one such alternative. Stevia is calorie-free and does not affect blood sugar levels, making it a suitable choice for those monitoring their glucose levels.
Another substitute for coconut sugar is erythritol, a sugar alcohol that provides sweetness without the calories or impact on blood sugar levels. Erythritol is commonly found in sugar-free products and can be used in baking and cooking as a one-to-one substitute for coconut sugar.
What is the Difference between Coconut Sugar and Coconut Water?
Coconut sugar and coconut water are two distinct products derived from different parts of the coconut palm tree. While coconut sugar is derived from the sap of the coconut palm tree flower buds, coconut water is the clear liquid found inside young, green coconuts. It is naturally refreshing and slightly sweet, with a subtle coconut flavor. As discussed, coconut sugar has nutrients present, whilst coconut water is known for its high electrolyte content, including potassium, sodium, and magnesium, making it a popular choice for hydration and rehydration. While both coconut sugar and coconut water are derived from the coconut palm tree, they serve different purposes and offer distinct nutritional profiles. Coconut sugar is a sweetener with a caramel flavor, while unsweetened coconut water is a hydrating beverage known for its electrolyte content and low sugar content, so is a suitable option in moderation for individuals with diabetes ().
While coconut sugar may offer some benefits compared to refined sugars, individuals with diabetes should approach its consumption with caution. While it has a lower glycemic index and contains small amounts of nutrients, it still contributes to carbohydrate intake and can affect blood sugar levels. Moderation is key, and individuals with diabetes should work with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach to managing their blood sugar levels while enjoying occasional treats sweetened with coconut sugar or suitable alternatives, such as coconut water if they’re wanting to enjoy a coconut flavour.
By understanding the facts surrounding coconut sugar and its impact on blood sugar levels, individuals with diabetes can make informed choices about their dietary habits and overall health.