Gone are the days when refined sugar dominated the scene. When it has been discovered that refined sugar can cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, mood swings and other bad effects on the body, people began looking for healthier alternatives.
In the UK, people are turning to alternative sweeteners such as agave, apple sugar, organic coconut sugar among others. Sales of coconut sugar, in particular, have dramatically risen this year. It is a growing trend and is expected to eventually become mainstream.
Why coconut sugar
It has a reputation as a healthier alternative to table sugar-it’s the main reason why people turn to it. But in what ways is it healthier?
Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener
Processed or refined sugar, on the other hand, is extracted from natural sources (like sugarcane and beets) but modified by manufacturers so it can be mixed with other food to sweeten them. It is complex because it is a combination of glucose and fructose (sucrose).
The modification or processing done to it is important to make it acquire a regular texture and flavor. Processing also makes it easier to control.
How is it processed? After pressing the natural source (let’s say, it’s sugarcane) for the sweet liquid it contains, the liquid is allowed to dry up until it becomes a loose crumble. Then, the crumbly sugar is washed and dried again, this time, in order to remove impurities from it and the molasses it contains. After that, the sugar is bleached until the granules are snow white.
Natural sugar is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and honey. Foods like tomatoes, mushrooms and other food that contain carbohydrates also contain glucose, a simple sugar which is very vital in every living molecule. Sugar found in fruits is called fructose. Both are easily broken down by the body for utilization.
Organic coconut sugar is a natural sweetener because it only takes two simple and natural steps to make it.
One: the flower of the coconut palm (where coconut sugar comes from) is cut a little so the liquid sap (the sugary fluid of the coco plant) from the tree can be released. This fluid is collected into containers.
Two: the liquid sap is heated at controlled temperatures until almost all of its water is gone.
Coconut sugar is natural because it doesn’t undergo refining or bleaching or any other chemical processing.
Rich in micronutrients
The heating and chemical processing refined sugar goes through strips it of whatever natural minerals, enzymes, proteins, and nutrients it contains. To be more precise, 64 food elements in it are destroyed during the refining process. Whatever nutrients it contains is removed until only pure sugar remains.
Organic coconut sugar retains the nutrients stripped off from refined sugar. Some of the most notable of these nutrients include potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, sulfate, phosphate, vitamins A, B, D, amino acids, unsaturated fats, enzymes, fiber (inulin), short chain fatty acids, polyphenols, and antioxidants.
Low glycemic index
Glycemic index (GI) is a way of analyzing the impact of carbohydrates in food and its impact on the body’s blood sugar. This means the higher the GI index of the food you are eating, the more it will cause your blood sugar to spike up.
This sugar rush can cause insulin levels to soar (and plummet) resulting in mood swings, headaches, and fatigue. It will also make you crave for more sugar and will make you feel better, but only temporarily. The result is a cycle of addiction and ultimately, obesity, heart disease and diabetes sets in.
Coconut sugar has a GI index of a mere 35. That’s pretty low as opposed to table sugar which has a GI index of 60 to as much as 75.
A sustainable sweetener
Other sweeteners may also be natural and nutritious, but another question that must be answered in an increasingly environmentally-conscious world is this: is it sustainable? Meaning, can it be produced without causing harm to the environment?
These are some of the factors to consider when trying to switch to a natural sweetener like organic coconut sugar. So ask yourself, is your sweetener natural, healthy and sustainable?