Another great example of how useful the coconut palm can be is found in the fact that it is possible to extract sugar from the plant. This is commonly called ‘coco sugar’, ‘coconut palm sugar’ and ‘coco sap sugar’. It is made from the sap from flower buds that have been cut. In places where coconuts grow in a great abundance such as India, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia coconut sugar has been made for thousands of years to sweeten food and make alcohol.
Coconut sugar is harvested in a similar way to rubber in that the plant is cut .In the case of the coconut palm it is the spadix of the blossoms that are cut. The plant tries to seal the cut by secreting a sugary substance that is collected in bamboo containers. This is often called ‘tapping’.
The collected liquid is about 80% water. It is heated to remove the water. What remains is a thick liquid often called ‘toddy’. This can then be fermented to make coconut alcohol. Alternatively, the toddy can be further heated so that coconut sugar crystals are produced.
Taste of Coconut Sugar
The taste of coconut sugar depends on a number of variables which include when the sap was harvested, how it was reduced, the type of coconut palm used, the weather conditions and the packaging process. However, it is normally thought that coconut sugar is less sweet than refined sugar and has a subtle hint of caramel in its taste.
Health Benefits of Coconut Sugar
As we have seen in www.coconutoilbenefits.biz coconut products such as coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flour and coconut water all have important health benefits. It should not be a surprise therefore that coconut sugar is a healthier sugar than either standard refined white sugar or brown sugar commonly found in supermarkets in the developed world.
Glycemic Index of Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar has a glycemic index of 35. The glycemic index or GI measures the amount of blood glucose in the body caused by eating a certain amount of food. The base line is glucose – if this is eaten it raises blood glucose levels in a 1 to 1 ratio or 100%. Food scientists have connected eating foods with a high GI with an increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Below 55 is considered a low GI rating; 56 to 69 a medium GI rating and over 70 a high rating. In essence, the higher the glycemic index the unhealthier the food is. Refined white sugar typically has a GI in the mid 60s. This makes coconut sugar a much healthier option than normal sugar in terms of blood glucose levels. As a result, coconut sugar is a popular substitute for refined white sugar and brown sugar for those with diabetes. Retailers are now responding to this demand – you can now buy coconut sugar online at Amazon. It is also available in food specialty stores and in Asian supermarkets.
To find out more about the glycemic index see www.glycemicindex.com
Mineral Content of Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is like coconut oil and other coconut products in that it has a high mineral content. It is a great source for potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. See the table below to see just how much healthier coconut sugar is compared to both brown sugar and white sugar.
|Mg/ 1-ppm, dry||Coconut Sugar||Brown Sugar||Refined White Sugar|
The table clearly shows that for the important electrolytes of magnesium and potassium coconut sugar is a much better provider. Refined white sugar has nothing good in it. It is only for calcium and copper that brown sugar outperforms coconut sugar.
Amino Acids in Coconut Sugar
Finally, coconut sugar contains 16 amino acids. The most prevalent amino acid is glutamine which has been shown to be important for body building as well as treating the side-effects of cancer therapy, trauma and burns (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamine). A regime of glutamine supplements has also been shown to speed up recovery times after abdominal surgery and other operations.
Vitamins in Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar as with other coconut food products is a great source of vitamins. In particular coconut sugar contains significant amounts of B1, B2, B3 and B6. B vitamins are important for healthy cell metabolism.
People are more conscious than ever before about the health implications of their diet. While it is difficult (and perhaps erroneous) to remove sugar entirely from the diet, it is a great idea to substitute white or brown sugar in recipes with coconut sugar. It comes in a granular form just like normal sugar and can be used in recipes in exactly the same way. Moreover, coconut sugar is available in organic form. It might be slightly more expensive than the sugar you buy in a supermarket but it is much better for your body. It also means you can indulge your sweet tooth in good conscience.
Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_sugar
The table is quoted by Wikipedia and is provided originally by the Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute