In his book, "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth", Dr. Jonny Bowden writes that coconut is a great choice since it offers healthy fats, which help boost the immune system, protect against certain cancers, and has antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Instead of storing it as fat, the body utilises the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to burn as fuel.
And many people seem to agree, using coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut flour for low-carb recipes, and actual coconut as a low-carb sweetener instead of sugars. Now coconut sugar is being added to the list of healthy sweeteners to use for better health and lower blood sugar.
Coconut sugar comes from the coconut palm – the buds of the flower are cut, and the sap that is produced is used to make coconut sugar. This sugar has been around for thousands of years and is an everyday sweetener for many people in Southeast and South Asia.
What are the advantages of using coconut sugar instead of white sugar or even other sweeteners like maple syrup?
One of the biggest advantages is that it has a low glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index is how quickly there is a rise in blood sugar levels after consuming a specific food. If the item has a high GI, this means the absorption of food by the body is very fast, and there is usually a spike in blood sugar. Blood sugar spikes result in the pancreas releasing large amounts of insulin, which is not healthy and particularly harmful to people with diabetes or who are pre-diabetic. A low GI, on the other hand, causes the food to be absorbed more slowly and avoids blood sugar spikes.
Most sweeteners that are made from cane sugar have a high glycemic index compared to coconut sugar. Even healthier alternatives such as maple syrup have a higher GI than coconut sugar.
It’s not only having a low GI that makes coconut sugar healthy; it has higher amount of minerals than cane sugar. It also has substantial levels of antioxidants and nutrients including iron and zinc. More importantly, it has inulin, which is a kind of fibre that is not digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Instead of being digested, it has a prebiotic effect and provides your body with bifidobacteria, a healthy probiotic.
Inulin also guards against colon cancer, helps to balance blood sugar, decrease fatty liver disease and obesity, and provides higher immunity.
However, individuals who use coconut sugar need to remember that is is a sweetener and still contains roughly equal amounts of glucose and fructose; use it responsibly.
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