Coconut sugar. Is it good or bad? There’s been a lot of talk about coconut sugar lately. Some see it as a sustainable alternative to cane sugar, while others say it isn’t sustainable at all. What are we supposed to believe?
I love coconut sugar and use it often in my kitchen but it’s no miracle food and it is still… sugar. It’s just not as processed as refined sugar and has some minerals in it.
One thing that comes up a lot when we discuss this natural sweetener is whether it’s a sustainable product or not. There’s one article on the web that claims it isn’t sustainable and others that say it is. I’d like to explain both sides and leave you with the information to make up your own mind on the matter.
What Exactly Is Coconut Sugar?
At its heart, coconut sugar is a sugar made from the sap from a coconut tree. Remember when you were a kid and you learned how maple syrup comes from draining it out of a maple tree? It’s pretty much the same process!
Okay, so there’s one more step than in maple syrup. But still. This is a sweetener with a very natural process.
Why Using Coconut Sugar May Work For You
Let’s start with some reasons why someone may consider using coconut sugar in a recipe. The good part of this natural coconut product is that it retains some great nutrients from its coconut plant origins. It has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar, so it may be a good alternative for diabetics.
A lot of people also like the fact that the process behind making coconut sugar is very simple. Not a lot of processing! However, in the pursuit of health (and coconut love) people forget that it has just as many calories as regular sugar.
Coconut sugar also has just as much fructose as regular sugar, which is just a fancy way of saying it’s still sugar in the end. It just happens to have a little extra coconutty goodness thrown in.
If you’re interested in trying coconut sugar you can find it at most health food stores or online here.
Is Coconut Sugar Sustainable?
The real controversy around coconut sugar is whether it’s actually sustainable or not.
What does that mean?
Well, it comes down to efficiency. Coconuts that are used to make coconut sugar can sometimes no longer produce coconuts afterward. Not good!
While some may claim that there are some “studies” out there claiming that coconut palms can produce both coconut sugar and coconuts, this has traditionally NOT been the case, and we are unaware of any farms in the Philippines practicing this.
But then again, coconut trees produce more sugar per acre of plants than regular cane sugar. It’s all about your definition of efficiency and sustainability.
When coconut trees are used to collect sap, they then become a “sap tree” and no longer are allowed to produce coconuts. The amount of trees in the Philippines used for the collection of sap is very small -less than 1% of the total coconut trees in that country. Harvesting the sap allows small farmers to make value added products that help them earn better wages. Normally, the trees that are used for sap production are already quite old (generally over 50 years old) and their production of coconuts has gone down. This is why most tapped trees for sap are very tall, which means they have to climb very high to collect the sap, but these trees are still strong and hardy.
What’s The Final Verdict?
Coconut sugar is good for meeting some needs and isn’t good at fulfilling others. It’s great for if you’re watching your overall sugar intake. But you should never forget that it’s still a type of sugar. It’s just a different kind than the white stuff in the big bag selling for 99 cents!
As for whether or not coconut sugar is sustainable, it’s up for you to decide if it fits your personal standards of sustainability. But whatever you decide, I’d love to hear your thoughts and concerns on this coconut product!