Coconut sugar is becoming more well known as people discover the health benefits coconut sugar confers over cane sugar and other alternative sweeteners.
The sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm blossoms. A stem, or a number of stems that would normally grow into a coconut are cut and have a joint of bamboo placed over them which collects the sweet sap. The sap is collected daily and the moisture is boiled off to form the sugar crystals.
This is a pure, minimally processed product from central Java. It is the rich, earthy, brown coloured sugar that is typical of Indonesia.
You can use it just as you would normal sugar but it has the advantages of being:
The colour of coconut sugar varies from country to country. This is a rich brown colour in comparison to the pale yellow of Thai coconut sugar. It is also a coarser grained sugar. Unlike processed sugars which have no taste other than sweetness Indonesian coconut sugar has a complex, rich taste.
Coconut sugar is easy to use and can be used as a straight 1 for 1 swap for cane sugar.
This coconut sugar is high quality and offered to you with a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied.
The surprising thing with coconut sugar is that it is rich in a range of essential nutrients, rather than simply being a nutrition empty sugar and also has a range of advantages over other sweeteners deriving from the way that it is processed and broken down in our system:
Fructooligosaccharides are complex sugars that have a very helpful role in helping the body to make its' own beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. FOS is indigestble and passes to the large intestine where it provides food for the bacteria colony. Coconut sugar is a good source of FOS which tends to be difficult to get from other foods (onions is another good source).
FOS has a number of roles, including:
Potassium is an essential mineral that is used in the functioning of all organs in the human body. It has an important role in cell and tissue function.
Potassium plays a number of roles in the body including:
Essential amino acids
Amino acids are the chemical substances that make up protein. There are 16 amino acids of which 10 are 'essential', meaning the body cannot make them and they must be obtained from food. Generally amino acids have the function of:
Coconut sugar is a rich source of amino acids, particularly:
Coconut sugar is a rich source of magnesium. Magnesium is utilised by every cell of the body including the brain.
Magnesium is an essential mineral because it:
Magnesium is linked with a number of health conditions and symptoms which impact on everyday wellness, including:
For a range of reasons, coconut sugar is a good choice for health and has the benefit of an outstanding taste that does not have the bitterness or over-sweetness of other alternative sweeteners. The benefits of coconut sugar include:
Low glycemic index
The Glycemic Index (or GI) is a measurement that indicates how quickly carbohydrates break down in our system and raise the level of blood sugar. The scale is generally broken into three:
The glycemic index of the major sweeteners is:
Coconut sugar is a clear winner over the other commonly used sweeteners.
High mineral content
Coconut sugar is mineral rich and like coconut water mirrors the human electrolyte balance. It is rich in potassium and magnesium and a range of essential amino acids.
Coconut palms typically live near the coast and draw up huge quanties of mineral rich water which becomes part of the food that feeds the growth of the coconut and where the coconut flower (spadix) has been tapped for sugar the mineral rich sap is one of the basic constituents of the sap that is turned into coconut sugar.
Coconut sugar is reasonably unique that as a 'sugar' it is very low fructose. The fructose component of coconut sugar is only about 5%. This is compared to cane sugar and most other sugars like beet and corn which are more than 50% fructose.
The fructose content is important because most cells in the body can use glucose (derived from sucrose) for energy, but only the liver can break down fructose. This has a number of health implications, including:
The other alternative low Glycemic Index (GI) sweetener is Agave syrup (about 42), however Agave is about 90% fructose.
Coconut sugar is a functional food, meaning that it provides a range of health benefits over and beyond simply providing nutritional value.
Coconut sugar as a genuine 'sugar sweetener' is unique in this regard. No other sugar can provide the range of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and metabolism regulating properties that is possessed by coconut sugar and at the same time deliver low GI, sustained energy.
Traditional Low Tech Food
There are no additives in coconut sugar. It is a natural minimally processed food that is incredibly low-tech and likely to stay that way.
The only processing that coconut sugar goes through is heating to remove the moisture and then granulation to turn it into a granulated sugar.
The coconut sugar that you eat has in fact gone through a lower level of processing than virtually any of the other sweeteners. With the exception of raw honey.
Somebody who has not tasted coconut sugar might be surprised by the complex taste. It has a deep, rich taste that is not possessed by any other sweetener.
Coconut sugar enhances the taste of both food and drink. It is great for baking and one of the great advantages with coconut sugar is it has a level of sweetness to the taste that is similar to cane sugar so you can use the same amount or less in recipes.
If you have tried Agave or Yucon syrup and, like me, find something strange about the taste, and think that coconut sugar might be the same, it is not.
Part of the great, unique taste of Thai red and yellow curries is from num (water) dtan (sweet) beep (squeeze) the Thai word for coconut sugar which goes in all their coconut cream curries.
Coconut sugar does not come from the coconut fruit. The sugar is tapped from the blossom of the coconut palm, cocos nuciflora. It is a low-tec operation and the sugar that lands on your table undergoes minimal processing. The only processing is heating the coconut sap to evaporate the moisture content. The process of tapping and crystallisation has not changed over hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Tapping the tree
Tapping the Sap
Harvesting the sap involves cutting into the spadix (the stem with thousands of coconut flowers) to tap the flow of sap that runs through the plant to feed the coconut fruit as it grows and devlops. Although the spadix has thousands of flowers, only a small number of them develop into coconuts.
About half the spadix can be tapped without affecting the coconut production, but in reality only about two or three spadix are tapped at any one time.
Once the spadix is tapped coconut sap starts to flow from the wound. The sap was traditionally collected in bamboo tubers, which have now been replaced with plastic, tied around the spadix. The spadix is re-cut on a regular basis and the sap flows from about 35 days up to about 60 days.
The volume collected depends on the age and location of the tree. A single coconut tree can produce in excess of 200 litres of sap per year and trees can produce sap for more than 25 years.
Harvesting in the more mature taller trees is probably a job for the brave, or those at the bottom of the pecking order only.
Low tech refinement
As most of the production is carried on in small family owned businesses the heating and evaporation of the moisture happens pretty much as it always has.
The sap is placed in giant works and heated over a low heat. The heating takes place immediately the sap is harvesting otherwise fermentation commences which renders it unsuitable for sugar.
The fresh sap is about 5% minerals (which accounts for the impressive mineral content), 15% sugar and the remainder is water.
As the water evaporates the sap turns to a brown syrupy liquid. To turn the liquid into crystal form the maximum amount of moisture is evaporated and the sugar is set into blocks.
The final part of the process is a simple low heat grinding process that turns the blocks of solid sugar into crystals.