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Blog Nutrition Coconut Sugar Vs. Cane Sugar: The Ultimate Natural Sweetener Showdown

Coconut Sugar Vs. Cane Sugar: The Ultimate Natural Sweetener Showdown

coconut palm sugar vs cane sugar

The world of nutrition can be confusing. There seems always to be a study coming out that contradicts its predecessor. Red meat is a perfect example of one of the foods that have to endure this endless cycle of events. However, there’s one thing that has experienced some relative calm and consistency in all this turbulence- sugar. Researchers generally agree that overconsumption of sugar is never good for your health. Especially added sugars. The narrative changes when you opt for natural sugars or sweeteners like coconut and cane sugars. True, they’re both natural options, but which of the two is the best alternative? Read about coconut sugar vs. cane sugar here!

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What Is Coconut Sugar?

You’re probably thinking, “ coconut sugar, it must come from coconuts,” right? While this is technically true, it’s not entirely true. You ever ask yourself why coconut sugar is sometimes called coconut palm sap? See, coconut sugar is obtained from the coconut palm sap in a coconut tree. This is the sugary fluid that circulates in the coconut plant.

Coconut sugar, however, should not be confused with palm sugar. They are essentially similar but made from different palm trees. So how is coconut sugar made?

A natural 2-step process is involved in making coconut sugar. First off, the flower of the coconut palm is cut, and the liquid sap is collected. The sap is then heated until most of its water evaporates. The resultant brown, granulated crystals are coconut sugar.

It has a similar color to raw sugar, but its particle size is smaller and more variable. Also, coconut sugar is more nutritious when compared to regular sugar. That can be attributed to the fact that coconut sugars come with some nutrients present in the coconut palm. Sugar, on the other hand, has no crucial nutrients and is considered to supply empty calories.

Read More: Coconut Sugar Vs Stevia: Which Sweetener Is Really The Healthier Choice?

coconut sugar vs cane sugar
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What Is Cane Sugar?

Sugar cane is arguably the oldest known source of sugar. It can be traced 8000 years back to where it originated in India. After the Persian invasion of India, they adopted it while developing a method of extraction of cane sugar in 600B.C.

As its name suggests, cane sugar comes from sugar canes and is sometimes known as dried cane syrup. So what then differentiates cane sugar from refined sugar?

It all trickles down to the processes involved in their manufacturer. For cane sugar, the juice is filtered, evaporated, and passed through a centrifuge. Refined sugar, on the other hand, undergoes more intense manufacturing processes.

Pure Cane Sugar Vs. Coconut Sugar Nutrition

How does the nutritional profile of the two natural sweeteners compare? Here’s a breakdown of their nutritional make-ups.

Pure Cane Sugar Nutritional Profile

Cane sugar is an excellent source of pure carbohydrates. It also provides 4 calories per gram, or 16 calories when you use a level teaspoon. Below is the detailed nutritional profile of cane sugar in one teaspoon (9):

  • 16 calories.
  • 4 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 4 grams of sugar.
  • 0 grams of protein.
  • 0 grams of fiber.
  • zero grams of fat.
coconut sugar vs cane sugar
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Coconut Sugar Nutritional Profile

Coconut sugar has a rather interesting nutritional profile for a sweetener. That’s majorly because it retains most of the nutrients found in the coconut palm- specifically zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium (2). These minerals can support your body in numerous healthy ways. However, coconut sugar does not have significant amounts of them per serving for measurable benefit.

Also, coconut sugar contains inulin, which is a soluble fiber. Inulin reduces the risk of sporadic blood sugar spikes in your body. Ideally, one teaspoon of coconut sugar will give (2):

  • 18 calories.
  • 5 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 5 grams of sugar.
  • 0 grams of protein.
  • 0 grams of fiber.
  • zero grams of fat.

So, is coconut sugar keto? It’s important to note that coconut sugar is not considered keto-friendly with this kind of nutritional profile. That is majorly because of its carb and caloric content.

Also, coconut sugars are less sweet compared to cane sugar. This can be attributed to the fact that coconut sugar comes with nutrients absent in cane sugar.

coconut palm sugar vs cane sugar
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Health Benefits Of Coconut Sugar Vs. Cane Sugar

So what are some of the health benefits that come from these two types of sugars? Let’s find out.

Cane Sugar Health Benefits

Is cane sugar bad for you? What are some of the health implications of consuming cane sugar? When taken in the right quantities:

Cane Sugar Is A Steady Source Of Energy

Your body’s most preferred source of fuel is glucose, which is the simplest form of sugar. When you take cane sugar, it is converted into glucose. This is then absorbed and metabolized to release energy at cellular levels.

You should, however, be cautious when consuming it. Taking it in excess will provide more energy than your body requires. This will ultimately be stored as fat and can lead to weight gain.

Cane Sugar Is A Source Of Antioxidants

Studies indicate that minimally refined cane sugar provides higher levels of antioxidants in comparison to sweeteners like corn syrup and refined sugar. Antioxidants are particularly useful for counteracting free radicals that can cause cardiovascular diseases (1).

cooking with coconut sugar vs cane sugar
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Cane Sugar Can Help Lighten Your Mood

When you consume cane sugar, the production of serotonin hormone is triggered in your body. Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that is responsible for raising your mood (3). Do you ever wonder why you crave sugar when you’re exhausted or sad? Well, you get a mood boost from those sugary treats.

A good mood creates a domino of helping your body manage its stress levels. Whenever you’re stressed, your body requires about 12% more energy (3). The glucose provided by cane sugar will provide you with the fuel that you need.

Cane sugar, like all sugars, should be consumed in moderation. Excessively using them can be counterproductive to your health. Here are some things you should watch out for when taking cane sugar:

Risk Of Metabolic Diseases Arising From Overconsumption

The average American gets about 13% of their calories daily from sugars. This figure should be less than 10% (6). While cane sugar can provide a quick boost to your energy blood sugar levels, take care not to overuse it. Overconsumption may lead to diseases like fatty liver, diabetes, and cardiovascular illnesses.

Overconsumption Can Lead To The Rebound Effect On Your Moods

Sure, sugar can lift your spirits. However, if you eat too much of it, you get what is known as the rebound effect. Instead of boosting your moods, you’ll now start feeling low and sad. This is probably why there is a link between countries taking lots of sugar and high depression rates (3).

Addition Of Empty Calories In Your Diet

Cane sugar doesn’t come with additional nutrients. So if you over-consume it, you add more unnecessary calories to your diet. This can lead to weight and fat gain, which includes the accumulation of visceral fat.

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benefits of coconut sugar vs cane sugar
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Coconut Sugar Health Benefits

So is coconut sugar good for you? When taken in moderation, coconut sugar can actually have some benefits to your overall health. Here are some of them:

Coconut Sugar Has A Low Glycemic Index

Your glycemic index (GI) measures how fast foods will raise your blood sugar levels. Glucose has a glycemic index of 100- a figure used to gauge other food’s GIs (4). For instance, if a food has a GI of 50, it will raise your blood sugar levels half as fast as glucose.

On the other hand, table sugar has a GI of 60, which is higher than coconut sugar, with a GI of 54 (4). It is important to note that these are general values that shouldn’t be considered universal for everyone. GI can vary between people as it does in different batches of coconuts.

Coconut Sugar Can Improve Your Gut Health

Coconut palm sap from which coconut sugar is made contains inulin (8). Inulin is a type of fiber that can be very beneficial to your body. It can help to improve your gut health while slowing down the absorption of glucose.

You should, however, note that the quantities of this beneficial compound may be small. You would therefore need to eat lots of coconut sugar to get a substantial dose of them. However, since coconut sugars are still high in calories, eating large quantities may not be the best idea.

Increased calorie and sugar intake can cause a significant energy surplus in your body. This can ultimately put a potential weight gain problem on your hands.

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Coconut Sugar Reduces The Risks Of Hypoglycemia

Your body relies on glucose to power itself throughout the day. Just like cane sugar and brown sugar, coconut sugar can help in raising your blood glucose levels. This reduces the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar (7).

Hypoglycemia can result in feelings of hunger and can also trigger dizziness and nausea. In extreme cases, it can lead to seizures and coma. Keeping your blood sugar levels at the right amounts is, therefore, very important.

However, what is the other side of the coin? Coconut sugar is still sugar. A better alternative to ordinary sugar, but sugar nonetheless. That means that its consumption should be watched carefully. Here are some things that you should watch out for when taking coconut sugar:

Coconut Sugar Is Still Packed With Fructose

Added sugars are considered unhealthy because it causes sporadic spikes in your blood sugar levels. Another reason is that it’s not nutritiously dense or even moderately nutritious, for that matter. Its high fructose content also plays a big role in the labeling of added sugars as unhealthy.

It’s true that not all scientists agree that fructose is a major issue in healthy individuals. However, most of them agree that excessive fructose consumption promotes metabolic syndrome in obese people (5). So how does all this relate to coconut sugar?

See, ordinary table sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Coconut sugar has about 70-80% of its total composition made up of sucrose that is half fructose. Coconut sugar, therefore, gives a similar amount of fructose as ordinary sugars would, gram for gram (2).

So whenever you think of taking coconut sugar, do so in moderation, just as you would for regular table sugar.

Coconut Sugar Is Still High In Calories

It’s true that coconut sugar contains some small quantities of antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. However, its calorie content is also high (2). To get the benefits of the nutrients in this sweetener, you’ll need to consume a lot of coconut sugar.

So you ought to ask yourself whether the increased calorie count is worth the potential nutritional benefits. Nutritionists subject coconut sugar to the same treatment they give to regular table sugar. As such, they set recommended consumption limits that you need to observe.

Read More: Does Coconut Oil Break a Fast or Help Secure Your Fasting Success?

organic coconut sugar vs pure sugar cane
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Cooking With Coconut Sugar Vs. Cane Sugar

Cane sugar and coconut sugar are sweeteners. This implies that their primary flavor is sweetness. As a result, they can be used interchangeably in a wide range of applications, cooking being one of them. You should, however, keep in mind that they are not identical.

Sweetness

So do not just substitute them with each other in the kitchen. One of the most important factors to consider before choosing which to cook with is their difference in sweetness. Cane sugar is sweeter than coconut sugar. That means you may require little quantities of it to achieve the same level of sweetness.

Let’s assume you want to bake a cake. In the recipe where you cream butter and sugar, using more sugar results in longer mixing times. It’s crucial to keep the sugar’s flavor and appearance in mind whenever your cake recipe has sugar in it.

Color And Flavor

Some people may welcome the caramel flavor and golden brown color in coconut sugar. To others, it simply doesn’t work. Replacing it with cane sugar would mean using less of this sugar to achieve the required taste. In the process, you will forgo the flavor and color notes found in coconut sugar.

Simply put, use coconut sugar where you want your dish to have a deep, rich flavor and darker color. Some of the dishes you could experiment with coconut sugar include Oatmeal, chocolate desserts, and barbecue sauces.

If your goal is to experience blissful sweet taste without additional flavor notes, then use cane sugar. Your dish will have a relatively pale color and a clean, simple flavor, but the sweetness won’t disappoint. So when it comes to cooking with coconut sugar vs pure sugar cane, it all comes down to preference. It’s not about which of the two wins in the kitchen; it’s all about what your goals are.

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Coconut Sugar Vs. Cane Sugar: The Verdict

Is coconut sugar healthy for your dieting needs? What about cane sugar? Is it any better? Before getting into which sweetener wins in the coconut palm sugar vs cane sugar battle, let’s get some things straight.

Wherever sugars and sweeteners are involved, you must understand that there’s a difference between better and healthier alternatives. You may find some natural sweeteners being branded as “ healthier alternatives,” but that is not always accurate. Sugar and many sweeteners fundamentally share the same makeup.

So how healthy an alternative is can be gotten from how you use it. Take too much, and it doesn’t matter which option you’re using. It will always be unhealthy. However, when it comes to the “better alternatives” comparison, you have freedom of choice.

You should pick an option based on what your needs are and what the alternative brings on board. This also applies to coconut sugar vs cane sugar. If a rich flavor is your goal, coconut sugar is your “go-to sugar.” If you’re gunning for taste, then give cane sugar a shot. However, coconut sugar is more ideal since it comes loaded with additional nutrients.

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Conclusion

Over the years, sugar has become an integral part of our lives. We interact with it daily, either knowingly or unknowingly, in the foods and drinks we take. However, the health issues attributed to its overconsumption have necessitated alternatives that can be deemed safer and better.

Coconut sugar and cane sugar are good examples of these alternatives. The two are natural sweeteners that can be beneficial to your health when used in the right quantities. So if you’re thinking of switching from ordinary sugar, consider trying one of these two natural sweeteners!

If you have decided to lose weight as fast as possible, make sure you dive into both dieting and regular workout. Consider trying this 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Antioxidant activity, nutritional and physicochemical characteristics, and brown toxicity of minimally refined brown sugar and other sugars (2020, nih.gov)
  2. COCONUT SUGAR (2019, usda.gov)
  3. Effects of sugar rich diet on brain serotonin, hyperphagia and anxiety in animal model of both genders (2016, nih.gov)
  4. Everything you need to know about GI! (n.d., glycemicindex.com)
  5. Fructose: a key factor in the development of metabolic syndrome and hypertension (2013, pubmed.gov)
  6. Get the Facts: Added Sugars (2021, cdc.gov)
  7. Hypoglycemia: When Your Blood Sugar Gets Too Low (2020, webmd.com)
  8. NUTRITIONAL AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT SAP SUGAR/SYRUP (n.d., pca.da.gov.ph)
  9. Uncover the Truth About Sugar (n.d., sugar.ca)
Jeremy Mukhwana
Jeremy Mukhwana
K. Fleming
K. Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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