Is Coconut Sugar Good For Diabetes? Here’s the truth!

Coconut Sugar is the newest craze in the sugar industry, with sales skyrocketing by about 500% just this year. It has been widely marketed as a healthy alternative to regular sugar, but does it really stack up? Let’s take a closer look and see if coconut sugar is good for diabetes.

Can people with diabetes eat coconut sugar?

According to American Diabetes Association, coconut sugar cannot be considered a better alternative to traditional sugar. Even though it has a lower glycemic index, coconut sugar still raises blood sugar levels, as its carb content and calories are the same as regular cane sugar.

In addition, both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association emphasize that added sugar should be avoided by all people who have diabetes or are at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases later in life.

GI score of coconut sugar vs. regular white sugar

The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how food affects blood sugar levels. High GI foods are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to spike. Low GI foods are slowly digested and absorbed, causing blood sugar levels to rise more gradually.

Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index of 54 compared to traditional white sugar, which is 65. However, both of these sugars still raise blood sugar levels. They should be avoided by people with diabetes or those at risk for cardiovascular diseases, as they have the same Glycemic Load.

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How does Coconut Sugar Affect Blood Sugar Levels?

Even though coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index, it does not affect blood sugar levels differently than regular white sugar. When you consume any sugar, your pancreas releases insulin in response to the rise in blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body to use sugar for energy.

Any sugar, whether coconut sugar, honey, or regular table sugar, will cause a spike in blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, it is best to restrict sugar intake as much as possible and use safer alternatives like stevia.

Sugar types and Nutrition in coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of coconut palm, and the sap is boiled down to form a syrup, then dried and crystallized. It is also called coconut palm sugar, palm sugar, or Palmyra jaggery. It is a traditional sweetener of south-east Asia and has been used for thousands of years to make traditional food products like candy and sauces.

Coconut sugar contains sucrose, glucose, and fructose. The combination of glucose and fructose gives coconut sugar a lower glycemic index than regular sugar.

Coconut sugar has a higher percentage of fructose (40%) than regular sugar. Higher intake of fructose for the along-term can lead to metabolic syndrome, which can cause weight gain, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Health Benefits of Coconut Sugar in Diabetes

As we already discussed, coconut sugar has no significant health benefits that can outweigh its risks.

That being said, some studies have linked coconut sugar to a few health benefits.

Coconut sugar is better than regular sugar for preventing hypoglycemia.

Coconut sugar is also rich in potassium, calcium, and zinc, making it ideal for treating sudden electrolyte imbalances. Potassium is an important mineral that helps to regulate blood pressure and heart rate.

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Zinc is a mineral essential for the functioning of the immune system, and it also plays a role in wound healing and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth, and it also helps regulate muscle contractions and nerve signals.

Potential Risks of Coconut Sugar in Diabetics

Coconut sugar is not better than regular cane sugar or brown sugar, and it has the same carb content and calories as regular sugar, raising blood sugar levels in the same way.

In addition, coconut sugar contains high levels of fructose, which can lead to health problems for people with diabetes over time.

It is also poor in fiber and antioxidants, making it a less nutritious choice than other natural sweeteners like honey.

The calorie content of coconut sugar is also very high, making it a poor choice for people trying to lose weight or manage their blood sugar levels. One hundred grams of coconut sugar has 399 KCal, which is very high.

The bottom line is that coconut sugar is not a good choice for people with diabetes. There are safer, more nutritious alternatives available that do not raise blood sugar levels.

Healthy Alternatives of Coconut Sugar for Diabetics

There are several alternative sugar substitutes for individuals with diabetes that you can use instead of coconut sugar.

#1 Stevia

Stevia is a natural herb 300 times sweeter than table sugar and has zero calories. It comes in a green powder form, so it’s highly concentrated, and you only need a little bit to sweeten a recipe.

Stevia is ideal for diabetics as it does not affect blood sugar levels and has a Glycemic Index of 0.

#2 Maltitol

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol derived from maltose, a sugar found in grains. It has a glycemic index of 36, which means it does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

It has only half the calories of regular sugar, and it isn’t harmful to teeth. It has around 90% of the sweetness of table sugar.

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#3 Xylitol

Xylitol is another type of sugar alcohol with a glycemic index of 13, which means it is low in carbs and has no effect on blood sugar levels.

It also helps to reduce cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, making it a better choice for teeth.

In addition, xylitol does not cause sudden changes in blood sugar levels, and it has 50-70% of the sweetness of regular sugar.

#4 Erythritol

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol made from corn or wheat starch by fermenting them with yeast. It has a glycemic index of 0 and does not affect blood sugar levels.

It is also calorie-free, has a slightly sweet taste, and helps to prevent cavities.

Erythritol is 70% as sweet as regular sugar.

#5 Monk Fruit

Monk fruit is a sweetener derived from a small, round, brownish-purple fruit called Luo Han Guo.

It has been used in China for hundreds of years as a natural treatment for diabetes and obesity.

The monk fruit extract is 200 times sweeter than table sugar and has zero calories. It is a good substitute for other types of sugar because it doesn’t interfere with blood glucose levels.

In addition, monk fruit contains no fructose and has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2584181/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3638225

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2017.01.004

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13793

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging/generally-recognized-safe-gras

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/583165/nutrients

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/19335

https://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/coconut-palm-sugar.html

https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/

Dr Sharon Baisil MD

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