It’s been known for years that Americans simply eat too much sugar and that in recent decades, sugar consumption has sky-rocketed. This is mostly due to consumption of sodas, sports drinks, fruit juice “cocktails” and the like. People who were worried about weight tried to get around this by consuming large quantities of artificially sweetened foods instead, only to find that these sweeteners were even worse than sugar!
Luckily, there are some healthy alternatives, natural sweeteners that give people a sugar fix without having to resort to table sugar or to dangerous artificial substitutes. One of these which is just now getting popular in the baking aisles all over the country is coconut sugar, which can bring with it some pretty healthy benefits.
An Introduction to Coconut Sugar
For those not familiar with coconut sugar, here are a few things to know. First, coconut sugar does not come from the coconut itself like coconut water or coconut milk do. It is, in fact, derived from tree sap that has been harvested and boiled in much the same way that New Englanders boil down maple sap to make maple syrup. This processing is pretty minimal, which is one of the reasons why it has so many health benefits, because while it has 15 calories per teaspoon just like table sugar, it’s got a lot more going for it than just empty calories, including the following:
Table sugar has virtually no nutritional value, other than to provide a lot of simple carbohydrates. One way in which coconut sugar is superior is that is actually does provide the body with several minerals which are needed for good health, including iron, magnesium and potassium.
Inulin is a special type of fiber. It is known as a “prebiotic” because it is believed that it is capable of nourishing and supporting the beneficial probiotic bacteria that live in the gut and that play such an important role in immunity and digestion. It is also believed that, as a fiber, inulin is able to slow down the absorption of glucose and thus prevent spikes in blood sugar levels that can be caused by other sweeteners like ordinary table sugar. Because of this it is much lower on the glycemic index, clocking in around 35, compared to table sugar which comes in around 58-60.
Coconut sugar — unlike many other sweeteners except honey or molasses — also brings a host of antioxidants to the table. These compounds have been shown to strengthen the immune system, reduce oxidative stress done to the body’s tissues by free radicals and basically slow down the aging process. Its antioxidant content is another reason why coconut sugar is becoming so popular.
So consider picking up a package of coconut sugar today. It can be found at any health food store and even more regular grocery stores are carrying it due to its increasing popularity. While it should not be consumed excessively, it does appear to be a healthier sweetener than either table sugar or its artificial substitutes.
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