Coconut Sugar: Sustainable and Healthy Sweetener

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist May 21, 2013

coconut sugar
Coconut sugar, also referred to as palm sugar, coconut palm sugar, or coconut crystals/nectar, is the one of the primary sweeteners I use in my home for baking. The reason is because it is not only delicious, but it is also healthy and sustainable for our planet.

Made from the sap of cut flower buds from the coconut palm, coconut sugar and coconut nectar are a source of minerals, vitamin C,  B vitamins, and some amino acids.  Coconut sugar has been used as a traditional sweetener for thousands of years in South and South-East Asia.

How Does Coconut Sugar Compare with Cane Sugar?

Sweeteners derived from cane sugar can overly stress the pancreas as the glycemic index of these sweeteners is high compared with coconut sugar. Even maple syrup has a rather high glycemic index in comparison.

The glycemic index (GI) is the rate of how fast blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food.  A high GI means that the food is rapidly absorbed by the body, spiking the blood sugar causing the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. A low GI indicates a food that is more slowly absorbed, thereby preventing that health damaging insulin spike.

The glycemic index of a food can be reduced by eating healthy fats along with the sweetener of choice.  Hence, traditional desserts such as cream and fruit, cookies made with butter, and flan (eggs, sugar, whole milk).  However, for some with blood sugar issues, this is not enough to prevent problems with insulin.

Here is the glycemic index of many common sweeteners on the market (higher GI = higher blood sugar spike).

Stevia 0
Xylitol 7
Agave 15-30
Brown Rice Syrup 25
Coconut Sugar/Nectar 30
Raw Honey 35-58
Sucanat  43
Organic Sugar 47
Maple Syrup 54
Blackstrap Molasses 54
Evaporated Cane Juice 55
Raw Sugar (Turbinado) 65
Corn Syrup 75
White Sugar 80
High Fructose Corn Syrup 87
Glucose 100

After looking at this chart, you may be thinking, “Xylitol and agave have a very low glycemic index. Why not use those?”

The problem is that xylitol and agave nectar are both highly processed.  It’s not just the glycemic index that comes into play when selecting a sweetener, but how it is made that needs to also be considered.

What about stevia and brown rice syrup?  Those are both good options, but practically speaking, they don’t work well for all baking situations.

Coconut sugar is much more versatile and is easily substituted for cane sugar in baking recipes 1:1 which is why I find it a practical as well as a healthy choice.  It is sweet with no coconut flavor and so does not drastically alter the flavor of the dish.

The ideal coconut sugar has been made using low temperature processing that involves evaporation of the sap from the coconut blossoms into crystals. Evaporation temperature is about 100F for an hour or two. As a result of this low temperature, enzymes remain intact.

Some coconut sugar manufacturers boil the nectar down to crystalize it, so check labels carefully or contact the manufacturer first if you desire raw coconut sugar.

Of course, moderation is key as with the use of all natural sweeteners – even coconut sugar.    No more than 3 TBL per day (or 5% of total calories) of even a natural sweetener is a good rule of thumb.

Why Coconut Sugar is Sustainable

Unfortunately, misinformation about the sustainability of coconut and palm sugar has been making the rounds on the internet to the massive detriment of those earnestly seeking healthier sweeteners.

The article primarily responsible for promoting the notion that coconut sugar is unsustainable insists that coconut trees cannot produce both coconut sugar (derived from the nectar of the coconut blossom) and coconuts simultaneously. Moreover, the article states that the increasing popularity of coconut sugar will cause the price of products like coconut oil, coconut flour, and shredded coconut to skyrocket because low income coconut tree farmers will choose to use their trees to produce coconut sugar instead of mature coconuts.

Only the rich able to afford the healthy and beneficial fats from coconuts because a growing number of consumers enjoy and use coconut sugar and coconut nectar?

Hardly!

There are numerous, reputable sources that insist that the negative press about coconut sugar has completely missed the mark. Tapping a coconut tree for its sap is a centuries old tradition that does not harm the tree or impact the tree’s ability to produce coconuts.

Coconut palm trees are in high abundance throughout the world, most of which are not even being used for either sap or coconuts! They are a sustainable resource ready and available to be used! There is no evidence that sap production is overtaking or even threatening coconut production. Coconut oil exports are booming from the Philippines (top coconut oil exporter) with shipments for the first seven months of 2010 surpassing those for the entire 12 months in 2009. A slump in exports due to bad weather in 2011 (not rising coconut sugar sales!) was followed by an expected rebound in 2012 of 12.3% for coconut oil and 21% for copra (dried coconut meat).

World Bank and Davao Research Center Attest to the Sustainability of Coconut Palm Sugar

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the World Bank reports that coconut palm sweeteners are the single most sustainable sweetener in the world!

The reason is because coconut palms are a tree crop which benefits the environment ecologically as they restore damaged soil requiring very little water in the process. In addition, coconut palms produce more sugar per acre than sugar cane (50-75% more) while at the same time using less than 20% of the soil nutrients and water for that high level of production.

Besides the World Bank, research conducted in the Philippines at the Davao Research Center demonstrated that it is possible to produce both sap for making coconut sugar as well as coconuts from the same tree. All that needs to be done is tap the coconut sap in the first half of the coconut blossoms and then allow the remaining half of the blossoms to develop into mature, 12 month coconuts.  This method for tapping both sap and coconuts from the same tree yields 5-7 times higher productivity than traditional methods.

Moreover, once a coconut tree is tapped, sap continues to flow for the next 2 decades or so which is highly sustainable and obviously supportive to the tree itself else it would die.

The fact is that coconut oil and coconut sugar are both Traditional Foods – it isn’t a matter of one over the other as they have completely different purposes in the kitchen. Both are used and enjoyed in my home and there isn’t any reason why both shouldn’t be in yours too.

Want to Learn More About Healthy Sweeteners?

If you are seeking coconut sugar that is raw and also sustainable, click here for the brand I use in my home and feel very good about.

If you wish to learn more about healthy sweeteners, click here for an in depth video presentation produced by the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Sources:  

Coconut Sugar: Healthy Alternative to Agave Nectar

University of Sydney Glycemic Index Database

High Fructose Cane Syrup and Sugar

The Truth about Coconut Sugar: The Other Side of the Story

Coconut Palm Sugar Sustainability

The Many Shades of Palm Oil

FAO: Towards a more diversified and sustainable agriculture

Setting the Record Straight: Coconut Sap vs Oil Production

Philippines coconut oil exports soar to new record

2012 coconut oil exports to rise 12.3%: group

 

Comments (127)

  1. Pingback: Simple Steps #3: Oh honey, honey, sugar, sugar

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  5. Helpful information. Lucky me I discovered your web site by chance, and I am surprised why this coincidence did not took place earlier! I bookmarked it.
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  6. Pingback: Coconut Sugar is Sustainable | Food Renegade

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  9. Well, this has certainly been enlightening….hasn’t it?
    Bottom line, I do love to buy my coconut oil from Tropical Traditions, and have had good service with it too.
    And, as far as the coconut sugar, yeah, it tastes good, so good I could eat it straight out of the bag. The problem is, it is very expensive. Plus, it’s questionable on it’s sustainability and practicality. I think I’ll stick to what I can afford, and that’s usually sucanat. With honey and maple syrup also in my regiment of sweeteners used in my home. It all depends on what I’m making.

    Reply
  10. Sarah,

    From a baking perspective, does coconut sugar yield the same “structure” in a dish as table sugar? Does it also have similar effect on preserving freshness (counter stable for several days vs needing to be refrigerated)? Thanks so much … have a bag ready to use! Robin

    Reply
  11. Ok, so it’s low GI which is great, but the catch is, how much fructose is in it? For example, agave is low GI but one of the problems with it is that it’s high in fructose, thereby putting more strain on your liver etc. Is it at all possible to find a natural sweetener that ticks both boxes? I haven’t found one yet and figure that the occasional indulgence is ok, but mostly just avoiding sweets is the healthiest thing to do.

    Reply
  12. I have a cake recipe I quit making due to the sugar in it and would like to substitute this sugar so I can take this cake to our church dinners. I assumed the sugar was made from GMO beets or sugar cane and haven’t baked a cake in several years. Could I use coconut flour instead of all purpose flour for my cake?

    Reply
  13. This blog seems to serve more as an exercise for you to validate your own lifestyle choices instead of acting as a forum for discussions around the topics you write about. When anyone disagrees with you, you automatically call them narrow-minded or wrong. You seem to focus more on rhetoric than fact checking and when people call you out, you become defensive and resort to straw men tactics to avoid facing the truth.

    You should just start keeping a traditional PRIVATE journal if all you are after is a means to validate your own opinions, and all you want is to be convinced that the lifestyle choices you make are good for everyone.

    Many people comment on your articles and you seem to be the most stubborn “economist” I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

    Reply
    • I have found this to be true Sebastian. Even modification of a point earns ire. In my case, Miss Sara’s husband joined in intimidation attempts. I have also learned that a promise to contact you and work together never happens either. Even though nutrition and fitness is the mutual commonality. I initially came to her defense when I learned of this blog over a dental thing…….. only to land in the doghouse when I politely pointed out a truth in later postings.

      This being the case, I have learned to just read, verify and glean anything I can to be of use to help my family and also to be a service and a free ministry to others. And so we just read…..

      Reply
      • Agree! Do comments get deleted here? I cannot find some of mine… nothing disrespectful, just disputing some facts and asking questions. And pointing out that many of these “suggestions” for better health are far too expensive for most of us, especially coconut sugar at $12 per pound! I get 5lb bags of regular white sugar for $2 because that is what I have easy access to and can afford. Tired of trying to be convinced that “in the long run the extra cost is worth it” when I am simply seeking healthier, yet more cost effective options.The limited budget is here and now and very real and money does not grow on trees. I may actually stop following these alternative wellness sites altogether because I get so frustrated with people’s inability to comprehend another person’s situation or viewpoint. I have yet to find any good suggestions on how to fit this lifestyle into my budget. I was referred to this site because I am secular and so many other sites are Christian based and a bit God heavy, but I have been very disappointed. Guess I’m joining the “just reading” group and am giving up on trying to probe for more realistic info.

        Reply
        • Pam, many health items are expensive but to not discuss which are the healthiest options because they are expensive does no one any good. I, like most of the people I know who want to learn more about what is best for our bodies make decisions as to which items are most important to change in our lives with the funds we have. Slowly I’ve learned ways to cut costs in other areas of our lives (such as making almost all of our household cleaning items) in order to purchase a higher quality of food. At first it seems overwhelming but just make small changes to start and slowly add others as time goes on.

          Reply
        • Well I guess you can use your money on cheap bad foods and the expensive Dr. bills that go along with it or invest in your health and spend a few dollars more.

          Reply
          • Very politely stated SoCalGT and thankyou.

            Miss Deborah, not so much. Perhaps those with few financial concerns are unable to walk in the mocc’s of those that have been brutalized by this economy and the monsters that control it. Heaven forbid that folk learn who these monsters are and actually help do something about it. Rather, in talmudic fashion its better to show no empathy.

            It clearly and quite plainly is NOT “a few dollars more.” If it were, the prior comments would not have been made pointing this truth out. I think that SoCalGT has a better approach of encouragement AND community where we share our hard earned and learned tidbits with our community so that ALL may be moved ahead.

  14. It looks like TT has found that they can make more products from coconuts than they can from coconut flowers. It also sounds like coconut sap could sustainably be reserved for trees too old to make coconuts. It sounds logical that you could go back and forth from one year to the next but either you get coconuts or sacrifice the flowers.

    Getting coconuts and sap from the same tree the same year is more like breastfeeding triplet toddlers when you are pregnant. If there is not an unnaturally extreme amount of nutrients being pumped into that mama (tree) that would lead to a shorter life of the tree and/or not being really great in any particular market (one of those kids or mama will be malnourished if she doesn’t have some help). Choosing sounds like a wise sustainable practice.

    There is a difference between sustaining your village on both and sustaining the world on both.

    Reply
  15. Tropical Traditions says no May 22, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Tropical Traditions refutes this, just FYI.

    “As retailers in the U.S. and elsewhere also cash in on this new demand, sadly, the other side of the story is not being told. What no one is warning consumers about is that coconut palm trees cannot produce both coconuts and coconut palm sugar! When the sap used to make coconut palm sugar is collected from the coconut palm tree, from the flower bud that will eventually form a coconut, that tree can no longer produce coconuts! Think about that for a minute. No coconuts = no coconut oil, no dried coconut, no coconut flour. Is coconut sugar worth giving up these other valued products that come from the coconut?? Some claim that if a coconut palm tree is producing coconut sugar, which means that it cannot produce coconuts at the same time, that it can still be converted back to producing coconuts at a later time. However, in Marianita’s experience in growing up in a coconut producing community, she has never seen this happen, and we have not seen any studies that have been conducted published anywhere to back up this claim.”

    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

    Reply
  16. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I will spare you my entire story here, but basically a couple of months ago we went gluten and casein free. We have seen some very important behavioral changes in our son since that. Anyway, since then, I have read the main (beginning part) of Nourishing Traditions. So, I have been trying to implement parts of it (one thing at a time). I have been making all of our bread since we switched to GFCF, honestly you kind of have to if you want anything that doesn’t taste like cardboard. Since I read NT though, I have been disturbed by the 3 TBSP of brown sugar in the bread. I was at Bob’s Red Mill this afternoon (major plus that I live in Portland Oregon and can go shop the bulk bins at Bob’s anytime I want) and was intrigued by some organic coconut sugar that they had. I bought a little baggie and put it in my bread. I was just getting online to research if it was a good option, and there was your post right at the top, like a gift!! :-)
    I discovered your site yesterday through YouTube searches and watched A LOT of your tutorial videos. I am so visual, so it was wonderful to see some of the things that I have been wanting to start in a video!!
    Thank you again, Blessings!!!

    Reply
  17. Oh forgot to say thank you! For saying I have in extraordinary mind!!!!! Many people minds tend to think logically and also spatially…. Never knew that made us special. Everybody’s mind thinks a certain way that’s just my way. Oh and it doesn’t take a Ph. D to see it ;) it’s all good just know I need more solid answers and definitely need the evidence to totally believe. Not saying I don’t believe what you were giving it just means I need to do some more personal research….

    Reply
  18. Well if you can’t see it then I will be sitting here for ever trying to explain it and you still won’t see it that is what I meant by a waste of time…… I can however explain this one qite quick that has nothing to do with the contradictions…. He used can, may, could, etc all the way through his reply to you which also implies he is UNSURE….

    Reply
  19. Vicki, you haven’t upset me. It just would’ve been more helpful if you’d spent less time talking about how extraordinary your mind is, and more time pointing out which sentences are in opposition to one another. I’ve just had my husband (a doctoral student) read it and we’re both at a loss for this “clear as day” inconsistency. No worries, though. C’est la vie! :)

    Reply
  20. The recommended sugar brand that Sarah linked to is NOT raw like she said it is, if that matters to you. I went to the company’s own website and found this in the coconut sugar FAQs:

    “Madhava Organic Coconut Sugar is grown and harvested sustainably in Indonesia. It is an organic, unrefined sweetener that is derived from the nectar of coconut palm tree blossoms, or buds. The nectar is boiled to evaporate the water, and the remaining concentrated nectar is crystallized into sugar.”

    Reply
  21. Hi Sarah,

    I love coconut and who doesn’t love sugar?
    Nutrients and low glycemic index are certainly good.
    However, are they the only things to consider?

    Fructose, which has a low glycemic index, seems to be the culprit
    in many diseases.

    Sugar content in coconut sugar is:
    - sucrose: 70 to 79%
    - glucose: 3 to 9%
    - fructose: 3 to 9%

    Since sucrose is half fructose, coconut sugar is between 38% and
    48.5% fructose. This is almost like table sugar!

    You recommend a maximum of 3 TBL of coconut sugar a day. This is
    45g of sugar, or about 17g to 22 g of fructose, which is within the limits some experts
    consider reasonable. But it is easy to forget about the fruits, as you mention…

    Reply
  22. Sorry Jocelyn don’t mean to upset you…. I just have a strong spatial and logical mind guess that’s why I can pick it up easily. And if someone contradicts themself then it means one of two thing: they either are lying and hiding something, for whatever reason, or they themselves do not fully know or understand what they are talking about….

    Reply
  23. This is all very interesting. I haven’t used palm sugar in a long time, but I enjoyed it when I did. Incidentally, Wilderness Family Naturals supports the production of palm sugar, but they think you’re wrong on one point: “When coconut trees are used to collect sap, they then become a “sap tree” and no longer are allowed to produce coconuts.” I’m really curious as to what the motivation would be for Tropical Traditions to shun this product publicly and malign its production.

    Reply
  24. I’m not fully convinced yet either but I appreciate the references given here. I also messaged TT asking for their references for their article and they sent me the same message they sent to Jocelyn. So I replied again saying I had already read their article and am looking for the references they used to create it. (No reply from them yet.) Surely they realize how much weight their argument will lose when people are asking for references and they have none to provide?

    So I am still officially undecided for now. I don’t find that “they are just whistling to the wind” a reasonable enough answer considering how they could be making more money if they were to start selling coconut sugar.

    Having said all of that, I just got my first coconut sugar yesterday from Nutiva to try. I’ll be nice and confused as I eat whatever I make with it though ;D

    Reply
    • Here’s their response:

      “Our source is the owner and founder of Tropical Traditions, and Mt. Banahaw Health Products Corp. who supplies our coconut oil, and who is Filipino, grew up on a coconut plantation in the largest coconut producing province in the Philippines, and has her degree in nutrition. Mt. Banahaw Health Products Corp. also works closely with the universities and departments of agriculture in the Philippines in developing our products.
      Coconut sugar is not a traditional product, but a new one, much like agave, and there are no standards for its production. Trees dedicated to coconut sugar traditionally are used for making lambanog, a hard liquor. This is common knowledge from those who live in the Philippines.
      Hope this helps and have a great day!”

      I have a friend with family in the Philippines, so I’m going to get their take on this. :)

      Reply
      • Very interesting. Thanks for posting this, Karrie. Still can’t wrap my mind around why TT would be so vocally anti-coconut sugar if it were in fact a traditional, sustainable product which they could sell? I mean beyond the alleged hand waving and wind whistling…although I’m not really certain what those things mean. If they could profit from it, and it was in line with their ethics of sustainability, why wouldn’t they?? Obviously there are companies whose opinions differ here. The question is why? I’m not convinced Sarah is the “authority” here, as it seems she was already wrong on a fact or two. I’d be interested to hear what your friends’ family has to say.

        Reply
  25. Maria Szucsova via Facebook May 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Exactly, apart of the price (in UK this coconut sugar is more expensive than the most expensive local honey), this is exactly what makes me not buy it… I wish there was more maple syrup, or any other tree syrup, here in UK :)

    Reply
  26. Maria Szucsova via Facebook May 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I’m still not decided… Probably it is the price as well that puts me off – here in UK a small 8oz packet costs around 6 dollars, which is more expensive than local honey and local honey is very expensive…

    Reply
  27. Tropical Traditions is whistling in the wind on this one. Do we stop eating meat because of unsustainable CAFO’s? Of course not. We buy from sustainable grassbased farmers. Coconut sugar is healthy and traditional and not buying it is silly when there are plenty of sustainable options out there and there is NO evidence of what Tropical Traditions is claiming.

    Reply
  28. Nina King via Facebook May 22, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Totally agree. If people really want to make serious changes that really ARE killing the planet and everything in it, put an end to using plastics! I bet the people complaining about sustainability nonsense all have plastic wrap and ziploc bags in their kitchens.

    Reply
  29. Jocelyn keep reading then because that paragraph I mentioned actually contradicts itself two times…… Don’t have time to sit here and break it apart when it is clear as day…. Sorry you can’t see them but if you keep looking you eventually will.

    Reply
  30. Are we *really* doing the best we can, Britney? In many cases, I think the honest answer to this question is often a resounding no. And many of us aren’t looking for anything to complain about – we’re genuinely trying to educate ourselves to make good decisions for our families and for the environment our children and grandchildren will live in long after we’re gone. Seems an intelligent enough endeavor to me…

    Reply
  31. Laurie and Alisa – you can read my reply above. This particular cause is real and knowledge is important, but it is unrelated to this blog post. The “oil palm” you are referring to is a different species of palm, grown in entirely different countries from the palm which produces this sugar.

    Reply
  32. A couple things: There are different species of palm trees and I believe Alisa is confusing the two. There is INDEED a MAJOR problem happening in the growing and harvesting of PALM OIL which comes from the “oil palm (Elaesis guineensis)” in Malaysia and Indonesia and the destruction of forests for the creation of these plantations is HORRIFIC and cruel to wildlife, especially orangutans. This is not the same “coconut palm (Cocos nucifera)” from which coconut oil and sugar are collected, primarily in the Philippines. With that said, I don’t think the fact that something is a “traditional food used for centuries” is evidence at all that something is being produced sustainably. The health of our environment is a crucial piece of the “healthy life” equation, not just weather a particular product is healthy for our body physiologically. I see some “arm waving” exists on both sides, with some claiming “unsustainable”, and others claiming “traditional automatically = good”.

    Reply
  33. Also another import sweetener is Erythritol: 0.8 cal., 4 g carbs, glycemic index = 0. Erythritol will not cause gastritis like other sweeteners with “itol” at the end. Also, a very bad sweetener for those with diabetes is Splenda which has a glycemic index of 70. This is because they add dextrose. Dextrose is a dry form of Glucose. Glucose has a glycemic index of 100.

    Reply
  34. Charmaine Hess via Facebook May 22, 2013 at 1:07 am

    I’ve made a syrup out of coconut sugar for over two years. I use it in recipes calling for a liquid sweetener.
    2 1/4 c. coconut sugar
    3/4 c. water
    Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
    Stop stirring and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3 minutes.
    This makes enough to fill a one-pint glass mason jar, which I then store in the fridge.

    Reply
  35. blah blah blah you people just want something to complain about. It’s healthy, it taste delivious… We arent cave men…we dont go out and pick on our fruits from the field. We arent evil bc we purchase healthy product in stores that used gas to get to the store… COME ON. Be intelligent. Go look through your kitchens and bathrooms and count the products that you dont create yourself and arent from your bak yard…. Oh wait…just look at the appliances and materials created to make your kitchen and bathroom. Stop trying to make everything feel shame and guilt over doing the BEST we can in a fallen world.

    Reply
  36. Jessica Blackwell via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Good to know, i was just starting to feel awful about it. Ethical dilemma be gone! Yay!

    Reply
    • It actually isn’t a contradiction. In the beginning TT is explaining the economical impacts for the production of Palm sugar. The Philippines depend heavily on coconut oil as a food source and for bio-diesel production. This would be the same in the U.S. if large diesel companies started utilizing more crude oil resources for the creation of diesel fuel instead of gasoline. Prices for reg. gas would skyrocket due to supply and demand. Asian markets mass harvest palms for many things and there have been many studies to show the environmental effects from their practices. If you are referring to the part of the paragraph where TT recommends ensuring the palm sugar they purchase is certified organic from a third party located on the Philippines or similar, this would be due to the globally known fact that the USDA and FDA are supporting corporate deceptive practices and hiding facts from US consumers. There is a much stricter international certification system in place than that which comes from the U.S. Which is why many products from the U.S. are imported by other countries.

      Reply
  37. I just messaged Tropical Traditions a link to your article and this is their response: Hi Jocelyn,

    Thank you for your message. Our stance on coconut sugar has not changed and Tropical Traditions does not currently sell coconut palm sugar. Many people do not realize that the harvest of coconut palm sugar is not a sustainable practice when the sugar is made from the sap of the coconut flower, since cutting off the coconut flower prevents the formation of more coconuts. By sacrificing the coconut flower that would normally become a coconut, one is sacrificing coconut products in favor of the sap/sugar.

    Coconut trees in the Philippines have been on the decline for decades, and the coconut oil from coconuts is also now valued as a fuel source in bio-diesel production, resulting in less coconut oil availability as a food source each year. The increase in demand for coconut palm sugar could further result in fewer coconut products, including coconut oil, being available as a food source in the future if the proper methods are not used for making the sugar from the sap of the tree. Current palm sugar production often comes from older coconut trees that are beyond their prime and no longer able to effectively produce coconuts and fertilizers are commonly used to increase the sugar production. If you do purchase coconut palm sugar, be sure it is certified organic by a reputable third party organization, preferably from the Philippines where coconut production is sustainable and natural, with small-scale family farmers providing the vast majority of coconut products. Other places in Asia may practice large-scale plantation harvesting that can result in destruction of natural habitat and environmental pollution. To read more, please visit this page: http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

    Have a great evening!

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing this, Jocelyn. It seems the key is to make sure it’s sourced from the Phillipines and certified organic.

      Reply
  38. Angela Davis via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Sarah, it is unsustainable in the sense that it is not native to North America. It is being shipped here from thousands of miles away and thus has a huge carbon footprint. I think we need to be caution about using so many coconut products. Maple syrup is a more local sweetener than coconut sugar.

    Reply
  39. Carol Reeves Mcdowell via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    I had never heard of this before! What is this world coming to? This is freakin” scary. With Agenda 21 and Monsanto?

    Reply
  40. Has anyone made a syrup with this? I have two bags in my pantry and would love to make a syrup to add to my iced coffee recipe. I am thinking about making the sweetened condensed milk Sarah has posted on the blog but if I can do it without buying coconut milk that’d be the easiest.

    Reply
    • I’ve made a syrup out of coconut sugar for over two years. I use it in recipes calling for a liquid sweetener.
      2 1/4 c. coconut sugar
      3/4 c. water
      Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
      Stop stirring and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3 minutes.
      This makes enough to fill a one-pint glass mason jar, which I then store in the fridge.

      Reply
  41. Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Palm oil, coconut oil, coconut sugar are traditional foods used for centuries. Best to read both sides of the story before falling for a lot of arm waving which is all that the argument against coconut sugar really is.

    Reply
  42. Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    If what you say is true, then the planet would have been dead long ago … orangutans and elephants aren’t even native to the Philippines which is the primary exporter of coconut products.

    Reply
  43. Thanks for this, I love coconut sugar! I also have been using Swerve lately, and am wondering about your opinion of it. Have you ever written anything about Erythritol or Swerve?

    Reply
  44. Linda Scott Tyler via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I haven’t seen it at our Costco yet, but then I haven’t been there since the 2nd of May!

    Reply
  45. Alisa Esposito Lucash via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    If this is referencing coconut trees ONLY, that is fine. Palm fruit is massively destructive. It would do the company good to disassociate itself from the use of the word “palm” as it is becoming understood as one of the most unsustainable and damaging products on our sick earth.

    Reply
  46. Amanda McCandliss via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    It seems to be an acquired taste for me. I’d rather use honey for now. Fortunately, I have access to raw tupelo honey which they say is the lowest GI honey.

    Reply
  47. I really like the taste of coconut sugar. It’s got nice caramel undertones. I wonder why Tropical Traditions really doesn’t want people buying it?

    Reply
  48. Adele Stockham Culp via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Good news because I LOVE coconut sugar. But I did not know that it is the same as palm sugar. I have bought the koolaid on palm sugar without doing the work because there is so much work and research to do on so much. It gets overwhelming.

    Reply
  49. I’ve avoided coconut sugar for years because of the Tropical Traditions article you linked to. I’ve been purchasing my coconut oil from them for years as well. Why on earth would they post such misinformation? What would the motivation be? They seem to have an excellent reputation. If this is true, wouldn’t they benefit by participating in the sales of coconut sugar since they’re highly involved in (almost) all things coconut? Very strange. Not sure what to think.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist May 22, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Since Tropical Traditions is the ONLY place on the internet with this position (that I could find) and many other reputable sources which do not sell coconut products (hence have no vested interest) say the information they have put out is dead wrong, I would suggest that Tropical Traditions is whistling in the wind on this one.

      I’m buying coconut sugar, will continue to buy and am ignoring the arm waving.

      Do we stop eating meat because of some unsustainable CAFO’s? Of course not. We buy from sustainable grassbased farmers. Coconut sugar is health and traditional and not buying it is silly when there are plenty of sustainable options out there.

      Reply
      • Hi Sarah, and all. Unfortunately Sarah, I have to agree with Alisa and those who state this practice is NOT SUSTAINABLE. Tropical Traditions is not the only site/blog/report stating the consequences of this practice. Since your blog incorporates the word “economist”, I assume the intricacies of this practice are significant to your research and articles. Tropical Traditions is the first one that comes up when doing a search, so I implore you and everyone else to do a more comprehensive search. I know first hand that any Coconut Palm that is trained to produce sap will not produce coconuts. Considering this product is gaining widespread attention, IT WILL CAUSE AN INCREASE IN THE PRODUCT PRICE POINT OF ALL OTHER COCONUT PRODUCTS (i.e. Coconut Oil, Milk, shredded, ect). You also must consider the over-all picture: How much of a carbon footprint is created simply to transport it to the U.S. and to he various states? Probably a lot more than if it were to come from an organic cane sugar plantation in the U.S. How much of an economical impact will this have on organic cane sugar plantations in the U.S? How will this economic impact than coincidentally impact every other organic food product produced in the U.S? I will agree with everyone who states our current food system has many faults and issues, but if we all simply stop buying products made in the U.S….our economy will eventually fail all-together. Also keep in mind, if distributors such as Walmart are selling this product, they more than likely have a hand in how it is manufactured. Small operations could not possibly supply the demand to such distributors. Which means it ultimately is also at the discretion of the same practices products made in the U.S. are. I’m in no way trying to endorse U.S. products, just posing the question as to what would a more sustainable practice.

        Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
          Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist May 22, 2013 at 11:38 am

          Every single food on this earth is being produced somewhere unsustainably. What do we do, stop eating altogether?

          Do we stop eating a healthy, traditional food like coconut sugar produced for centuries in a very sustainable manner because some are doing it wrong? No. We buy from those doing it right and encourage the traditional, sustainable practice of tapping a coconut palm for its nectar with our food dollars.

          Reply
          • I would encourage you not to essentially indicate that some of your readers foolish and narrow-minded if they are simply coming to a different conclusion than you. People need to know the facts, which you have certainly provided some here, and do their own research and come to the conclusions that’s best for them. There are things that I am passionate about and have done the research on and when others have also done the research but come to a different conclusion, so be it.

            If it comes down to carbon footprint, maybe that is a big enough issue for some people to avoid it, so let them avoid it.

          • Karrie and Chris, If carbon footprints are an issue for you, consider the cultivation of both the Coconut Palm and Sugar Cane not only the shipping. I’m no expert on either but don’t Palms grow and produce for 20 to 30 years while cane is harvested only 3 or 4 times before it needs to be replanted? Tilling and planting add a lot to a carbon footprint. More than half of cane is still harvested by hand which requires burning the field first. This adds a huge amount of carbon to the environment. When considering carbon footprints we can’t just look at the distance an item is shipped. In addition there is very little cane grown in the US so what we buy is probably traveling as far as Coconut sugar.

        • While it’s valuable to have this conversation, it seems imprudent to damn an entire tradition (that of the centuries old production of coconut goods) because of the unscrupulous practices of a few bad actors (e.g. Bumitama Gunajaya Agro (BGA), the palm oil company mentioned in the article Alisa references below). Their alleged practices are extremely disturbing, as is the agency supposedly monitoring them (the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO). Rather than condemn an entire tradition, it seems to me the best way to respond is to: first, do the proper due diligence (research into these unscrupulous companies and the middlemen who distribute their products–possibly mass distribution companies like Walmart, as Chris suggests) and then second, use the power of social media to disseminate factual information about these bad guys who truly do NOT employ sustainable practices. We the consumers, as always, are in control here.

          Chris you bring up a number of important issues that do need to be discussed. Since you are concerned about the price of coconut products, as an economist you know that the market will establish the price of any given good. If the price goes up “too high” for us the consumers, then as you know, demand will go down. As demand goes down while supply is still up, prices must in turn go down. The irrefutable law of supply and demand. Again, we the consumers establish the prices.

          Reply
          • Late to the discussion, but I’d like to point out to Marcel that “we the consumers” are generally well-off, First World denizens who have no problem tolerating an increase in prices on these luxury items (and yes, having sweetened foods is a luxury compared to what much of the world eats). However, the native peoples who often can’t eat their traditional diet because the rest of the world has jumped on a fad are left to starve or adapt.

            Quinoa comes to mind. Sure, it’s a wonderful food, and health-food adherents must be overjoyed to find it available at Sam’s club in 25-lb bags. But the natives of Bolivia and Peru et al are getting screwed. Farmers who once planted SUSTAINABLY (IOW, rotated their crops and left grassland for Llama grazing) have opted for a nice short-term paycheck and stopped rotating, going monoculture in their planting, aping the factory farms of the US in order to keep up with world demand.

            With diminishing grazing available for llamas, there’s less natural fertilizer to be had. So again, the people in the highlands have to resort to non-traditional methods to keep up with demands. But We the Consumers don’t particularly care, since it means we can get cheap quinoa.

            However, as long as worldwide demand remains high, the price remains good for the farmer; he can sell it to a broker and make good money. Who then suffers? The people who’ve been eating quinoa for thousands of years – they can’t afford the new prices. What was once a traditional staple food for millennia has to be set aside for cheaper offerings. And by far the cheapest foods in the world come from US corn.

            So while health-conscious rich folks (and seriously, if you’re reading this on your iPhone or your laptop and not at a public library, you’re one of us rich folk), can pat themselves on the back for discovering such a wonderful traditional food, they ignore whose tradition it was, and are blind to the destruction of the tradition itself.

            So then we come to Coconut Sugar. Yes, it’s awesome, and used as a substitute for HFCS or refined sugar can be beneficial to the individual who makes the switch. But it’s most definitely NOT a traditional food, as there is no tradition for its extraction and manufacture in populations that have relied on the coconut for food. Its extraction causes at the very least a diminished coconut production over the lifetime of the plant, and possibly a complete cessation. If the fad catches on, as others have said, prices on every coconut product (regardless of sustainability) will go up.

            We the Consumers can choose whether or not to pay the inflated prices, and have heaps of organic sweeteners in our fair-trade lattes and on our whole-grain breakfast cereals and in our small-batch baked goods, but the humans who rely on coconuts have no choice in the matter; they’re not Consumers, they’re simply people. And in the global economy, people don’t matter.

  50. Susan Waite Blanchfield via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    most cities and small towns are already implementing it and they don’t even realize what it is. the plan was to implement it on the local level under the name of ICLEI (something like that). Its all about “Sustainable growth”. They plan to take over ALL the farm land and have us in the cities in stack houses.

    Reply
  51. Manang Kusinera via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    The UN does use such buzzwords, and it is up to us people to be not gullible in such things. If we know their goals, we will know how to outmaneuver them in their game so we can achieve our own goals.

    Reply
  52. Linda Scott Tyler via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    I’ve been using coconut sugar for about five? months now. It is the only natural sweetener I’ve found to be tolerable in my morning coffee along with a spoonful of coconut oil. I’m ecstatic to say that my husband just noticed that Wal-Mart is now carrying the brand pictured here which is my choice as well. For less $$ than at Top Food & Drug. And I’m off artificial sweeteners now!

    Reply
  53. Alisa Esposito Lucash via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Anything with palm in it is killing the planet, is non sustainable and is destroying wildlife habitat and cruelly murdering orangutans and elephants. Please do not buy ANYTHING with palm in it.

    Reply
  54. Lauren Sturm via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    good to know. i have prediabetes and haven’t found a good baking sugar to use as a replacement.

    Reply
  55. Susan Waite Blanchfield via Facebook May 21, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    “Sustainable” is the main code word for the UN’s Agenda 21. Look it up.

    Reply
  56. I’m in the process of making the switch to coconut sugar and have been pleased to find it (same brand as you buy) readily available at my local grocery. However I have a hard time getting it to dissolve in things like whipped cream. Any suggestions?
    Mrs. K\’s last post: Poor Grandma, Part 1

    Reply
  57. Thanks for writing this, Sarah. As someone who emailed you the tropical traditions link, it’s great to know that coconut sugar is a sustainable practice. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  58. Hello Sarah,
    Do you know if coconut sugar would work for making water kefir and kombucha?

    I enjoy so much reading your blog! Thank you for all the helpful information. :)

    Reply
    • I’ve used it for water kefir to great success, but I’ve learned to switch up sweeteners and fruit for kefir grains every now and then or the grains will get deprived of some mineral or other. Using coconut sugar for kombucha, however, DID NOT work at all! My finished kombucha smelled like, and quite frankly tasted like, puke. This was the only batch of kombucha I have ever had go bad, and thankfully I had some backup SCOBYS in the fridge so I’m still making tasty reqular kombucha with organic white sugar. :)

      Reply

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