Sugar comes in many forms: white sugar, brown sugar, granulated sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, maple sugar, coconut sugar, etc… Each of these sugars have their own benefits and drawbacks. But refined sugar is the worst one for you!
To be healthy, you can shift from regular sugar to brown sugar or even coconut sugar? You might be thinking, what’s coconut sugar all about? Is coconut sugar a better option? What’s the big deal with coconut sugar versus brown sugar?
Here we will share more about the difference between coconut sugar versus brown sugar in this post, including the nutritional benefits, uses, and how you can incorporate it in your daily diet.
Sugars By Name
As if the health factor of sugars isn’t hard enough to weed through, sugars have multiple names.
Brown sugar can go by many different names, including light or dark brown sugar, demerara sugar, muscovado sugar, turbinado sugar, and free-flowing brown sugar. One of the most common sugars is brown sugar which is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. It contains a large amount of moisture so it can easily clump together when stored for long periods of
Coconut sugar can also be called coco sugar, coconut palm sugar, coco sap sugar, and coconut blossom sugar. Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of the coconut tree. It has a mild flavor that’s similar to molasses or honey. It can come in a granular form or is also available in a liquid form similar to agave syrup, honey, or maple syrup.
Where Do They Come From?
Perhaps one of the most significant differences between brown and coconut sugar is its origin. The run-of-the-mill conventional brown sugar you purchase at the grocery store is just refined white sugar with added sugarcane molasses (shocking, right?!).
That is what gives it the brown color. White sugar is highly refined and is made from sugarcane and sugar beets. Refined means that it has gone through a chemical process that removes impurities and can remove beneficial nutrients although its sugar content is very high.
Brown sugar can contain up to 10% molasses. 4.5% molasses is considered light brown sugar, and 6.5% plus is dark brown sugar. Processing sugar increases chemical additives and dyes to change consistency and appearance.
Coconut sugar is a natural sugar made by a two-step process and can come in crystal or granule form, block, or liquid. First, it is caused by cutting the flower of coconut palm trees and collecting the liquid sap. Then, the juice is placed in large woks over moderate heat until most of the water is evaporated. The brown color is primarily due to caramelization.
Coconut sugar can also be considered a more sustainable product. Therefore, it is considered better for the earth. In addition, due to the minimal processing, coconut sugar uses less water and fuel when it’s being made.
When purchasing coconut sugar, make sure to check the ingredient labels to ensure you are getting a pure product and that it doesn’t contain cane sugar to help reduce the overall cost of the product.
Learning to read ingredient labels to confirm what additives are in your favorite brands helps increase food awareness and forces you to steer towards an organic brand that may be of higher quality.
Coconut Sugar Versus Brown Sugar Nutritional Comparison
When you compare the nutritional facts of one tablespoon of coconut sugar versus brown sugar, they both have about 4 grams of carbohydrates in the form of sugars. So that is about 16 calories per tablespoon.
But if you dive a little deeper into nutrition, you will see that brown sugar contains calcium, iron, copper, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium due to the added molasses.
Coconut sugar naturally contains vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and copper. In addition, coconut sugar also contains inulin, a type of dietary fiber. Inulin acts as a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria already in your gut. One teaspoon of coconut sugar contains about 18 calories with 0 carbs and fats.
Brown Sugar VS Coconut Sugar: Composition
Generally, brown sugar is made of 95% sucrose and 5% molasses. Sucrose (white table sugar) is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose.
Coconut sugar is 70% sucrose, and the rest is made up of individual molecules of fructose and glucose. So basically, they are made up of the same molecules. Both are sugar.
How Does That Affect My Body?
In a study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute aiming to assess the glycemic index of sugar, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than brown sugar. This means coconut sugar increases blood glucose levels at a slower rate. This can be especially important to monitor if you have diabetes.
However, these findings have been inconclusive. According to the American Diabetes Association, the glycemic index can be a helpful tool when managing blood sugar. However, keep in mind that the glycemic index can vary from person to person depending on different food combinations, how the food was produced, and how your body responds.
Like most foods, it’s not the product you consume that impacts health. Instead, it is the amount of the product that affects your health. By overeating junk food, you can gain fat just as you can by eating healthy foods.
Brown Sugar VS Coconut Sugar: Taste and Texture
Suppose potential differences in the health value of brown and coconut sugar exist. How does that translate to cooking in your kitchen regarding taste, texture, and swapping one for the other?
Let’s start with conventional brown sugar. It is slightly moister due to the addition of molasses. However, because it originates as white table sugar, the granules are fine and uniform in size.
The sugar dissolves well in liquids and incorporates solids used in baking, such as butter. Brown sugar has an almost caramel-like flavor, which blends well with baked goods. The caramel flavor and color can vary depending on the amount of molasses added.
Contrary to what the name implies, coconut sugar does not taste like coconut! Like brown sugar, coconut sugar has a slight caramel flavour. Both sugars have a very similar taste. It’s the texture that sets them apart.
Coconut sugar has much larger sugar granules because it is made by dehydrating sap. Therefore, it is less processed than brown sugar and is in a more natural state. Due to less processing, coconut sugar can be less informed in taste and granule size, mostly unnoticeable to you and me.
Coconut sugar does not blend as well with items such as butter and can leave baked goods spotted or grainy if they usually call for brown sugar. However, many baked goods recipes call for coconut sugar these days, and it works great.
In addition, coconut sugar does dissolve in liquids quite nicely and can be an excellent addition to your morning coffee or tea.
Brown sugar and coconut sugar contain very similar macronutrient profiles. Coconut sugar edges out brown sugar slightly as far as micronutrients are concerned. It also contains inulin which can be beneficial for gut health.
In both cases, quality trumps it all. Be sure to read ingredients labels thoroughly to look for added sugars, chemical additives, and anything that looks and feels like it doesn’t belong in a PURE sugar product!
Understanding their potential differences may increase your willingness to try new recipes. Many sweet treats can be made with coconut sugar. It can be used in savory dishes as well. Coconut sugar can add a little extra kick to your dinner plate for that combo sweet and spicy finish.
Coconut sugar is still sugar and should not be over-consumed. However, just because it contains some additional nutrition does not mean it’s free for all. Sugar is still a “treat.”
Using food awareness and nutrition label assessment is the key to choosing the highest quality option for you.
Do you use coconut sugar? Do you have a favourite dish to use it for?