Unsurprisingly, around the time the USDA recommended that Americans reduce their added sugar intake, new sugar options claiming to be “healthy” started crowding grocery shelves. But is there any truth to this claim? The Washington Post looked at two trendy options, coconut sugar and date sugar, to separate fact from fiction:
Coconut sugar: Extracted from the sap of the coconut palm tree, some types of coconut sugar have been noted for their iron, zinc, and calcium content. But it’s important to take this with a grain of salt, since you’d need to eat a lot of coconut sugar to get meaningful amounts of these nutrients. Other foods, like beans and legumes, are much better sources.
Date sugar: Date sugar is generally made from ground-up dates and is touted as a nutrient-rich sugar, containing calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron. However, again, any kind of sugar is not the best place to look for nutrition. Whole dates are a better source of these nutrients and also contain fiber, which is important for overall health, weight management, and diabetes support. Also, date sugar doesn’t melt, making it an iffy sugar substitute for many uses.
The sweet side: Both sweeteners may be good alternatives to white if you’re watching your blood sugar. Compared with white sugar, they both have lower glycemic indexes—a ranking of how much a food affects blood sugar (the higher the number, the more the effect). According to the University of Sydney, coconut sugar’s glycemic index is 54, compared with white sugar’s glycemic index of 58 to 65, and is comparable to quinoa’s glycemic index of 53. The glycemic index of dried dates varies, depending on the type, but tends to be lower than that of white sugar. For example, the Barhi variety ranks at 50, and the Bo ma’an variety ranks at 31.
Bottom line? Neither of these sugars is a nutritional powerhouse, but if you’re swapping out coconut or date sugar for the refined white stuff in your smoothie or homemade banana bread, you may at least be doing your blood sugar a favor.
Source: Washington Post