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Coconut sugar is worth your consideration
on March 11, 2013
Let me start off by saying that coconut sugar may not be for you, or that you may need to learn to like it. My usage of coconut sugar is primarily for my morning coffee.
Coconut sugar is derived from evaporating the water away from the nectar of the coconut palm flower. It is not refined like traditional table sugar, and as a result, has slightly inconsistent granule size and the occasional (harmless) spec or two of material in it that comes along with it. Ignore the reviews that say these are bugs.
As a health-oriented consumer, a father, and someone who likes to support sustainable agriculture, I can stand behind coconut sugar. From a health standpoint, coconut sugar has a low Glycemic Index (35) that makes it suitable for diabetics. This means that your body can easily control the rate at which your cells burns this sugar for fuel, which is important because it prevents the "sugar spike" and subsequent "sugar crash" later. From a vantage point of a consumer who wants to support healthy, sustainable "green" industries, coconut sugar is a good product to stand behind. The nectar is extracted from the prolific flower buds that grow on the coconut palm, and the tree can keep continually producing new buds. This means that the grow-cycle is very quick, highly renewable, and the trees are capable of producing for up to 75 years. Additionally, coconut palm trees are capable in growing in areas that many other crop plants are incapable of growing. Compare this scenario to land that has been used to grow/harvest sugarcane or beets: (you can do a google image search on the phrase harvested sugarcane" and compare this to a google image search of "harvested coconut palm sugar.") The unusable remains of the sugarcane plant (after the sugar has been extracted) has to be burned whereupon the smoke and particulate matter drift into neighboring communities to sugarcane plantations.
Regardless if you have been convinced of the health benefits and ecological/agricultural benefits of coconut sugar, let me provide some perspective of what your experience with this actual product will be. This product was one of the more economical options among the coconut sugar varieties on amazon, and it was completely comparable to the other varieties I have tried. I liked how it was packaged in three separate one pound bags, and each bag is resealable. It dissolves completely in coffee, but (as other reviewers have noted) there is the occasional speck of matter from the coconut sugar that looks like a floating coffee ground or something.
Now onto the experience/taste with coconut sugar in general: you may have to learn to like it, but I found this fairly easy to accomplish. First of all, I had a fairly typical "western" palette that was previously scorched by over-sweetened foods. At first, I found the coconut sugar to be less sweet than refined sugar, but I quickly adjusted. Additionally, coconut sugar has a distinct flavor that you will not find in processed sugar. The taste is NOT that of a coconut, but more like molasses or brown sugar. I found the taste to be perfectly fine and not a big deal, but I could definitely understand an argument that it can slightly alter the taste of food/drink containing it. I am a bit of a "coffee snob," so a number of people may think level of detail is overkill: the coconut sugar pairs nicely (in my opinion) with coffees with chocolate, caramel, or richer (especially earthier) overtones; so for most people's big, bold morning cup 'o joe it should be just fine. Where I find that the coconut sugar can start to interfere with coffee's taste would tend to be with lighter, dessert coffees, and coffees that have hints of citrus or wine-like notes. As far as baking with coconut sugar, again, some people may find it to be slightly less sweet, which is something that (in my opinion) is a nice thing to start getting accustomed.
Lastly, I just want to point out some more nutritional info on coconut sugar: it contains a surprising amount of vitamins and minerals. According to wikipedia, coconut sugar is "a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. In addition to this it contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3, and B6. When compared to brown sugar, coconut sugar has 36 times the iron, four times the magnesium, and over 10 times the amount of zinc." However, no one should ever doubt the fact that this product is still sugar and still provides just as many calories. Like anything, consider moderation.