Is Coconut Sugar Keto-Friendly?

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In this article we will endeavor to explore and investigate whether coconut sugar is keto-friendly. In an age where all things coconut are extolled and revered, with production and sales booming, we would like to bravely analyze this particular coconut product and determine whether it lives up to its reputation.

Join us on this sweet sojourn where we can sift out the facts and the science from the fiction so you can make an informed choice and do what’s best for your keto lifestyle. 

 

What is coconut sugar?

Let’s first try and break down what this food actually is. In the most simple analysis, coconut sugar is simply a granulated natural sweetener that can be used as an alternative to table sugar.

How is coconut sugar made?

It is a popular misconception, but this sugar does not actually originate from the coconut fruit but rather from the coconut palm. In brief, long before the coconut fruit starts to emerge, a flower begins to blossom. Making a cut into the stem of this flower allows the coconut sap to flow out. This means the flower will not develop into the fruit.

This sap is then heated to evaporate all liquid, after which the remaining syrup can be converted into the granulated crystal form.

Production of the sap is obviously limited to tropical and subtropical climates where coconut palms usually grow.

 

Coconut sugar nutrition facts 

Before displaying the nutrition facts for this product in the table below, it is important for you to know that this is a niche item and was only recently introduced into the market. So much so that it has not yet been incorporated into the USDA food databases.

This means the data we have is limited in scope in addition to representing only particular brand varieties, and thus are not truly reflective of the product as an average.

Serving size: 8 g (2 teaspoons)

  • Calories: 30 kcal
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Net carbs (total carbs - fiber): 8 g
  • Total carbs: 8 g
  • Fiber: 0
  • Protein: 0 g

(If you’re using it for baking, it may be helpful to know that 100 g of coconut sugar has 375 kcal and 100 g of net carbs.)

As you can clearly see, this sugar, like table sugar, is composed of 100% carbohydrates. So right from the start you can see that this is a high-carb food item which is not keto-compliant by nature. Let’s drill down and investigate the sort of carbs we have here.

Research tells us that 87.5 g per 100 g of product are simple sugars. These are simple sugars, which are chemically carbohydrate dimers composed of two sugar units.

Table sugar is pure sucrose; a dimer composed of a glucose unit linked to a fructose unit, but what about the sugars in coconut sugar?

It seems that 70% of the sugars in this product are sucrose, as in table sugar. The remainder are free glucose and fructose, i.e. single unit sugars, the smallest unit a sugar can be reduced to in digestion.

On the basis of this alone, it would seem that we should treat it like regular sugar and thus advise you to keep consumption to a minimum as every gram is in fact one gram of carbs.

Have you heard of the glycemic index?

It is a ranking of food from 0 to 100 which informs you how quickly the available carbs in a food are absorbed into the bloodstream. This is calculated by comparing to a reference food such as pure glucose which has a score of 100.

Any food item with a score of 70 or higher is deemed high GI, from 56 to 69 medium GI and 55 or less is considered low. Note this does not necessarily mean that low GI is healthy and high GI is not.

It is interesting to note that the glycemic Index for this product actually falls in the low range at 54. Other sources place its GI value at 36. This could be due to different brands and/or different methodologies and reference foods used.

The GI for regular table sugar is about 60 and quite similar to the first score just mentioned. While primarily important for diabetics, this score does allow us to consider which carbs may be more acceptable on keto,  so it can be useful to know.

How about vitamins and minerals? Does coconut sugar contain any?

Please see the table below:

 Vitamin/Mineral   Men / Women
(age 19-70) RDA 
 In 100 g of coconut sugar   As a % of RDA  for Men / Women 
 Calcium  1,000 mg per day (same RDA for men and women)   375 mg  37.5% 
 Potassium  3,400 / 2,600 mg per day   875 mg   25.7% / 33.7% 

 

As you can see, this product is a source of these incredibly important minerals, but only when eaten in massive quantities of 100 g servings. An 8 g serving will only give you 30 mg of calcium and 70 mg of potassium, making hardly a dent compared to your requirements and still costing you 8 g of precious carbs.

Additionally, we must reiterate that these are values for a particular brand; others may be richer or poorer sources of these minerals. 

 

JUMPSTART YOUR KETO GOALS

 

Can you eat coconut sugar on a keto diet?

The short answer is no. As this is a carb rich food, it is not advisable to consume this on keto as even small amounts can be really costly in terms of grams of net carbs.

This sugar has a very similar composition to table sugar and is 100% carbs with only trace minerals per serving.

 

How much coconut sugar can you eat on the keto diet?

Although this product is best avoided, if for example you cannot drink your coffee without sugar and you absolutely love the caramel flavor of this product, then you may allow yourself one small teaspoon to stir into your hot drink.

Obviously this must be planned with mindfulness for a day when you have those 4 grams of net carbs spare. 

 

What kind of coconut sugar can you have on keto?

It comes in granulated or syrup form. From a nutritional and keto point of view, these are exactly the same and should both be avoided and used only if necessary in very small amounts.

 

BUILD YOUR KETO DIET PLAN

 

What can you eat it with?

It can be used wherever sugar is used: baking, stirring into hot drinks, or as an ingredient for a sauce.

 

Keto-friendly alternatives

  • Xylitol - this natural sweetener is a great choice for keto. Naturally found in trace amounts in fruit and vegetables, this product is composed of sugar alcohols, which basically means an altered variety of sugars that are metabolized differently by the body. For starters they are less calorific than regular carbohydrates. Additionally, they have a much weaker effect on blood sugar levels. The GI for xylitol is just 12, quite low when compared to table sugar at 60.
  • Monk fruit sweetener - this sweetener is produced from the monk fruit but the resulting sweetener has zero carbs in it. Rather it is processed from a rare antioxidant that is found abundantly in the mon fruit; namely mygrosides. This means that this sweetener is zero calorie, zero carb and has no effect whatsoever on your blood sugar.

 

FAQs about coconut sugar on a keto diet

Click to see the answer to frequently asked questions about using this substitute.

No it isn’t. It is made from the sap of the flower bud of the coconut palm tree. This is a liquid which can then be processed further into a syrup or into crystallized granules. This is a similar process to  the one employed in the production of maple syrup.

It tastes much like brown sugar; dark and sweet, yet not as moist. It also has notes of toffee and caramel.

Contrary to popular belief, these two sugars are much alike, both in calories and carbs. They have a slight advantage in that the coconut version contains some nutrients, such as calcium, but only in trace amounts per serving. It is also reputed to have a lower GI, but as a product it is still not considered healthy.

This product is available online and in stores such as Costco and Walmart. However, beware that it is an expensive product; it can cost you up to ten times more gram for gram.

As with all sugar, excess consumption can lead to serious dental problems, excess weight gain and blood sugar dysregulation. Please only consume sparingly and treat it as you would regular sugar.

Yes, it melts just like the regular type of sugar.

 

Low-carb sweeteners for keto