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Alternative sugars: Coconut sugar

BDJ volume 223, page 749 (24 November 2017) | Download Citation

Elaine Gardner, British Dietetic Association (BDA) Spokesperson, discusses the sugar content in coconut sugar and provides related oral health advice.

Name: Coconut (palm) sugar.

What is it? It is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree and looks like brown, granulated sugar. Palm sugar is similar but made from a different type of palm tree.

Jaggery is a concentrate of date, sugar cane juice and/or palm sap without separation of the molasses. It has a fudge-like consistency and is used extensively by the Asian population (particularly those from India) to sweeten foods, breads and sweets.

All these products are similar and are mainly composed of sucrose (table sugar) with smaller quantities of glucose and fructose. Coconut sugar can contain 70-80% sucrose and jaggery about 50% sucrose.

Found in? Available from shops, health food stores and online.

Image: © egal/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Effect on general health: Coconut palm sugar (and palm sugar and jaggery) is essentially a fairly pure form of sugar and like ordinary sugar it can contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Coconut sugar undergoes little processing so it retains some of the natural vitamins, minerals (notably iron, zinc, calcium and potassium), fibre (inulin) and antioxidants. The nutrients in coconut sugar are likely to have a minimal effect unless you eat large amounts, when any benefit will be outweighed by all the sugar you're eating.

Coconut sugar has the same number of calories as table sugar (16 calories per teaspoon).

Oral health impact: All these products contain high levels of fermentable carbohydrates so are cariogenic.

Advice for patients: Treat these products in the same way as table sugar and use sparingly. Oral hygiene needs to be maintained as they are harmful to teeth.

Find out more about the British Dietetic Association at: www.bda.uk.com.

Coming up: Lactose (milk sugar)

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https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2017.1011

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