You might associate coconuts with keto due to their high fat and low carb content. However, when it comes to coconut sugar, the question arises: ‘Is coconut sugar keto-friendly?’ In this article, we’ll delve into whether coconut sugar is keto-friendly and explore some more suitable alternatives.
What is Coconut Sugar?
Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener that comes from the sap of coconut palm trees. To make it, the flower of the tree is cut and the dripping sap is gathered.
This sap then gets heated until all the water evaporates, leaving behind a sweet, granulated sugar that looks and tastes different from regular white sugar. The sugar has a unique sweet taste, resembling caramel or brown sugar.
In the past few years, coconut sugar has gained popularity as people began seeking healthier alternatives to normal sugar. It does offer some nutritional benefits compared to white sugar, but it isn’t necessarily a healthy food.
Most commonly, people use coconut sugar just like they would use regular sugar. You can use it in coffee, baked desserts, or even savory dishes that call for a touch of sugar.
Is Coconut Sugar Keto?
No, coconut sugar isn’t keto. A single two-teaspoon serving of coconut sugar contains approximately 8 grams of carbs. For someone on a keto diet with a daily limit of around 50 grams of carbs, a serving of coconut sugar uses up 16% of your daily carb allowance, making it an impractical choice.
While coconut sugar isn’t keto-friendly at all, it does have a lower glycemic index (as low as 35) compared to white sugar (58). Glycemic index measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed more slowly, causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial for blood sugar control.
However, you should remember that while coconut sugar’s GI may be lower, it’s still not a low-carb option.
Carbs in Coconut Sugar
One teaspoon of coconut sugar contains about 4 grams of net carbs (*). Coconut sugar contains no fiber, which means its carbohydrate composition is 100% simple carbs, or sugars, that the body can quickly use for energy.
While there are some micronutrients present in coconut sugar, such as iron, potassium, and calcium, their quantities are very small. You would have to consume a large amount of coconut sugar to get a significant amount of these nutrients.
So, while it’s technically true that coconut sugar has more nutrients than table sugar, in practical terms, this doesn’t make a significant difference to your overall nutrition.
Comparing coconut sugar to table sugar, the two are almost identical in terms of their carbohydrate composition with the main difference being in the processing.
Coconut sugar undergoes less processing than table sugar. It’s typically not bleached or chemically altered, which might make it more appealing to you.
Keto-Friendly Substitute for Coconut Sugar
If you’re looking for a keto-friendly substitute for coconut sugar, there are a few options you can consider. Keep in mind that these substitutes may have slightly different taste profiles, so it’s a good idea to experiment and find the one that best suits your preferences:
- Stevia: Stevia is a sweetener that comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. The sweetener contains zero calories and zero carbohydrates, making it perfect for low-carb diets. Better yet, stevia has no impact on blood sugar levels (*). Additionally, stevia is a source of antioxidants, which help protect your body from free radicals and oxidative stress (*). You can use stevia much like you would use sugar: in your coffee or tea, sprinkled over cereal or fruit, or as an ingredient in low-carb baking recipes. However, as it’s much sweeter than sugar, you’ll need less of it to achieve the same sweetness.
- Monk fruit: Monk fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo, is another excellent sugar substitute that contains no calories and no carbs. Similar to stevia, it has no effect on blood sugar levels. Monk fruit also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helping to reduce inflammation in the body.
- Erythritol: Erythritol stands out among sugar alcohols for its minimal side effects. Unlike some other sugar alcohols, it doesn’t usually cause bloating or digestive discomfort when consumed in moderation. Technically, erythritol is a carbohydrate. However, the body can’t digest it, so it doesn’t convert into glucose and raise blood sugar levels. One thing to note is that erythritol isn’t as sweet as regular sugar. Typically, it has about 70% of the sweetness of table sugar. Therefore, you may need to use a little more erythritol to achieve the same level of sweetness when substituting it in recipes or drinks.
- Allulose: Allulose is a rare sugar that naturally occurs in small amounts in wheat, certain fruits, and other foods. What’s remarkable about allulose is that although it’s a sugar, it isn’t metabolized by the body and therefore doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels. It is also not as sweet as table sugar so you might need a little more to get to your desired taste.
The Bottom Line
While coconut sugar offers a unique flavor and slightly better nutritional profile compared to table sugar, it’s not keto-friendly due to its high carbohydrate content. Fortunately, alternatives like stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, and allulose provide sweetness without the carbs, making them excellent choices for those adhering to a low-carb lifestyle.