Coconut Palm Sugar – Friend or Foe?

Do you know about palm sugar or coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar?  I didn’t until a commenter here told me about it.  That truly is the coolest thing about blogging; the sharing of information.  I had never heard of it so I had to do a little reading up on it.  Now I am wondering how I didn’t know about this.  It’s good stuff.  It is made from the sap from the flowers of a date palm.  It is actually good for you. Here are some things I have learned.

  •  Here is a link that compares its mineral content to other sugars.  Impressive I must say.  Honey…. disappointing.
  • The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has reported that coconut palm sweeteners are the single most sustainable sweetener in the world.
  • It hasn’t yet been commercialized so it is still farmed by small farms as opposed to gigantic corporations.
  • Coconut sugar has an extremely low glycemic index.  It’s 35!!!  This is amazing.  A low GI is important for everyone, especially diabetics.  It is also helpful for weight loss.

Those are all really great things.  There are however some negatives.  You need to read a bit between the lines to see them.  The information was originally circulated by the Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute.  The Philippine government has a whole lot to gain by having coconut palm sugar portrayed in a positive light.  I re-read the same original research over and over on several different web sites.  They are all the exact same.  It’s like there is only one source of original information.  My concern was the amount of fructose in coconut sugar.  Fructose is what does the damage to your liver over time and that in turn causes a plethora of illnesses, namely diabetes.  If you haven’t watched the video by Dr. Robert Lustig about fructose yet, here is the link to see it.  It is sooooo worth the time.  The articles explained the fructose content like this: 

Coconut palm Sugar is naturally low on the Glycemic Index (GI), which has benefits for weight control and improving glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2).  Coconut palm sugars are rated as a GI 35.   By comparison, most commercial Agaves are GI 42, Honeys are GI 55 and Cane Sugars are GI 68.


The major component of coconut sugar is sucrose (70-79%) followed by glucose and fructose (3-9%) each.  Minor variations will occur, due to differences in primary processing, raw material source, tree age and variety of coconut.


Now that all sounds good, right? However, sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.  Let’s do some simple math and look at the actual fructose content. 

70/2 = 35  —–>  35 + 3 = 38%  (not too bad)

79/2 = 39.5   —–> 39.5 + 9 = 48.5% (pretty close to the same amount of fructose in table sugar)

So the actual amount of fructose can range from 38% to 48.5%  (High Fructose Corn Syrup is 55%)  In addition to the fructose content, it is not low carb.  It is a slow carb.  Unfortunately for me this means that I need to use this in moderation instead of like the free for all like I was really hoping.   While I do think it is far and away the best choice for a sweetener (I really don’t care for stevia which probably is best), it’s not the loop-hole I was hoping it was.   

How does it taste?  Awesome!  It is much like honey except less floral and more caramel.  I have been using it like I would honey by melting it a bit with some oil.  The price?  I got it at a local Asian market for about $1.40 a pound.  If you buy it online I saw it for as much as $8/lb!  Some brands from Thailand are whiter than the rest which are anywhere from brown to beige.  Check the ingredients list.  Many of the whiter ones have table sugar added to them.  It comes in hard discs or in jars.  The sweetness and flavor will vary in each batch. 

If you have more information on coconut palm sugar please post a link in the comments.  What are your thought?  Have you tried it?

About these ads

64 thoughts on “Coconut Palm Sugar – Friend or Foe?

  1. This is very interesting. I have such a hard time with the whole sugar/HFCS/stevia info. (I am totally against HFCS- it really irritates me that people try to say it is natural- anyhooo). I have not bought Stevia yet….but I am more curious about the coconut palm sugar. We have an asian market where I buy my rices in bulk and they have it there. So you use it like honey….may have to give this a try. Thanks for the info. =0)

  2. I recently read this article about cocosugar:

    It’s apparently the author’s response to another article that was saying cocosugar is not good at all. After reading it I’m inclined to believe the article is is a fair and more accurate response to the negative commentary about coco sugar.

  3. So, do you buy yours granulated, or in hunks, or those little patties, or what? Palm sugar is one of those things that, when I see it at the Asian market, make me wish I had a smart phone, to look it up while I’m there.

    I like the idea of it being a slow carb. I made cornbread last night for the first time in months (used to be a weekly staple), and was pleased with the realization that I hadn’t pulled out my granulated sugar for six weeks or so, since I made cookies before Christmas! (I do use raw, organic sugar in my coffee… with stevia, too.)

    From reading what you wrote, I understand you to say that, while it can’t be considered a true HEALTH food (which, of course, is understandable), it would be a fair substitute for the infrequent times when I’d normally use cane sugar. Yes? No?

    • Call me next time! I have bought it in all those forms. Most recently I bought it from Whole Foods aka Whole Paycheck. It was granulated. The granulated is by far the most easy to use it is also waaayy more expensive. It’s dirt cheap at LeeLee’s but it didn’t make sense for me to go all that way for just palm sugar. I would say definintely the best choice for sweetener. Far far better than any other option. Yes, use that instead of cane sugar. Did you check out the link for the nutritional stats? It is pretty impressive.

  4. I mostly use unrefined coconut blossom sugar in my gf cooking & baking & organic agave too!

    I love its caramel flavour. I love it! thanks for spreading the good word!

    • I love the flavor too. It’s so much better than sugar, don’t you think? Is it expensive there? How do you use yours? Granulated, in jars or the discs? If in the solid form what is your technique to use it in baking?

  5. It is very expensive in Belgium. For 1 jar, it costs nearly 10 Euros. I buy unrefined coconut blossom sugar in large pots, finely granulated. I use mine in baking just like that or in some yoghurt to add flavour & crunch.

  6. I recently bought a small tub of Thai Taste-brand natural palm sugar (paste form) at Whole Foods, in the Asian foods aisle. The tub says that it only has 3 grams of carbohydrates per 1 tablespoon (yes tablespoon) of the paste. (The granulated form seems to have more carbs in it, from what I’ve read online). And it is the best tasting sugar product I have ever eaten… hands down. The paste is a little messy, but I think it is worth it. Used together with Thai Taste’s green curry paste, this makes a phenomenal green thai curry. Yum Yum.


    Also, I read that some of the coconut palm sugar that you get in Asian markets is cut with refined cane sugar. Also, it seems that sugar from the palmyra date palm has more carbs than sugar from the coconut palm. So, check the side of the container :)


    • Thanks for that information. I have used the paste too and I liked it better than the hard discs. I didn’t notice the difference in carb count though. That’s great to know. I love Thai curry. I will try adding some of that next time. It sounds awesome.

  7. Great article. I think you are right about it being high in fructose. You mention that stevia is really the best sweetener, but that you don’t like it. Have you considered trying a different brand? If the stevia doesn’t taste good, it hasn’t been processed correctly. There are some beautiful brands out there that just taste sweet; no bitter taste, and no after taste. Nirvana is the brand I use and it is beautiful. I sweeten things with it and people can’t believe it isn’t made with sugar.

    • Maybe that is my problem. I have only ever tried the powdered stuff and I have heard that it tastes the worst. Thanks for leaving a brand name. I will definintely check that out. I hope hope hope I like it. That would be really great to still have a bit of sweetness with no added carbs.

    • I’d be interested in finding out how your baked goods turn out if you use only stevia to sweeten them. I always assumed that the texture must be very different, if one doesn’t use sugar. I use NuNaturals stevia extract – do you use liquid stevia for baking as well? I’d be so glad if I could make some cookies with stevia, as I absolutely love cookies and miss them the most….!

  8. I was noticing your comment on being disappointed with honey but impressed with coconut-sugar from the nutrient chart. This is a common misconception. We all tend to think that more is better when it comes to nutrients, but this is not the case. Health in the human body is all about balance.
    For instance, the calcium-phosphorus ratio is important. You should get a little more calcium than phosphorus to allow your body to use these minerals well. An over abundance of phosphorus can cause the body to pull calcium from the bones to make up for the discrepancy. Thus you could look at coconut-sugar as contributing to calcium loss from the bones.
    Honey on the other hand has just about the right ratio for healthy bones.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more is better. Health is all about balance.

    • Interesting. Never heard of that but it does make sense. Since I wrote that I have been using honey almost exclusively because it is the only sweetener that is GAPS legal. Do you happen to have a link for me so that I could learn more about this?

  9. I have a problem when using palm sugar in baking that it makes the cookie or icing really sticky. Is there something I should do to keep this from happening? I know you sometimes have to change how you do things, or add something to it to adapt a regular sugar recipe, but don’t know what that is. Please help.

    • I’m so sorry. I’m not going to be much help. I’ve never used it in icing and if I use it in baking I use very small amounts (1-3 Tmax) so I have never noticed things getting sticky.

      I hope you are able to find the answers you need.

  10. Great article! I’ve recently found out I’m insulin resistant and so am researching madly into fructose and it’s evils. For those of you interested, the book “Sweet Poison” is a book written by David Gillespie, an Australian who lost over 40kg when he stopped eating sugar. It goes into great length about why fructose in large quantities is so damaging. Website is:

    For those of you looking for an alternative sweetener that actually tastes ok, check Xylitol. It’s expensive, but it’s good. It comes in granular form – just like sugar and you can cook with it.


    • Thanks so much for that link. I will definintely check that out. I too think fructose is a huge problem. It would be great to find a site that listed the fructose content of different foods. Do you know if one exists? Have you seen Dr. Robert Lustigs You Tube presentation “The Bitter Truth.” It is really really good too. The link is on my home page under the videos tab if you haven’t seen it.
      As for the Xylitol… I don’t really like it. I think it leaves a weird coolness on my tounge. The other thing that concerns me is its antibacterial properties. It is great for oral care but it’s my understanding that there have never been studies done to demonstrate it’s safety if ingested. There is a concern that it may alter gut flora. It’s also a corn derivative. And for me anyway, that represents a whole new set of concerns. All that said, I do think it does taste the best of the bunch of artificial sweeteners. Thanks again for the link.

      • Not all xylitol is corn derived, you have to get the one that is derived from tree bark and that is sometimes hard to discern. The thing about xylitol for me is that anything over a tsp gives me the runs. The taste isn’t bad. I love the coconut sugar best, wish it didn’t have the fructose issue.

  11. Xylitol and Erythritol are both sugar alcohols that are exothermic (cooling) and I sometimes use them to make sugar-free mints, since mint is cooling as well. I LOVE coconut sugar, and was only starting to do research tonight about the fructose content because I read an article about the connection between weight gain and fructose and how it’s low glycemic and suddenly I wondered, “Wow, we found out agave is not such a good thing–I wonder if coconut sugar is likewise risky?!” Ack. I get it granulated sometimes to save time, but my favorite variety comes in little cylinders from Indonesia and are dark dark brown and yummy yummy yummy! I especially like making fudge with it, and it disappears fast! One thing I will say about the fudge is that it doesn’t seem as overly sweet as fudge made from cane sugar. But I’ve given up all sugar for 6 weeks at a time before and have not lost a single pound.

  12. fructose is demonized quite a bit lately. but from a traditional perspective, i know that people living on the arabian peninsula used to eat dates as a staple of their diet. there are records of people going for months eating only dates. so, maybe there’s a different problem? i don’t think fructose alone is to blame.

    • I don’t think fructose is a huge issue either – when it’s attached to the fruit it belongs to. As soon as we start separating it from the fruit I think we’ve got a different thing entirely.

      Sent from my iPhone

  13. Pingback: Gula Java coconut blossom sugar | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  14. I didn’t read all the comments but I redid the math, adding in the pure fructose…. your words…..”The major component of coconut sugar is sucrose (70-79%) followed by glucose and fructose (3-9%) each. Minor variations will occur, due to differences in primary processing, raw material source, tree age and variety of coconut.
    Sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Let’s do some simple math and look at the actual fructose content. ”

    Here is where I added in the fructose….

    70/2 = 35 —–> 35 + 3 = 38% + 3% – 9% (pure fructose)= 41%- 47% total fructose

    79/2 = 39.5 —–> 39.5 + 9 = 48.5% + 3%-9% (pure fructose) = 51.5%- 57.5%

    So the actual amount of fructose can range from 41% to 57.5% (High Fructose Corn Syrup is 55%)

    Does this make sense to you too?

  15. Why does everyone fall for that dubious figure of GI 35? A result determined by a Phillipine (a country wanting to export this sugar) institute with a group of only 10 people? When at the same time other researchers came up with GI of up to 54? And why would it be as low as 35 anyway? That high a sucrose content (70-79%) makes a low GI not all that likely. As far as I can make out, it is no better or worse than a number of other natural sugars when they are similarly unrefined. And no safer than these are. Certainly not something you would want to consume in large quantities. As with other sugars, small amounts will not be too harmful, but all the hype about it makes it sound like it is safe to consume in larger amounts than other sugars, and that just is not the case.

    • Thanks for your comment Mike. I could not agree with you more. I think the Philippine government has a lot to gain here. In the end it is sugar. Sugar is sugar. Maybe it has a higher mineral content to offer and it does have a fuller flavor but well… it’s still sugar. If you are using it as a sub for white sugar I think maybe you’ve missed the point. I purchased a 1 lb bag of coconut sugar well over a year ago. It is still half full.


      • Obviously, someone doesn’t understand GI. Since (using the math above) the glucose content is 38%-48% glucose, lower than table sugar (100% sucrose, 50% glucose). BUT, coconut sugar has other nutrients that help slow digestion. GI figures in the time your body uses glucose. The quicker the body uses glucose (sugar spike), the higher the GI. Coconut sugar’s glucose is harder to get to, is lower in quantity, and digests slower, thus the lower GI.

        Also remember that most of the fructose isn’t free, as it is in HFCS. Your body much first break sucrose down before it can ‘hide’ the fructose (yeah, it’s hidden either on our ass or our belly ;-).

        Not that I’m saying the GI of 35 is wrong or right, but that just because chemically it has nearly as much fructose, your bodies ability to get to that fructose is harder.

  16. I’d like to share my experience with Agave Nectar. I used it every day for six years in my coffee and iced tea. A few months ago I bought “The 30 Day Diabetes Cure” written by Dr Stefan Ripich.

    Of course he warned about artificial sweeteners but one of the “healthy” sugar replacements he was down on was Agave syrup. With all the hullabaloo over HFCS there are companies selling the syrup as a healthy replacement when it is actually higher in fructose than HFCS. The light is 70% fructose, the dark is 90% fructose.

    The reason they can advertise it as low glycemic is because fructose does not stimulate the production of insulin. It is directly processed by the liver. High fructose content on a regular basis will eventually cause liver damage just as if you were a heavy drinker.

    When I went for my yearly checkup this year my doctor discovered that I have fatty liver disease, the precursor to cirrhosis. So I’ve been very careful about my fructose intake to give my liver a chance to heal.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I knew that this is the theory behind the belief that fructose is bad for you but I hadn’t heard of a first hand account of it happening. Thank you. I hope all is well with you now. Have you had follow up labs to see if the fatty liver is resolving? Kim

      • Just a small comment Coconut Sugar is not Palm Sugar (two different plants), I see some people are confusing the two. You can generally only buy it at health food stores and looks a bit like brown sugar. Its not cheap but it is definately better than cane sugar. As for Palm Sugar it is one of the worst things you can eat.

  17. Pingback: The Health Revival | Pretty Please, with Coconut Sugar on Top?

  18. Pingback: The sugar issue | Simple Vegan Cooking

  19. I use coconut sugar for all my baking since 1. Its east 1 to 1 ratio when substituting & 2. Because regular sugar is so bad but even alot of natural sweetbreads raise your blood sugar but coconut hardly effects blood sugar levels. I have huge spikes and crashes when I eat junk food with sugar. I still like to use raw honey for Smoothies, tea, sometimes yogurt and such esp since honey has a different set of health benefits like enzymes. And such. Thanks for posting more info on it!

  20. Oh also I buy mine usually from my local health food store at just under $4 a pound but when I can’t get over there my local Walmart actually carries organic coconut sugar for just over $4 a pound.

    • That’s really a great deal. I agree that it is so much better than sugar. That said, it’s still sugar and large amounts of healthy sugar isn’t good either. I’m willing to bet tho that the people who use it know better and use it sparingly. Kim

  21. Having had some seminars with Lustig back at UCLA I asked and he frankly said it’s garbage. I already knew one thing (from friends who came here to NOT follow their families into “farming”: they aren’t small farms, supply isn’t that limited, labor is strained+FAR from pesticide free!!+worse, MUCH of what’s called PURE PALM SUGAR sold in America is MIXED WITH WHITE SUGAR+HAS MILDLY TOXIC CHEMICALS ADDED TO KEEP BUGS OUT… There are a couple farms in Thailand that USED TO sell straight stuff but remember when it’s from other nations without solid regulation you don’t know WHAT it is-dolphin meat sold as whales, sharks,etc,anyone? What they send here is nearly impossible to discern from what I personally recommend, carbon-neutral USA-PRODUCED organic+delightfully golden Florida Crystals. At least I KNOW what I’m getting and the quality can’t be beat. Price is way less than the “wholesome”brand from Paraguay which is pretty flavorless by comparison. I literally use a third less of this than even white stuff. I’ve learned to taper back. I’m at about 30percent above the ideal-but that’s pretty tough since I LOVE teas of all kinds and have favorite honey for some, Florida Crystals when I need the flavor to be pure-don’t want something spicy to get floral notes though I do pure fireweed+sourwood that aren’t floral-still weird to do my rich strong blacks+puehrs with honey. My fave cheap-o perfect-o jasmine tea is amazing with my strong-bodied neutral honey, though. I’m getting thirsty for some(admittedly recovering from the flu-caught the unexpected nightmare Australia strain we weren’t vaccinated for).

  22. I live in Australia, and the coconut sugar I buy is organic, which alleviates a lot of the concern in relation to what it is being mixed with ie it truly is pure and is less harmful to the environment in terms of its production. Regarding its fructose levels, I believe that as with all things in nutrition, you can choose to be obsessive (in which case you would hardly eat anything), or you can just make wise choices ie variety, all things in moderation and wherever possible locally sourced and organically produced. I notice that Stevia comes up a bit in the comments, and would just like to add a little food for thought (pardon the pun) – here in Australia, Stevia is becoming a problem as it is an invasive plant, so whilst it may be a great alternative to cane sugar, I feel that our choices also have to take into account their impact on the environment and on the traditional producers/growers. To date I am unable to find any negative impact statements regarding coconut palm sugar, and whilst I appreciate that fructose increases the toxic load on the liver, we have to put this in context – the liver is a large organ. One of its many roles is to act as one of the main de-toxifiers in the body. Fructose is a naturally occuring substance that is present in many of the foods that we eat, but nature has this wonderful way of creating a synergistic system whereby the same plant can contain both a toxic substance as well as another substance that negates/reduces the toxic effect. In addition, we rarely eat one food at a time, therefore enzymes contained in one food can balance the enzymes contained in another. Naturally the optimum conditions for this synergism to work effectively is to try and eat “whole foods” in the real sense of the word wherever possible, however, as I said at the beginning, without becoming obsessive, this is not always easy to do. The bottom line is that food is something to be enjoyed and celebrated, with so many wonderful choices out there, does it really matter if sometimes we consume a little fructose?

  23. i bought my first bag of organic palm sugar at whole foods this past weekend. I dissolved some in water and was left with a few very hard black bits floating on the surface…almost like poppy seeds. Is this normal or did I perhaps get a bad bag? When you look in the bag, you don’t see the black bits because they’re caked in the sugar, but once the sugar dissolves off, you can easily see them floating in the water. I’d greatly appreciate any input or advice on this!
    Thank you!

    • that’s really weird ashley – the only possible explanation that I can think of is that you dissolved in warm water and the poppy seed like granules were the result of the water cooling??? (then again, that doesn’t really sound likely…). if this helps as a guide, the organic coconut sugar that I buy is a golden brown in colour, much like muscovado sugar, and is really light and fluffy – although I have never tried dissolving it in water, so maybe that is normal. nevertheless, as I said at the beginning – weird – i would be taking that back to the shop.

      • thanks for your input…that’s kinda what i was thinking. i’ll try another brand and see if it does the same thing!

  24. Pingback: Health: What’s All The Hype About Coconut Palm Sugar? | tiffanylanehandmade

  25. Yes, I love the taste too. Here in the Philippines it’s available at $0.90 per 200 grams or 0.44 lb. Smartsweet , I’m just starting to use this product.

  26. White sugar has not been a part of my cooking for years. I used raw organic honey until I decided to come off of even that and replace it with green stevia, but the sweet taste seems to crawl down my throat.. Lasting for hours, yuck.
    Recently I have started to use just a hint of organic coconut sugar instead, delicious. Quarter teaspoon per day to sweeten my blue berry smoothie is all that I require. Thanks very much for the article.

  27. The bottom line with any sweetener is to just have a little of it – don’t binge on sweetened things (even if they’re sweetened with “natural” sugars like honey). I have a problem with most sugars and get quite ill from table sugar to honey, you name it. I can only tolerate the ones that are ok for diabetics, such as fructose, stevia, and coconut sugar. I avoid fructose now because it’s usually derived from corn and I am allergic to corn. Stevia is nasty IMO, which leaves coconut sugar. If I have a few teaspoons a day, I’m not too concerned with fructose levels etc. It’s not like having a Coke every few hours every day like many people do (which is where levels of fructose become a concern!).

    The fact is, you can kill yourself by drinking too much water. That doesn’t mean water is harmful to you. It means keep it to a reasonable amount and you’ll be fine. Same with coconut sugar (and really, any sweetener). If you abuse it, you may have problems, regardless of which one you choose.

    • Well put. I couldn’t agree more. I say this as I take muffins out of the oven. Sweetened with dates this time. I don’t bake much anymore because of exactly what you said but when I do I like to experiment with different kinds of sweeteners.

      Sent from my iPhone


  28. Coconut palm sugar I bought in a Thai Deli has a delicate taste and is easily absorbed into the bloodstream as it is a pure source and energises the cellular makeup of physical body and has a strengthening source for the lymphatic system and immune system. I recommend it as a healing tool for the vibrational shift we are experiencing as our light bodies expand and we become freed into the New Earth. Coconut sugar granules have a distinct flavour which also energises the cellular body and it is a tasty nutritious sugar for those who seek flavour in their lives. Deeper taste for a deeper energy system and an interesting sweetness that zings and awakens the body to allow the natural flow of energy and healing of natures passage into the timeless and organic body system…………I feel it is important to recognise that as we live in this New Earth to explore Mother Earths love though her sweetness and the natural flow that is found in these ancient sources of earth and trees, spirit and light…..ness of being………blessings and love…………………

    • Just remember the kiss principle – keep it simple – all things in moderation – and listen to your body, it provides the most honest answers always!

  29. Yes,I love to bake–how do I use coconut palm sugar in white/yellow cakes?
    will it not discolor my cakes? Does it come in a white color?

    • Yes it would color cakes. It’s also a little different in flavor and baking with it yields a stickier product. No it doesn’t come in a white version. The process of making it white would mean stripping it of all the minerals that make this a better choice than sugar. Besides it’s pretty expensive. It wouldn’t be cost effective for most people. In the end tho it’s still sugar.

      Sent from my iPhone



  30. Whilst Coconut Palm sugar may seem to be a great ingredient to a healthy diet sadly it’s popularity is at the expense of coconut water, cream, oil and milk. As the sugar is derived from the sap in the coconut tree the increased popularity in the sugar is causing coconut tree groves to switch to sugar production rather than coconut production. A coconut tree cannot grow both. I know I’d rather choose the coconut and all it’s wonderful benefits. See

  31. your response doesn’t actually make sense…”go to see world wide web”? which site in particular? there has been a considerable amount of research articles published on the subject, but the general world wide web can often prove to be the most unreliable of sources when looking for factual information…i thought that my earlier comment would be quite useful to your readers….

  32. Camilla, I don’t think that it was Kim who answered…it was a ‘reader’ of this blog who, apparently, is not fluent in the English language….
    I found your comment very, very helpful and sensible and couldn’t agree more with what you said!

Have something to say? I'd love to hear from you.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s