Coconut sap: A sweetener even a paleo dieter could love

Used for thousands of years in South East Asia, coconut sap is quickly growing in popularity in the U.S. Environmentally sustainable, low in fructose, low on the glycemic index, full of nutrients, and darn tasty, this minimally processed sugar substitute excels where others fail.

What is coconut sap?

Coconut sap (a.k.a. coconut sap sugar, coconut nectar, coconut syrup) is harvested from cut flower buds of coconuts. The sap is heated on medium heat to evaporate moisture making it thick and syrupy. The sap can also be dehydrated (looks a lot like brown sugar) and sold as coconut sugar.

Sustainable

When the flower buds are cut to harvest the sap (called “tapping“), the sap flows for up to 20 years! That is probably a best-case scenario. There are different approaches to collecting the sap. If only half the length of the spadix (which contains thousands of flowers) is cut, the coconut tree is able to produce both sap and nuts whereas more aggressive approaches only allow for sap production.

Coconut sap being extracted from spadix.

Low in fructose

Coconut sap only has about 2-10% fructose versus agave’s 40-90% (honey is also high, around 55%). High fructose is associated with a variety of health problems including fatty liver, raised triglycerides, appetite disruption and weight gain.

Low glycemix index

The glycemic index (measure of carbs on raising blood sugar) of coconut sap is fairly low: 35-55 (honey 75, table sugar 80, high fructose corn syrup 87). It is considered safe for diabetics.

Nutrients

  • High in the minerals potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
  • Contains B vitamins and is especially high in inositol. Inositol is beneficial in several clinical settings including reducing diabetic neuropathy and a number of mood disorders.
  • About 80% inulin, a prebiotic fiber, which feed our intestinal flora to help boost digestive and immune function.

Tasty

Nothing that isn’t sugar is going to taste exactly like sugar. However, coconut sap tastes pretty close to brown sugar. If you want to give it a try, there are some delicious recipes available.

Coconut sap can be found in the following Bay Area stores: Rainbow Foods in San Francisco, Whole Foods in Redwood City, and Staff of Life and Food Bin in Santa Cruz. Coconut Secret is a common brand that you can ask for at a local market near you. Even if they don’t stock it, they may be able to order it. Coconut sugar (the dried version of coconut sap/nectar) is more widely available in the Bay Area.

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