Why Coconut Sugar Is the Next Agave

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Coconut sugar, now popping up in healthy grocery stores and cafes, looks to be the best way to get your sugar-fix without a guilty conscience—or a sugar crash.

Healthy types are swapping agave for coconut sugar

Move over agave. Coconut sugar, now popping up in health-food stores and trendy health-driven restaurants, looks to be the best way to get your sugar-fix without a guilty conscience—or a sugar crash.

Unlike agave, which is 90 percent fructose, this up-and-coming sweetener—also called coconut palm sugar—contains less than 9 percent of that potentially triglyceride-forming substance.

Another reason for filling your sugar bowl with coconut sugar? It's also got a considerably lower glycemic index (35) than agave (42), honey (55), and cane sugar (68).

sweet tree coconut palm sugar
A Whole Foods employee told me to "watch out for brands that dilute their with coconut sugar cane sugar." This one doesn't.

Coconut sugar isn't from the coconut itself. It's drawn from the sap of the coconut palm tree buds. It's similar in taste and color to brown sugar with an almost-caramel flavor. So it doesn't have or impart a coconut flavor to baked goods, where you can just swap it for granulated sugar in recipes or anything else you'd use sugar for.

But it looks like coconut sugar can add more than sweetness to your morning coffee. It's loaded with minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins, which is why you may hear some sugar connoisseurs calling it a "whole food sugar." Something you (and the coconut sugar lobby) can feel good about.

Something about coconut palms (Coco Nucifera) make an environmentally savvy sugar, too. They grow anywhere (even sand), use very little water, and are almost twice as productive as sugarcane, according to Big Tree Farms, a popular organic brand.

When you consider coconut sugar's pretty healthy profile—and all the holiday baking around the corner, it's a pretty sweet solution. —Jennifer Kass

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