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July 26th, 2013 | Health and Wellness
As most of you are aware, the humble coconut is very much in vogue these days. There seems to be a never-ending list of coconut products on the market – from freeze dried coconut water to coconut vinegar – there is something for everyone!
I love to use coconut products in my own cooking and raw food, not only for the flavour but also due to the growing list of health benefits attributed to coconut products. The book The Coconut Miracle is great to read to understand the benefits of this popular superfood.
One ingredient I have been using in my cooking lately is Coconut Palm Sugar; it is has a delicious caramel taste and plenty of health benefits too. In saying that, it is still a form of sugar and has similar sucrose levels to that of normal sugar – so it should be used sparingly. However, it is the lesser of two evils, as I will explain.
Where does Coconut Sugar come from?
Contrary to popular belief coconut sugar and palm sugar are not the same thing. Palm Sugar, which you often see in Thai recipes, comes from the sap of the palmyra palm, the date palm or sugar date palm. Coconut sugar, on the other hand, is made from the sap of cut flower buds from the coconut palm. Most of the world’s coconuts come from the Philippines and Indonesia.
What are the Health Benefits of Coconut Sugar?
One of the greatest attributes of coconut sugar is its low GI rating – at only 35 it is much lower than white sugar (60). GI or Glycemic Index refers to the ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 0 – 100, based on the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. It is beneficial to eat low GI foods (of which coconut sugar is classified) as it produces gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin. People with diabetes can benefit from eating low GI foods.
Coconut sugar has a high mineral content; it is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. In addition, it contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B6. When compared to brown sugar, Coconut Sugar has twice the iron, four times the magnesium and over 10 times the amount of zinc. Coconut Sugar is unfiltered, unbleached and preservative-free (note this nutritional information is from Loving Earth’s Coconut Sugar nutritional analysis)
This is a useful table comparing nutritional values of different sugars
A Sugar is still a Sugar
As with all sweeteners – honey, agave, maple syrup – coconut sugar is still sugar. As mentioned it has a sucrose level similar to sugar (70 – 79%) and therefore, like all sugar, it should be kept to a minimum. On the upside, it does have the low GI and high mineral content and it is also considered the single most sustainable sweetener in the world by The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the World Bank.
Below is my Lemon Coconut Loaf – a great gluten-free option that makes the most of a range of coconut products…
Lemon Coconut Loaf – Gluten-Free
3/4 cup brown rice flour or coconut flour (or flour of your choice)
3/4 cup almond flour
½ cup desiccated coconut
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 cup organic Greek yogurt (or natural yogurt)
1/2 cup Coconut sugar
2 large eggs + 2 egg whites
1 – 2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoons coconut essence (or vanilla essence)
1/4 cup Coconut oil
2 Tablespoons of Agave syrup (I love Carwari Agave Syrup)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1/4 cup Coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon Coconut oil, melted
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour an 8 by 5 inch loaf pan.
Add flour, almond flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, coconut sugar, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and essence. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Heat coconut oil and agave till melted. With a rubber spatula, fold the coconut oil and agave syrup into the batter. Mix until it forms a smooth batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf, comes out clean.
Gently heat the glaze ingredients in a small pot (just to a low simmer).
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then carefully place it on a baking rack. While the cake is still warm, pour the glaze mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool before slicing. I used Organic Ceres Coconut Chips – sprinkled on the top.