The coconut has shaped memories for each one of us: from spooning the white milk into Indian and Thai curries, drinking tender coconut in summer to having coconut ice cream…. Whatever you choose, the fruit brings with it many nutritional benefits.

The new sugar

Move aside gur (jaggery), sugar and organic offshoots of stevia. Coconut sugar is the new buzzword. It is Paleo-diet-approved and has plenty of takers around the world.

So how good is it? “Coconut sugar contains a fibre called inulin that slows down glucose absorption in blood, keeping glucose levels under control,” says Chennai-based dietitian Deepalekha Bhattacharjee. “Inulin also stimulates the growth of the intestinal bifidobacteria, boosting the body’s immune system,” she says. Coconut sugar contains traces of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that reduce blood sugar, inflammation and cholesterol in a better way than any other sweetener, she adds.

“But coconut sugar comes strapped with calories equivalent to regular table sugar, and tucking it in in large quantities isn’t a good idea. For coconut sugar to actually benefit you in terms of nutrient value, you need to double your consumption of the sugar. Daily intake of 3-4 tsp is optimum for a healthy person. That translates to a higher number of calorie intake,” cautions Richa Anand, chief dietitian at the Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai.

Coconut sugar has a low glycaemic index but is still not advisable for diabetics. Yet it is a good substitute for granulated white sugar in desserts for non-diabetics. Overall, 2-3 tsp of the sugar is good for a person in a day, she adds.

Not everyone agrees. Sarika Nair, a Mumbai-based dietitian and founder of SlimnHappy, says, “Since coconut sugar has the same number of calories as regular table sugar, with even vitamins and minerals present in just traces, my recommendation would be to avoid all kinds of sugars and to reduce their intake in your daily life.”

Shilpi Madan for Mint

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