Are Coconut Sugar and Date Sugar 'Healthy' Sugars?
There's a chance you’ve seen ingredients like coconut sugar or date sugar in recipes for sweet treats. “They’re so much better for you,” these recipes tend to claim. I'd like to get one thing straight here: sugar is sugar. There is sugar in cane sugar, raw sugar, and powdered sugar (duh). There is sugar in honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar. There is also sugar in coconut sugar and date sugar. But there are a few elements in these last two that make them slightly more nutritious than the bleached stuff in the sugar bowl.
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree's flower. As the sap is reduced into a syrup, it caramelizes and takes on a deep golden brown color. The syrup is then solidified and formed into blocks or ground into granules. While this is a similar process to making cane sugar, most table sugar is bleached white. Coconut sugar is sweet, yet a bit more caramel-y and tangy than white or brown sugar.
Coconut sugar is often used in recipes that claim to be healthy. It's lower on the glycemic index than white or brown sugar, making it a more attractive option to people who are watching their blood-sugar levels. It can be substituted 1:1 with white or brown sugar. It will change the texture of the batter to be a bit sandier, and the final color of the bake may be a bit darker, but otherwise there is no difference in flavor. Though coconut sugar has a slightly lower sugar level (4 grams per teaspoon to white sugar’s 4.2 grams), it doesn’t really affect the overall sweetness of the food. If you have no health concerns related to blood sugar, there’s no reason to think coconut sugar is better for you than any other sweetener. There’s also no reason not to use it, however, so play with the sweetener in cooking and baking as often as you like.
Date sugar is made of granulated dried dates. Since it's comprised of the whole fruit, date sugar is hailed for containing the fiber and antioxidants found in dates. Still, the average deglet noor date contains 4 to 5 grams of sugar, so date sugar is still very much a sweetener. Of course, in a side-by-side comparison, date sugar has a lower sugar content when compared to white (1 teaspoon date sugar has 3-4 grams sugar depending on the brand). So while date sugar can be used instead of white or brown sugar in baking, the result might be a bit less sweet. As is the case with coconut sugar, though it might be slightly higher in nutrients than its more common counterparts, date sugar isn’t “healthy.” It is, however, packed with a delightful caramel flavor and is great for baking and cooking.