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Coconut sugar / coconut oil: are they really healthy?

Passionate about pastry revisited by applying my knowledge as a nutritherapist, I notice a lot of "healthy", "keto friendly" or "paleo" recipes based on coconut sugar and coconut oil. But is it really the best option to twist pastry classics into a healthier and more balanced version?

Coconut sugar

The argument often put forward in favor of coconut sugar is its low glycemic index. In my research, I see that it varies between 25 (in Europe), 35 (in the United States) and 55 according to other sources (the glycemic index of white sugar being 70). If we look at the composition of this sugar at the molecular level, we see that it is composed of 80% sucrose, 5 to 10% glucose and 5 to 10% fructose. Sucrose is the main molecule of classic table sugar (1 molecule of glucose bound to 1 molecule of fructose = 1 molecule of sucrose). What gives coconut sugar a lower glycemic index is its fructose (low glycemic index simple sugar) content.

I therefore allow myself to express a doubt as to its true glycemic index. The official table of glycemic index published by the University of Sydney indicates a GI of 54 which seems more reasonable to me.

However, coconut sugar does have some benefits:

-It is rich in minerals especially in potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins C and E

-It is particularly rich in polyphenol.

-It contains inulin which is a prebiotic (organic compound that nourishes the intestinal flora)

-It is recognized by the WHO as the most sustainable sugar

But it is not the only sugar to have these properties: all unrefined sugars are rich in minerals. Maple syrup is also rich in polyphenols.

I therefore remain cautious about the use of this sugar as part of a low GI diet. In any case, I would not recommend it for people with diabetes.

Erythrol, and a brand new sugar, allulose (not yet on the European market), have a GI close to 0 and therefore seem to be the best alternatives at the moment. But let's be clear, nothing is better than spices: cinnamon, vanilla, unsweetened cocoa powder... and fruit to add a sweet touch to your dishes.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is at the heart of many debates: it is rich in saturated fatty acids (SFA) but, according to some, with major health benefits. Let’s take the time to analyze its molecular composition.

As mentioned above, coconut oil is mainly composed of saturated fatty acids (SFA) which is generally not looked upon favorably. However, among the SFAs, there are the medium-chain SFAs, notably capric and caprylic acid, which have shown positive effects on the microbiota and cardiovascular health. This is where the defenders of coconut oil base their argument.

However, it also contains a high amount of long-chain SFAs, including myristic and palmitic acid, which have a very detrimental effect on cardiovascular health and lipid profile.

Remember that the daily consumption of SFA must be less than 12% of the total lipid intake (i.e. 8 to 10 g / day) with a lauric acid + myristic + palmitic acid consumption of less than 8% (i.e. 5 to 7 g / j).

From my point of view, the amount of long chain SFA in coconut oil is much more important than the amount of short and medium chain SFA. This tilts the risk/benefit balance rather badly. I therefore think that the culinary use of coconut oil must remain reasoned and in no way replace olive oil or oils rich in omega 3 such as linseed, rapeseed, walnut and camelina oil. On the other hand, what is coming on the market, and which seems to me a very good option, is MCT coconut oil. MCT stands for “medium-chain triglyceride” or medium-chain triglycerides in English (medium-chain AGS). It is a coconut oil where two medium-chain SFAs have been isolated: capric acid and caprylic acid. Of course, we choose an organic one 😉

Note that coconut oil also contains lauric acid (another medium-chain SFA) in large quantities, which has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, nourishing and healing properties. This makes it therefore interesting to treat:

- Skin infections: eczema, cold sores, dermatitis, etc.

- Wounds: chapped lips, cracked feet, sunburn...

- Hair: hair mask, care of split ends...

- The teeth: with the addition of baking soda it becomes a whitening and disinfectant toothpaste.

Finally, another advantage of coconut oil is its stability: the more stable an oil is, the more it resists cooking and therefore oxidation.


To conclude, I would say that sugar and/or coconut oil, although having beneficial health benefits, should be used in a reasonable way, keeping in mind the health recommendations.

Sources :

DU diététique santé et physionutrition, Université de pharmacie de Grenoble.

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