October 10, 2023

Is Coconut Sugar Good for You?

It’s touted as a healthier alternative to cane sugar, but basically, well ... it’s still just sugar

Closeup of caramel colored coconut sugar with halved coconuts in background.

Everybody wants a healthier alternative to sugar. But could coconuts be the solution?!


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

If you’ve heard coconut sugar being touted as the perfect substitute for regular cane sugar, you might be tempted to try it. Registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, LD, explains what you need to know about this sweet swap — and why it’s probably not worth going (coco)nuts for.

What is coconut sugar?

Coconut sugar is exactly what it sounds like: An all-natural, plant-based sugar made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. You might expect it to be white and coconutty, but it’s actually a tan-colored substance with a slightly caramelly taste.

“Coconut sugar looks a lot like raw cane sugar, which is probably because it’s processed in a very similar way,” Czerwony explains. “The sap of the coconut palm is boiled down until most of the water evaporates, and then, it turns into this granulated product.”

Coconut sugar originated in Southeast Asia and has since become popular elsewhere, especially among folks in search of healthy alternatives to less-healthy foods. But is this one actually a worthy swap?

Are there health benefits to coconut sugar?

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but cane sugar and coconut sugar aren’t all that different — and neither of them is particularly good for you. They come from different plants, but they’re made similarly and affect your body similarly, so there are no real health benefits, per se, to using one over the other.

Still, Czerwony walks us through the (very small) differences between them and the claims in favor of coconut sugar.

Slightly lower glycemic index

Coconut sugar is primarily touted as having one benefit over regular sugar: A lower glycemic index. This measurement scale classifies foods based on how fast they raise the amount of sugar in your blood (aptly known as your blood sugar).

Many foods, from fruit salad to Halloween candy, have some amount of sugar in them — some naturally occurring and some added. The glycemic index helps you identify which foods will raise your blood sugar the fastest, with 100 representing pure glucose and zero meaning a food has no sugar in it at all.


“Table sugar has a glycemic index of 60, and coconut sugar has a glycemic index of 54, which means it doesn’t raise the blood sugar as fast,” Czerwony explains. “That’s because coconut sugar has a little bit of inulin in it, which provides a bit of fiber.”

Inulin is a type of prebiotic fiber produced by plants. One of its many benefits is that it helps stabilize blood sugar, which can help you feel full longer (and thus help keep you from overeating).

Has trace amounts of minerals

There are no nutrients in regular sugar. But coconut sugar does retain some of the nutrients originally found in coconuts, like:

Not so fast, though: These nutrients are all found in coconut sugar in verrrry small amounts — definitely not enough to make it healthy by any stretch of the imagination.

“You’d have to eat so much coconut sugar to get any kind of beneficial amounts,” Czerwony says, “and by that point, the calories from the amount of sugar you’d consumed would cancel out those benefits anyway.”

In other words, if you need more iron and potassium in your diet, eating more coconut sugar shouldn’t be a factor in your approach.

Can be used just like regular sugar

Some sugar substitutes and sugar alternatives can’t be used the same way you’d use regular sugar. Yacon syrup, for example, breaks down at high temperatures, so you can’t use it in cooking or baking. And though stevia-based sweeteners stand up to heat, you have to first do some serious math to adjust the ratios.

Coconut sugar, on the other hand, is so similar to regular sugar that it doesn’t have those kinds of limitations.


“It’s a one-to-one ratio, so you don’t have to change the amounts you’re using,” Czerwony says, “and you can use it in all the same ways you’d use regular sugar.”

How coconut sugar compares to the competitors

Coconut sugar’s lower glycemic index might make it a more appealing choice than table sugar, especially for people with diabetes. But for the most part, Czerwony warns, don’t be fooled by the marketing that promotes coconut sugar as a healthier, more natural alternative to regular sugar.

They’re not all that different.

“Coconut sugar is very similar to regular cane table sugar,” she says. “It has about the same amount of calories, so all things considered, it’s just about the same — no better and no worse.”

When it comes to sugar, then, the best thing you can do for your health isn’t to switch to coconut sugar. It’s to scale back on your intake altogether.

“If you’re trying to decrease your overall sugar intake and improve your diet but you still want to have something sweet, explore alternatives like monk fruit sweetener,” Czerwony suggests.

Think you can’t possibly kick your sweet tooth? Here’s a reassuring bit of bodily info: Your taste buds slough off and regenerate every couple of weeks, which means your tastes change over time, too. If you start slowly scaling back on sugars, you’ll be acclimated to a less-saccharine lifestyle before you know it!

Related Articles

Four pieces of cooked chicken in an air fryer
January 22, 2024
Are Air Fryers Healthy?

The popular cooking method can help you cut down on fat without losing the flavor and texture of your favorite foods

A closeup of a mix of different kinds of candy, all thrown together.
November 19, 2023
Candy Crush: Why You’re Craving Sweets and How To Stop

Stress, lack of sleep and not eating enough all contribute to sugar hankerings

Person during a consultation with their dietitian.
November 8, 2023
Could You Have a Fructan Intolerance?

A low-FODMAP elimination diet can help identify your symptoms

Closeup up of a pile of sugar with sugar cubes on top.
August 24, 2023
Sweet Spot: How Much Sugar Is OK To Eat Per Day?

Updated food label guidelines make it easier to track added sugars in your diet

From above, a bowl of riced cauliflower with a melting pat of butter on top.
August 1, 2023
Tweak What You Eat: Healthy Ingredient Swaps To Try

You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite recipes for healthier versions

assortment of high sugar food and beverages
June 1, 2023
Avoiding Sugary Foods? Here’s What To Look Out For

Sugary foods don’t always taste sweet, and they may not say ‘sugar’ on the label

man daughter reading food label in market
April 10, 2023
What You Should Know About Sugar Alcohols

Often labeled as ‘diabetes-friendly’ or ‘calorie-free,’ this sugar substitute warrants caution

Cup of chocolate mousse.
March 21, 2023
Recipe Adventure: 6 Diabetes-Friendly Desserts

Indulge your sweet tooth with these desserts, each with 7 grams of sugar or fewer

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery