Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sugar, Sugar... or, Shall I Say, Coconut Sugar

Wow, I cannot believe how long it has been since I have posted.  If you could see me now, I am kneeling, begging an apology.  I am resolving (well at least January is not over yet) to write a post at least once a week.  Short or long, profound or frivolous... gotta get back in the habit.  There is much to write about and I hope to devote space to some serious issues - especially issues regarding autism, in upcoming posts.  But today, I am thinking about coconut sugar. 

Lots of sugar everywhere we look!
We all KNOW that we should avoid most sugars, not just high fructose corn syrup.  Sugar is loaded into way too many foods and beverages. 

However, for some things sugar is, if not necessary, at least preferred.  A cookie is one of those things.  We don't eat many cookies here - not because I don't love them, I do, but H does not.  And I am hard-pressed to justify making cookies just for me when my 11-year old doesn't want them.  But over the holidays I made ginger cookies from a recipe at Elana's Pantry - a wonderful source of gluten-free, paleo-friendly cooking.  As a bonus, Elana's Pantry is a treasure trove of gluten- and dairy-free recipes appropriate for many Jewish holidays (but great for anyone, not just those who celebrate Jewish holidays) - today there were even recipes posted for Tu B'shevat

Back to those cookies...

I was going to a holiday party for the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy - a great non-profit on whose board I sit -and, among the foods we were all contributing, I wanted to make sure there were some (hopefully) yummy gluten-free holiday cookies.  I turned to Elana's Pantry and was rewarded with an easy and yummy almond flour based gingersnap recipe

Here is some of my coconut collection!
The one ingredient that was unfamiliar was coconut sugar.  Coconut sugar?  Huh?  Luckily, in short order was able to provide me with Sweet Tree organic coconut palm sugar!  This sugar is not made from the coconuts themselves but from the sap of coconut nut palm tree buds so if you are worried about imparting coconut flavor to everything, no worries.  I thought I was pretty well-versed in coconut products - coconut oil (of course), coconut water and milk (even coconut-based kefir), coconut flour, coconut syrup, and coconut vinegar (both from coconut water and from the sap).  Coconut sugar had, however, flown under my radar.

I apparently am behind the eight-ball on this one!  The good folks at EasyEats wrote about the benefits of coconut sugar just a few weeks ago.  According to them, it is only 9% fructose and it has a lower glycemic index than even agave.  Plus it has B vitamins and minerals, and it is even pretty environmentally friendly to grow.  Natural News reported on the benefits of coconut sugar and how it is displacing agave several months ago.

Taste-wise, coconut sugar is pleasant and easily can substitute for refined sugar.  While I like honey, I try not to overuse it and concerns about agave sourcing and processing have me mostly avoiding that as well.  I just cannot take the aftertaste of stevia (and I have tried many and, at least for me, they just don't work).  Lo Han is ok but not my favorite.  (Not even mentioning the artificial things here - we give those a wide berth).  So, in moderation, coconut sugar may be a good choice when you need a little sweetness in your life!