Coconut sugar vs. Maple Syrup vs. Honey

by (30) Updated June 03, 2013 at 8:06 PM Created March 16, 2013 at 4:25 AM

Which is the least evil sugar?

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7 Replies

16858 · March 16, 2013 at 1:25 PM

The differences are in the actual types of sugar inside of those is going to be less important, sure, there are some macro differences between sucrose, fructose, glucose levels, but in general those will tend to have similar levels, and therefore the same effect on fructose disposal and insulin response.

As a sidebar, I'm glad you didn't mention agave, which is nearly pure fructose, therefore highly dangerous, because livers can only process a small amount at any given time; large, chronic amounts deplete enzymes and tend to cause NAFLD.

So then the difference is going to be in the other stuff that comes along for the ride - minerals, enzymes, etc.

Honey has some interesting antibacterial properties, when applied to wounds, and also there are small amounts of minerals that come along for the ride with the others. These will vary from honey to honey, and from maple syrup to maple syrup, from coconut to coconut, etc. depending on where it was produced, and how it was processed. So anything said is only going to be a generalization.

Here's some data on processed vs unprocessed honey.

Here's some about coconut sugar vs sugar. While the mineral profile seems better with coconut sugar, it does have more fructose.

If you listen to "Magnesium Man" Morley Robbins's various podcasts, you'll find that we need quite a bit of magnesium to be able to process sugar, but refined sugars have had this stripped out, while more natural forms contain the minerals needed to safely process it. So a word of advice, if you're going to consume any form of sugar, increase your magnesium, and other minerals.

That said, there's only tiny amounts of these minerals along for the ride, so IMHO, it doesn't matter very much which source of insulin spike you choose, go for the least processed ones, and supplement with extra minerals. :)

Best to limit these, if you're thinking of using them to say, regularly sweeten your coffee, perhaps you should rethink your sweet tooth. If you're trying to avoid insulin spikes, perhaps have them very rarely and then have them in medium to high amounts, that way you only get one spike once in a while, and not chronically. But, the problem is high amounts of fructose in a spiked fashion is likely more harmful, so either way, you can't win.

The problem is with the question, different sugars are evil in different ways. Which evil are you willing to live with?

If you must have something sweet, would a pure extract of stevia work for you? (Only use a tiny amount where you would have used teaspoons before, and expect it to taste terrible in coffee). Are you ok with xylitol?

In terms of industrial versions, do you care about voting with your wallet for or against GMOs? Plain old sugar is likely made from GMO sugar beets. Xylitol, unless you avoid corn derived ones, or specifically buy brands that are non-GMO, you're voting for GMOs.

If you wish to avoid just fructose, and don't mind a highly processed sugar, perhaps a pure form of dextrose (glucose in crystal form) is better?

Now, if you opt for stevia or xylitol and you wish to stay VLC, beware when you're fasting, if you use these, they will trigger insulin just from your taste buds tasting sweet, but since you're not consuming any form of glucose, you may go hypoglycemic.

So ask yourself what your goals really are in choosing the lesser of many evils, but the meta question is, can you live without sweetened foods? If you have cravings for sweets, you're better off understanding and dealing with those, than attempting to pick the lesser evil.

If you're really asking, what can I use to make a paleo friendly desert, that's a completely different question and depends on whether you're putting a bit of sweetener on top, or just baking it in.

But hey, at least you're not opting for some carcinogenic, neurotoxic artificial sweetener that was originally intended as a rodenticide.

70 · March 16, 2013 at 4:31 AM

My guess would be honey as it is the purest. You could literally pull a comb from an active hive and eat it, so raw unprocessed honey wins for me.

10439 · March 16, 2013 at 1:08 PM

In my opinion - it doesn't really matter. Other than honey having antibacterial qualities (which disappear if you heat it) and grade B maple syrup having some good minerals, there isn't enough of a difference to make a difference. If you're eating enough that the tiny differences could make a difference, there's your problem, and even the least evil will give you trouble. If you're only having a teeny bit, then you're not having enough to matter.

I know I'll probably get flamed for this, but I still have sugar in my coffee. Yes, the evil regular old (organic turbinado cane) sugar. I've weaned myself down to a teaspoon per cup in crap coffee and half a teaspoon in good coffee. Yah, not Paleo, but I also don't see how it's harmful in the context of a lowish carb Primal diet with the only other sugar coming from two or three servings of fruit or dark chocolate a week.

341 · March 16, 2013 at 12:59 PM

I eat honey and maple syrup (I actually prefer maple syrup, even if honey is more paleo. I'm a loyal and proud Canadian).

4232 · March 16, 2013 at 12:16 PM

I avoid them all. Had to make the break.

2611 · March 16, 2013 at 5:11 AM

Those are all quite high in fructose. They're marketed as healthy because they have a lower glycemic index, but that's because the sugar all goes straight to your liver. If you are highly active they'll help you replenish glycogen, and if you are definitely not eating a caloric surplus then it probably won't matter, but if you have any tendency to put on fat, they may make that much more likely.

Anti-sugar superstar Robert Lustig has theorized that fructose may do much more to contribute to obesity than other forms of sugar. However, I suspect that on an otherwise low-carbohydrate diet it's less problematic.

0 · June 03, 2013 at 8:06 PM

go with good honey and maple syrup, had gout a few times and since i cut out white sugar white flour and alcohol and red meat, and lobster i've been gout free for 6 years now that is no fluke

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