Nutritious and low glycemic index sugar made from coconuts

Nutritious and low glycemic index sugar made from coconuts
By Walter Ang
June 29, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Natural alternatives to sugar are on the rise given rising costs and health consciousness. The newest kid on the block is sugar made from coconuts.

Coconut sap, if distilled, turns into wine. If fermented, it turns into vinegar. To derive sugar and syrup, the sap or sweet toddy is boiled in an open container, then allowed to cool and used as a syrup or allowed to solidify into granules. "It has a sweetness that brings to mind the fresh white flesh of a young coconut," says Jenery Lim, president of Benevelle, the company that manufactures Benevita Organic Cocosugar and Coconectar.

"You can use cocosugar or coconectar for your coffee, tea or juice. You can even use it for food preparation or baking. The fine brown granules of cocosugar have a sweet nutty flavor. Coconectar has a thick honey-like consistency and is perfect for baking and for breakfast meals like pancakes," he says.

The health benefits are the strongest selling points. "It is also rich in potassium which makes it good for the heart, and it has higher amounts of nutrients compared to refined white sugar and brown sugar," he adds. Cocosugar contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, chlorine, magnesium, and sulfur.

Cocosugar also has glutamic acid, the most common stimulating neorotransmitter in the nervous system. "It plays a role in the normal function of the prostate gland in men," Lim says.

Slow burn
Lim's quest to provide natural and organic food to the public was borne out of a personal reason. "Diabetes runs in my family. My grandfather died from the complications of diabetes. I know for a fact that there's a lot of people craving for healthier alternatives to the artificial sweeteners flooding the market," he says.

Diabetes is a disease caused by both hereditary and environmental conditions. It's characterized by high blood sugar levels that are not processed effectively or efficiently by the body.

"In preventing and treating diabetes, it is important to control the intake of sugar. The glycemic index is one way to do that," Lim points out. Glycemic index (GI) is a measurement of how much the blood glucose rises after a food is eaten. Foods that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; foods that break down slowly and release glucose gradually, have a low GI.

"GI of 55 or less is low, 56-69 is medium and 70 or more is high," he says. "Cane sugar has a GI of 63-73 and honey has 64. Cocosugar has has a low GI of 35, as tested by Food and Nutrition Research Institute, which makes it suitable for diabetics and the health-conscious alike."

He also notes that athletes and weight-watchers prefer to take foods with low GI as these types of foods fuel the body longer without a "sugar rush" and makes one feel full longer.

Good life
His company's name is inspired from the word "benevolence." "`Bene' means `good' and `velle' means `to wish.' That's our core value, to treat everyone with benevolence," he says. "Our cocosugar is under the brand "Benevita Organic Cocosugar." `Vita' means `life,' we want people who will use our coconut products to experience the good life in a healthy, all-natural way."

Lim's ethics extend to his farmers in General Santos City as well. "We practice fair trade and our partner farmers are compensated well. When people buy our products, they are helping improve the lives of communities in the countryside," he says.

Having observed the current practices in local production of coconut sugar and syrup, Lim insisted on the need for better production materials and equipment to ensure health and sanitation standards.

Bellevelle's processing plant uses all stainless steel equipment to prevent contamination and its partner farmers have to undergo training in organic farming and Good Manufacturing Practice principles before they are accredited.

Lim says he has done his homework so that he can proudly say, "Benevita coconut products are 100% natural, free from additives and artificial flavoring."

"We are BFAD-approved and we are certified organic by the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines," he says. "This just proves that our product is of international quality ? something we Filipinos can be proud of."

For details, call 711-1884 or visit