By Alexander Villafania
BACOLOD CITY, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL – Rafael Monfort, a resident of the town of Cadiz, was seeking a new type of sweetener that did not involve sugarcane, which is the traditional ingredient in creating sugar.
What he tried was something new and unique in the Philippines. He used the coconut as the primary source.
His work produced the first coco sugar in the Philippines. Using coconut toddy (the sap that comes out of the tree from the crown of its branches), he devised a way to turn toddy and create a granular form that became coco sugar.
The process that he developed is now widely used in producing the healthy, alternative sweetener. Because of his work, Monfort was named “Magsasakang Siyentista” of the Farmers' Information Technology Service (FITS) in his home province.
Monfort said that coco sugar has more health benefits than the traditional sweetener from sugarcane, a fact that was strengthened by US-based Filipina naturepath professional Dr. Evelina Tablan.
Coco sugar has a low glycemic index (GI), a measurement of a rise in blood sugar circulation. The lower the GI, the better. Coco sugar only has around 35 to 54 GI per serving, compared to other forms of sugar such as cane (refined white, brown sugar, molasses, and even muscovado) that have 65 to 100 GI per serving.
Coco sugar also has 16 of the 20 known amino acids, which are essential for human metabolism. It is also 12 types of vitamins, including vitamin B complex. These vitamins maintain muscle tone, strengthen the immune system, and promote cellular growth.
As such, coco sugar is a good sweetener to add to foods for diabetics or weight watchers. A simple, home style coco sugar making technique can be found in the website of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Monfort stressed that developing the country's coco sugar production could further strengthen the country's coconut industry.
“It’s high time that coco sugar be recognized as an important sweetener next to muscovado sugar. In fact, what’s interesting is that coco sugar makes more money than muscovado,” Monfort said.
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