I recently got the question, "What do you think about unrefined coconut sugar? or sucanat?"
I thought I should share my answer with everyone in case there are others wondering the same thing.
Sucanat is made from sugar cane. It is dried sugar can juice. Coconut sugar is made from the coconut palm sap.
Sucanat and coconut sugar are both extracts from plants. The plants are juiced and then the juice is heated and dried. Thus these are not whole foods, and some of the nutrition is destroyed in the heating and drying process. The coconut sugar appears to be superior to the sucanat in that it contains more macro and micro nutrients.
It is true that they are far superior to regular processed sugars, for they do contain some nutrients and they are much less processed. Therefore, if you must add sweetener to something these are much better choices than regular sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
I personally prefer to use raw honey when I feel the need to sweeten something. Raw honey hasn't been heated above body temperature, and so still has live enzymes and other beneficial nutrients that help to build health.
However if you are going to cook or heat something and must have added sweetener, stevia is a good substitute. Also the coconut sugar actually works well with higher temperatures.
The problem as I see it is that we really have to get away from this idea that we need to add sweetener to everything.
For instance if you are making a smoothie (whether fruit or veggie) there is already plenty of sweetness in it just from the raw natural foods. Adding more sweetener upsets the natural balance and only serves to increase cravings for other sweet things. This (the cravings), of course, can lead to destroying any healthy diet.