Soy sauce is a well-loved flavor enhancer in many Asian dishes, but it’s not for everyone, especially if you’re watching your salt intake, avoiding gluten, or steering clear of soy. That’s where coconut aminos come into play.
This article dives into the scientific perspective on coconut aminos, a rising star in the world of soy sauce alternatives, to explore why it might be the healthier choice for you.
What is coconut aminos and is it healthy?
Coconut aminos has been gaining popularity as a soy sauce alternative, particularly among those who have specific dietary needs or restrictions. It’s made from the fermented sap of the coconut palm, combined with sea salt.
The resulting sauce is similar to light soy sauce in color and consistency, but with some key differences.
While you might expect a strong coconut flavor, that’s not the case. The taste is milder and slightly sweeter compared to traditional soy sauce.
This makes it an easy alternative in recipes that call for soy sauce, although the flavor profile is not as rich.
Coconut aminos can be particularly beneficial for those with certain food allergies or sensitivities. It is free from soy, wheat, and gluten, which can be problematic for many people.
This makes it a convenient alternative for those following gluten-free, soy-free, or wheat-free diets.
One significant advantage of coconut aminos is its lower sodium content than traditional soy sauce. With 90 mg of sodium per teaspoon (5 ml), it contains considerably less sodium than the approximately 280 mg found in the same amount of traditional soy sauce. This could be an attractive feature for those looking to reduce sodium intake.
However, it’s essential to note that while it has less sodium, coconut aminos is not a low-sodium food. If you’re watching your sodium intake, you’ll still need to use it sparingly.
Summary: Coconut aminos serves as a viable substitute for soy sauce, particularly for those with dietary restrictions or health concerns. It offers a milder, slightly sweeter flavor and has the advantage of being soy-, wheat-, and gluten-free. It also has lower sodium content than traditional soy sauce, although it should still be used in moderation for those concerned about sodium intake.
Health benefits of coconut aminos
Lots of media sources say that coconut aminos can do wonders for your health. They claim it can help with heart health, blood sugar control, and even weight loss. But the truth is, there’s not much scientific evidence to back this up.
Many of these health claims come from the fact that raw coconut and the coconut palm are packed with nutrients that are good for you.
The coconut palm is rich in essentials like potassium, zinc, and magnesium, as well as antioxidants and other healthy compounds.
But you’ve got to remember, coconut aminos is a fermented version of coconut palm sap, so it might not offer the same health benefits as fresh coconut.
When it comes down to it, there’s really no solid research to support the health claims about coconut aminos.
Even if coconut aminos did have these good-for-you nutrients, the amount you’d have to eat to see any real benefits probably isn’t practical. You’re better off getting these nutrients from whole foods.
Summary: Many of the supposed health benefits of coconut aminos come from what’s found in the coconut palm. But no scientific proof shows it’s really that good for you.
How does coconut aminos compare to other soy sauce substitutes?
Coconut aminos is just one among many soy sauce alternatives. The best choice can vary depending on your specific needs.
Liquid aminos is created by breaking down soybeans with a specific acid. This process turns the soy protein into individual amino acids. Afterward, the acid is neutralized with baking soda, resulting in a dark, salty sauce similar to soy sauce.
Like coconut aminos, liquid aminos is free from gluten. However, it does contain soy, so it’s not a good choice for those avoiding soy products.
Suggested read: Is soy sauce gluten-free?
Compared to coconut aminos, liquid aminos has a lot more sodium—320 mg in just one teaspoon, which is much higher than the 90 mg found in the same amount of coconut aminos.
Tamari is a Japanese sauce made from fermented soybeans. It has a darker and richer flavor, and is slightly less salty than traditional soy sauce.
Although it contains soy, tamari usually doesn’t contain wheat, making it a popular pick for people avoiding gluten or wheat.
Tamari also has a high sodium content—over 300 mg per teaspoon—so it may not be the best option for those looking to lower their sodium intake.
Homemade soy sauce substitutes
For those who like to make things themselves, there are plenty of recipes for homemade soy sauce substitutes.
Most homemade options avoid soy, wheat, and gluten. However, they often include sweeteners like molasses or honey, which might not be ideal for those watching their sugar levels.
In comparison, coconut aminos, though derived from a sweet substance, has low sugar due to fermentation. It has just one gram of sugar per teaspoon, which shouldn’t greatly affect your blood sugar.
Some homemade versions use high-sodium ingredients like broth or table salt. So, if you’re watching your salt intake, coconut aminos may be a better option.
Fish and oyster sauces
Fish and oyster sauces are other alternatives to soy sauce, each with their own unique characteristics.
Oyster sauce is a thick, flavorful sauce made from boiled oysters. It resembles dark soy sauce but is less sweet. It’s chosen mainly for its texture and cooking qualities, not for health reasons.
Coconut aminos isn’t a good swap for dark soy sauce as it’s too light and thin.
Fish sauce is lighter and made from dried fish. It’s generally used in Thai recipes and is gluten- and soy-free.
However, fish sauce has a high sodium content, making it a less-than-ideal option for those limiting salt. Plus, neither fish nor oyster sauces suit vegetarian or vegan diets.
Suggested read: 6 brilliant oyster sauce substitutes
Summary: Coconut aminos has less sodium than most other soy sauce alternatives and is also free from common allergens like soy and gluten. However, it might not be ideal for every culinary application.
Drawbacks of coconut aminos
Some folks find the taste of coconut aminos to be too sweet and not as robust as soy sauce, which could make it less than ideal for specific dishes. But taste is a personal thing.
Beyond flavor, coconut aminos has some other downsides, specifically regarding price and how easy it is to find.
It’s considered a specialized product and isn’t widely stocked in all places. While you can buy it online, you might have to pay steep shipping fees.
If you do happen to live in an area where it’s readily available, expect to pay a premium. Coconut aminos typically costs about 45–50% more per ounce compared to traditional soy sauce.
Summary: While some people may not prefer its sweeter taste in certain recipes, the major downsides to coconut aminos are its higher price and limited availability.
Coconut aminos is a well-known alternative to soy sauce, made from the fermented sap of the coconut palm.
It’s free from soy, wheat, and gluten, and has much less sodium than regular soy sauce, making it a decent swap.
Though it’s often touted for the same health perks as coconut, there’s no scientific evidence to back this up.
Don’t consider it a health food; it’s low in nutrients. Also, it’s worth noting that coconut aminos isn’t entirely salt-free, so be mindful of how much you use if you’re watching your sodium intake.
It’s also pricier and less accessible than regular soy sauce, which could be a drawback for some.
In summary, coconut aminos is a pretty good substitute for soy sauce. Tastes differ, but you won’t know if it’s for you until you try it.