The hype around coconut doesn't seem to be going away any time soon but how healthy is it really? We sat down with Tracy Kilburn, Accredited Naturopath to clear the confusion surrounding coconut.
Everyone is talking about it, from Miranda Kerr who has said she drinks the oil, to the water being hailed as a superfood drink, and coconut flakes are in all types of snacks.
But does it live up to the hype? At up to 30% saturated fat in coconut flakes, can it really be good for you?
When it comes to fat, there are two types; good and bad fats. The good fats are in avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish. I’m a big fan of including good fats in your real food intake every day, but I try to limit saturated fat. The worst kind of fats are rendered animal fats, which are used to make processed meat products like sausages, mince, sandwich meats, meatballs, burgers and gravy. These foods have been linked to high cholesterol, heart problems, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even certain cancers.
Coconut contains plant-based saturated fat, whereas the saturated fat in meat, butter and cream are all sources of animal-based saturated fat. The main first difference to point out is that just as there are good and bad fats, there are also good saturated fats and bad saturated fats.
"One of these good saturated fats is called Lauric Acid and coconut is one of the best sources of it. Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid and in our bodies some of this is converted to monolaurin. In vitro studies have shown it has incredible antibacterial and antiviral qualities to help protect from infections and viruses. There is also some evidence to show that it improves the blood fatty acid and cholesterol profile.”
The food manufacturing industry can apply a range of processes to coconut when processing it; often ruining it’s nutritional benefits. To ensure you’re getting the maximum nutritional benefits, make sure your coconut oil is virgin or extra virgin, and unrefined, (check the label). Virgin or Extra Virgin Coconut oil is made by extracting the fresh coconut meat from the nut and then pressing the oil out with a machine.
Other types of coconut oil are made from dried coconut meat, and then processed to refine, colour and deodorise the oil. This is the type of you don’t want to ingest. Certain chemicals may also be added to improve the shelf life of the product. Choosing organic, unrefined coconut oil is your best option.
Coconut water has been advertised as great for hydration, weight loss and for it’s nutritional content. Many coconut water brands claim their products to be a “goldmine” of nutrients and that they will revive and re-energise tired bodies. Whilst coconut water is delicious and it's a great alternative to soft drinks, sports drinks or other sugary beverages, many of the claims may be exaggerated and it's good to keep things in perspective.
In reality the nutritional content of coconut water is relatively moderate and there are much better (and cheaper!) sources of these nutrients available to us. For example a medium banana contains approx. 422mg of potassium whereas 100ml of coconut water contains approx. 220mg. Furthermore, potassium deficiency is very rare in Australia so you don’t really need to worry about it. The good news is that coconut water won’t do you any harm in small quantities however, for hydration and overall health, the best option is plain water. And it’s free.
Yep, Coconut oil and Coconut flesh are a great addition to a balanced diet. Packed with plant based good fats that help us to fight disease, reduce inflammation and lower our cholesterol. And it's delicious, filling and versatile. What more could you ask for?
It's energy dense though so watch your portions sizes. A little bit goes a long way when it comes to your health benefits.
Our Protein blend- KOJA Chia Seed & Coconut has organic shredded coconut and organic coconut flakes that add a lovely crunch and a great flavour. It's the perfect start to your day. Click the button below to check it out.
Get in touch with Tracy Kilburn, Accredited Naturopath from Accord Natural Medicine here
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