It would appear everyone’s talking about coconuts! From coconut water to coconut oil, coconut products have sprung up in all the health food stores and supermarkets and have been surrounded by the buzz about their delicious taste and virtues.
Lately I’ve had quite a few people write to me wanting to know the true benefits of the coconut and whether it is really the ‘good’ saturated fat that it’s been perceived to be. So I took it upon myself to find out exactly why I love it and get some real facts out there on the various merits it claims.
Will coconut oil make us fat?
Lets face it, it’s a saturated fat. Everything we’ve ever heard about this type of fat is scary, but don’t be afraid. This saturated fat has a different chemical bond to other saturated fats. Without going into too much chemistry for you, the simple explanation is it behaves differently in your body and doesn’t leave the negative residue in your arteries. Some studies suggest that this wonder oil has the opposite effect of other saturated fats and can make you less fat! The randomised, double-blind, clinical trial involved 40 women aged 20–40 years found that in fact coconut oil promoted the reduction in abdominal fat in these women. Of course you need to grasp this with common sense too, It doesn’t mean go out there and have kilos of the stuff, it just implies to use it moderately, as you would any oil.
Will it increase cholesterol?
When it comes to its effect on cholesterol, the research is saying that providing you are using unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil evidence supports that it in fact lowers total cholesterol, lipoproteins and phospholipids in the blood. It also shows that coconut oil, which is rich in lauric acid has little effect on the ‘bad’ cholesterol making it a better alternative to butter and hydrogenated vegetable fats. The studies displaying negative results were shown to be using hydrogenated coconut oils. The hydrogenation process increases stability of the oil at room temperature (therefore giving it a longer shelf life and more profitable for the manufacturer) but increases the levels of trans-fatty acids which are definitely the bad guys of the oil world. Trans fats have a bad name due to their increasing of LDL cholesterol and heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.
What about bottled coconut water’s thirst quenching goodness?
The limited research I found on coconut water is based on the aqueous part of the coconut endosperm – that’s the water found in a fresh young coconut. Its shown to contain the minerals potassium, chlorine, phosphorus magnesium and small traces of others. It also consists of a myriad of beneficial nutrients, hydrating qualities, antioxidants, some low levels of various vitamins and a little protein too (don’t get too excited, I mean “minuscule”). Suffice to say this may or may not be the same for coconut water once its been removed, packaged and stored. At present the research is not out there yet. Nevertheless it sounds promising but stay open minded. There are a couple of things that I suppose you need to look out for when buying the product. Make sure it doesn’t have added sugar – believe it or not many have and this will make its benefits non existent. Also make sure it’s not a concentrate. This would indicate that its probably void of natural nutrients and pumped up with extras to improve taste. Look at the label!
I hope I’ve been able to give you a good overall picture of why coconuts are awesome. Be sure to buy the unrefined higher quality option and try it in your cooking as well as eating raw. You can also use the oil as skincare to moisturise face and body. I’ve even heard it can be used as a hair treatment! If you haven’t been game enough to give it a go because you think the flavour would be overwhelming, try using half olive oil/coconut oil to start with and see how you go.
As a side note, the only concern I have with what always happens with worldwide crazes is it gets mass produced and saturates the market as everyone tries to make a buck. Unfortunately this may show short term financial gains in countries that have used coconuts as a staple food, but as has happen in Bolivia with quinoa, becomes unobtainable by the locals due to massive export. That doesn’t sit well with me so with this in mind, look at products that are made in Australia where possible.