The whole world has gone coconut crazy and there are plenty of reasons why. Let’s take a look at the variety of coconut options and the health benefits associated with them.
Check out the research that is putting coconut back on the menu:
1. Coconut oil is the safest oil to use for cooking: Because coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is the least vulnerable of all the dietary oils to oxidation and the formation of free radicals. (1) Consuming oils that have oxidized because of exposure to high temperatures can lead to many health problems from heart disease to diabetes.
2. Coconut oil is a natural antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal food: Its super-microbial power comes from the unique fatty acids it contains: lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid. All of these fatty acids demonstrate anti-microbial properties with no harmful or unwanted side effects. (2)
3. Supplementing with virgin coconut oil can help prevent the bone loss that occurs in osteoporosis: Free radicals and oxidative stress are key players in the development of osteoporosis. Antioxidant rich virgin coconut oil can help to fight the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. A study published in 2012 shows that supplementing with virgin coconut oil helped to maintain bone structure and bone loss prevention in rats. (3) Coconut oil can also improve the absorption the of minerals such as calcium and magnesium as well as the fat-soluble vitamins all of which are critical to maintaining healthy bones and teeth. (4)
4. Eating coconut oil provides the body with energy without fat accumulation: The medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are used by the body to produce energy rather than being stored as fat. (5) Traditional sources of fat in the diet are broken down into individual fatty acids and then regrouped into bundles of fat and protein called lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are sent into the bloodstream so that the fatty acids can be deposited into our fat cells. Medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are used differently in the body. Instead of being packaged into lipoproteins and circulated in the bloodstream, they are sent directly to the liver where they are converted into energy. (6) These energy-producing fats do not raise blood sugar like carbohydrates so they are a good option for diabetics.
5. Coconut oil can boost the metabolism: Coconut oil has a thermogenic or calorie burning effect. (7) This is because the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil are easily absorbed by the energy-producing organelles of the cells. Studies have shown that after eating a meal containing medium chain triglycerides from coconut oil, the metabolism stays elevated for at least 24 hours! (8) Not only will you be burning calories at a faster rate, you will have more energy.
There are so many ways to use coconut!
For thousands of years, coconut has served as a food source in warm climates. When you open that brown outer husk of a coconut, the flavourful meat provides important nutrition. Key benefits include weight balance, athletic performance enhancement, brain function and immune balance. It may even hold the key to reducing memory loss in the elderly!
Fresh coconut is grated into coconut flakes that are dried to create tasty portable snack products. Traditionally used in baking around the world, flaked coconut adds a nutty flavour to desserts such as energy balls and date rolls.
This delightful treat is all the rage in the natural food movement. Many companies are now taking dried coconut flakes, coating them with a light sweetener, seasoning them with sea salt and other spices and then lightly toasting them. Be careful of the ingredients! Look for brands that are either unsweetened or sweetened with a natural syrup such as coconut or rice syrup.
Creamy coconut milk makes everything taste better! From curries to ice cream, coconut milk has been used instead of dairy to make a wide range of products. Coconut milk is usually found in a can. Click here to see my favourite brand.
Slide over soy milk and move on cow’s milk… Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage is here! You can enjoy coconut beverage wherever regular milk is used. This is great to finish soups. Click here for the recipe to make your own coconut beverage. This delicious beverage goes great on cereal, in coffee or mix into recipes. It is good to look for a lower fat beverage that can be used like milk. Look for it in the fridge section in the supermarket. It will be packaged in a cardboard container similar to milk.
Coconut water is the clear, nutrient-rich liquid inside a green young coconut. Fresh young coconuts can be purchased at many alternative grocery stores. The green husk is removed revealing a white inner husk. Avoid pink, grey or brown spots on the white husk as it can indicate the coconut has gone rancid.
Coconut water is a rich source of electrolytes that boost your energy. Coconut water is full of potassium, calcium, and chloride, which energize and replenish the body; and it contains much less sugar and sodium than commercial energy drinks. These electrolytes are important for muscle function, cardiovascular, pain reduction, nervous system, and immune system function.
Coconut water is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. These qualities make coconut water helpful with a number of health conditions, including stomach flu, dysentery, indigestion, constipation, intestinal worms, urinary abnormalities, weak kidneys, wrinkles, and age spots.
Coconut nectar or sap contains all 9 essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, although there are only trace amounts of methionine present. The nectar also contains 8 nonessential amino acids. Proteins are part of every living cell in your body. Some amino acids play a part in repairing tissue, while others serve as neurotransmitters, transmitting messages within the brain, and some are even utilized in detoxification and metabolic functions. It’s loaded with minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins.
Connoisseurs are calling coconut sugar a “whole food sugar.” Coconut sugar isn’t from the coconut itself. It’s drawn from the sap of the coconut palm tree buds. It’s similar in taste and colour to brown sugar with an almost-caramel flavour. So it doesn’t have or imparts a coconut flavour to baked goods, where you can just swap it for granulated sugar in recipes or anything else you’d use sugar for.
Unlike agave, which is 90 percent fructose, this up-and-coming sweetener—also called coconut palm sugar—contains less than 9 percent of that potentially triglyceride-forming substance. At a glycemic index of 35, it is lower than agave (42), honey (55), and cane sugar (68). When you consider coconut sugar’s healthy profile—it’s a pretty sweet solution.
Coconut vinegar has only 5 calories a tbsp. and can really add flavour to a meal. Try sprinkling a little into sparkling water as a refreshing beverage or use it in salads.
The sap used to make coconut vinegar comes from coconut trees grown in volcanic soil rich in minerals- potassium, iron, magnesium, sulphur, boron, zinc and manganese. It is especially rich in potassium, containing an impressive 192mg per tablespoon. Potassium is important in balancing electrolytes, controlling high blood pressure and metabolizing sugar. Iron is critical for the creation of red blood cells. Magnesium is important in nerve and muscle function and is essential in every major biological process in your body.
Acetic acid can increase the body's absorption of important minerals from the foods we eat. Dark, leafy greens are good sources of calcium, but some of these greens also contain compounds that inhibit calcium absorption. That is why making a salad dressing with coconut vinegar will increase how many nutrients you can absorb!
It seems that vinegar may be able to inactivate some of the digestive enzymes that break the carbohydrates from food into sugar, thus slowing the absorption of sugar from a meal into the bloodstream. Slowing sugar absorption gives the insulin-resistant body more time to pull sugar out of the blood and thus helps prevent the blood sugar level from rising so high. Blunting the sudden jump in blood sugar that would usually occur after a meal also lessens the amount of insulin the body needs to release at one time to remove the sugar from the blood.
Coconut Aminos (Soy-free Seasoning Sauce)
Delicious, soy-free seasoning sauce made with nutrient-dense coconut 'sap' offering 17 naturally occurring amino acids. When the coconut tree is tapped, it produces a highly nutrient-rich 'sap' from the coconut blossoms. This sap is very low glycemic (GI of only 35), is an abundant source of 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH.
Coconut Aminos can be used anywhere you enjoy soy sauce i.e. stir-fries, salads and marinades.
Try100% certified organic coconut flour, made from non-heated, tumble-dried coconut meat (with the oils already pressed out). It contains 40% dietary fibre and tastes absolutely delicious! You can add coconut flour to smoothies, gravy recipes, bread and other baked goods.
Coconut Oil, Coconut Butter and MCT Oil
Long scorned as being a saturated fat, coconut oil shines for weight loss! Sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, tropical breezes, and crystal clear waters. These basically summarize my ideal vacation destination; add a piña colada and some mid-afternoon rain to the mix, and I am living one of Jimmy Buffett’s songs. This tropical paradise also happens to describe the home to a wonderful, difficult-to-crack open, large, brown and hairy fruit.
Individuals suffering from certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias might benefit from the consumption of coconut oil. The oxidation of the MCFA results in the formation of ketone bodies, which appear to increase cognitive function. Furthermore, during the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, the glucose utilization by the brain cells is somewhat impaired due to an inability of the brain to absorb and utilize this carbohydrate. Thus, the ketone bodies generating from the oxidation of the MCFA appear to offer a necessary and instant fuel source to the brain. To learn more about MCTs and coconut oil, click here.
What is the difference between coconut oil and coconut butter? Coconut butter includes the meat of the coconut and coconut oil only has the oil. Both have excellent health benefits. I would suggest using coconut butter in your raw treats such as smoothies, instead of cooking. Coconut oil does not burn as readily and is more heat stable.
‘MCTs’ are medium-chain triglycerides (or medium-chain fatty acids ‘MCFAs’.), are a form of saturated fatty acid that have many health benefits, including improved cognitive and cardiovascular function, improved energy and weight loss. Coconut oil is an excellent source of MCTs as 60-65 % of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs.
Why MCTs an excellent source of essential healthy fats? MCT fats are easy to digest! Once digested they are sent directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic effect and the ability to positively alter your metabolism. This is why experts say that the MCTs in coconut oil are burned by the body for energy, or “fuel,” instead of being stored as fat.
One Last Beauty Tip
Coconut oil has great topical benefits. It moisturizes the whole body and can even double as a shaving cream. Apply a quarter-size dollop to your hair for a deep moisturizing oil treatment. Due to its anti-microbial effect, it works well to kill bacteria and yeast topically. In India, they even use it as a mouthwash.
1. Tarmizi AH, Lin SW: “Quality assessment of palm products upon prolonged heat treatment.” J Oleo Sci. 2008;57(12):639-48.
2. DebMandal M, Mandal S: “Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): in health promotion and disease prevention.” Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2011 Mar;4(3):241-7. doi: 10.1016/S1995-7645(11)60078-3. Epub 2011 Apr 12.
3. Hayatullina Z, Muhammad N, Mohamed N, Soelaiman IN: “Virgin coconut oil supplementation prevents bone loss in osteoporosis rat model.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:237236. Epub 2012 Sep 16.
4. Roodenburg AJ, Leenen R, van het Hof KH, Weststrate JA, Tijburg LB: "Amount of fat in the diet affects bioavailability of lutein esters but not of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and vitamin E in humans." Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5):1187-93.
5. Roodenburg AJ, Leenen R, van het Hof KH, Weststrate JA, Tijburg LB.: “Amount of fat in the diet affects bioavailability of lutein esters but not of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and vitamin E in humans.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5):1187-93.
6.Takeuchi H, Sekine S, Kojima K, Aoyama T: “The application of medium-chain fatty acids: edible oil with a suppressing effect on body fat accumulation.” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:320-3.
7. Kasai M, Nosaka N, Maki H, Negishi S, Aoyama T, Nakamura M, Suzuki Y, Tsuji H, Uto H, Okazaki M, Kondo K.: “Effect of dietary medium- and long-chain triacylglycerols (MLCT) on accumulation of body fat in healthy humans.” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003;12(2):151-60.
8. Baba N, Bracco EF, Hashim SA.: “Enhanced thermogenesis and diminished deposition of fat in response to overfeeding with diet containing medium chain triglyceride.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1982 Apr;35(4):678-82.