Since we’re on the beach today, I thought it would be appropriate to address the health benefits of a tropical fruit, the coconut. Recently I’ve been turned on to the wonderful benefits of coconut and it’s uses. Coconut is a staple in many Pacific Island cultures (with great health history), so much that it is known as “The Tree of Life.” Over 1/3 of the world’s population depends on coconut for food or economically. We’re going to look at individual products of coconut (especially coconut oil), but before we do let’s look at some of the benefits of coconut, since it is considered a functional food because of its benefits beyond nutritional content. It is used around the world to treat:
- kidney stones
- sore throat
- upset stomachs
Besides all of this coconut tastes yummy and provides a great amount of “good” fat. Also it has a low active carbohydrate rate because they are packed with fiber! What are some sources of coconut? Let’s take a closer look.
- Coconut Milk– a mix of shredded fresh coconut meat with water, then pressed through a cheesecloth. One-fourth cup contains 12 grams of fat.
- Coconut cream– is essentially coconut without the water. It is thicker and pastier than the milk. Be careful when purchasing because grocery products are often sweetened.
- Creamed coconut– is a solid block made of pure flesh that is pulverized into solid block form. It’s great in sauces and curries.
- Coconut butter– the whole coconut flesh (fat and solids both). It’s good for cooking at really high temperatures though. Two tablespoons contains 18 grams of fats.
- Shredded Coconut- thin strands of coconut that you can add to sweeten.
- Desiccated Coconut– coconut that is finely ground and unsweetened. It’s great to sprinkle on top of fresh fruit!
- Coconut flour-this is one of my great new finds! For those having a hard time getting rid of bread, this is a good supplimentation. You can also use it to coat and fry with (shrimp, chicken or vegetables). Warning it is somewhat dense though so a light coating is best. Also if using it to replace regular flour you have to add more water. Two tablespoons contains 1.5 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrates (9 of which are fiber, so 1 active carb!), and 2 grams of protein.
- Coconut oil– last but not least, we’ll cover coconut oil! Coconut oil contains a medium chain fatty acid, which is also found in breast milk (besides breast milk coconut oil is the best source of lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids). Diets with lauric acid form monlaurin, which destroys viruses (HIV, measles, herpes simplex virus-1, vesicular stomatitis virus, influenza, and cytomegalovirus.)
Research has proven that consumption of diets high in medium chain fatty acids leads to increased metabolism and weight loss. When medium chain triglycerides replace Long chain triglycerides the body is less inclined to store fat. Studies have shown that a meal with MCT’s can increase basal metabolic rate by 12%! (LCT only raised it 4%). What about all of the saturated fat in coconut oil (I am going to do a seperate article on saturated fat, but this is a nice starter). First off, there have been plenty of studies done on socities who consume high saturated fat diets. In the 1960’s a study was done on the South Pacific Islands of Pukapuka and Tokelau. Over 60% of their caloric intake came from the saturated fat of coconut oil. What scientist found was a healthy and lean population, relatively free of modern diseases (including obesity). Also vascular disease was uncommon (which saturated fat is portrayed to be the villain of, but once again we know that general knowledge and what the government tells us isn’t what’s best (low fat trend)). Just as a taste of later columns, saturated fat help with cell structure, protects the liver, helps omega-3’s and the immune system.
I hope that this information has been helpful, as I’ve said, it’s been just recently that I’ve learned about how terrific coconut is (as a matter of fact I’m getting ready to start stocking it at my facility). I’ve had great results with the flour and love the flavor that the oil brings to my meals (note: the oil should be solid at room temperature and is great for cooking at high temperatures), also have had positive feedback from my clients in cooking class, who tried the coconut shrimp. So stop by our store, or any health food store or Asian market and pick up some coconut products today!