Surely you have ever heard that “it is not good to eat much coconut because it has a lot of fat” and you’ve had to renounce to its taste and scent for fear of being ruining your diet… Well, today this exotic food is experiencing an overwhelming boom both in the field of dietetics and nutrition, as in the world of cosmetics. Numerous celebrities, top models, athletes and people from the world of fitness, vegetarian, vegan and general consumers are increasingly advocating the use and consumption of this tropical fruit in all its versions: from the pulp or meat, to milk, vegetable drink, water, flour or coconut oil. In this sense, we’ll try to figure out what is true in the middle of this information maelstrom and how coconut benefits (scientifically proven) our health.
For a long time it was considered “unhealthy” due to its high saturated fat content and its supposed involvement in the increase of cholesterol levels and, therefore, of heart disease. However, although the latter statement is correct (nearly 90 percent of its fatty acids are saturated), recent scientific studies show that, in fact, is a food with many beneficial properties for health: Coconut is an excellent antiviral and antimicrobial natural, hence its ability to boost the immune system; its glycemic index is low, so that helps control blood sugar levels; It is gluten free, lactose free, improves digestive health; its oil is a good ally to remove accumulated fat and thus to prevent obesity.
It stimulates defenses: It is true that coconut contains significant amount of fat, most of which are saturated fatty acids of medium chain (MCFA), in particular the so-called lauric acid. However, we should know not all saturated fatty acids behave in the same way and therefore not all of them supose a risk to our cardiovascular health. In fact, both lauric acid (constituting nearly 50 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil) as monolaurin (monoglyceride formed when the oil is enzymatically digested) are able to fight the most common infections that attack the body: pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or fungi.
Regulates glucose: Its high concentration in dietary fiber helps slowing the release of blood sugar and preventing insulin spikes. Coconut is also low in sodium and rich in potassium (promotes a healthy blood pressure), provides minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, it is gluten and lactose free, hence its vegetable drink is an ideal option for people with intolerance. Currently there are several brands of vegetable coconut drink on the market, but it is important to always opt for the low fat and no added sugar varieties.
Weight loss: Unlike saturated fats found in cheese or red meat, medium-chain fatty acids present in coconut have the ability to become energy directly, ie without metabolized in sugar and without stored in adipose tissue, which results in an immediate supply of energy and vitality, stimulating the metabolism and helping burn stored fat. According to a study published in 2008 in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’, men and women who took during 16 weeks foods rich in medium chain fatty acids lost an average of 3 kg.
Within a diet designed to promote weight loss (in which the characteristics of each person are taken into account), and consumed in moderation, that is, no more than 3 tablespoons of 15 grams a day, extra virgin coconut oil is presented today as a product that can help you to lose weight and, above all, to eliminate the dangerous abdominal fat. Most latest studies conclude that people who include coconut oil in their weight loss program instead of another oils (both for cooking and seasoning), lose weight more easily.
My advice: if you like to incorporate coconut oil in your diet do it always as a part of a coordinated strategy to reduce weight, because a food alone does not work miracles, and its consumption should be studied and monitored by a professional. Also remember to introduce it in your kitchen gradually, so that you can alternate its consumption with another recommended oils, such as olive oil.
It improves resistance: As set out in a study published in April 2009 in the ‘Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology’, the ease to digest medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) may increase energy metabolism during high and medium intensity exercise. The study, conducted in humans for two weeks, found that MCFA con reduce body dependence on carbohydrates for energy and decreases the amount of lactate produced, which means greater resistance.
Coconut water is an exceptional drink for athletes because its wealth in potassium helps regulate heartbeat and muscle function after training. It contains a lot of B vitamins, minerals and trace elements such as zinc, selenium, iodine and sulfur, which make it a powerful antioxidant.
Uses in cosmetics: Coconut oil is a great ally in the treatment of dry, malnourished or damaged hair as well as to prevent or eliminate dandruff. It can also be used as a hair mask, body oil, lip balm, anti dark circles cream, anti-frizz hair, natural scrub and hand cream, among others.
1. Coconut, consumed in moderation, can improve our health, but only when it is supported by a healthy diet and exercise.
2. The vegetable coconut drink is an ideal alternative for people with lactose intolerance.
3. Coconut oil is much less prone to damage by temperature. It does not rust or rancid, and its properties remain unchanged when used in cooking.
4. Like saturated fat, must remember that it is highly caloric.
5. If you buy coconut oil, be sure it is extra virgin.
6. You can add it to your tea, make desserts and smoothies, as well as give an exotic touch to your dishes.
Organic facts: Health benefits of coconut oil.
Coconut Research Center: Coconut.
Harvard University Medical School: Ask the Doctor: Coconut oil.
Coconut oil: ‘Once a villain, coconut oil charms the Health Food World’, Melisa Clark, March 1, 2011.