If you haven’t heard the latest craze about the health benefits of coconut, let me enlighten you. If you’re already in the know about the coconut craze, let’s explore some more about the seed from the tropical “tree of life”.
Coconut oil: Despite being comprised of mostly saturated fat, coconut oil is one of the few healthy fats. Shown to aid in raising good cholesterol and lowering the bad, coconut oil contains Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) as opposed to almost all other fatty acids which are classified as Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFA). The difference is huge. LCFA contribute to high cholesterol, whereas MCFA do not. Coconut oil is essentially labeled the healthiest of the oils because of the body’s ability to metabolize the healthy fat so that it aids in healing rather than opposing it. Don’t be surprised to find coconut oil in a solid state. It has a higher melting point than more traditional oils. Be sure to check the label to make sure the oil you purchase is not hydrogenated.
Coconut meat: Coconut meat contains health promoting lauric acid, which helps fight bacteria and ward off infections. Studies claim eating the meat of the coconut helps fight gas, constipation, ulcers, and other digestive and stomach ailments. Coconut meat is also stated to increase the metabolism despite being high in saturated fat. Coconut is a healthy fat, so don’t judge it based on past media claims to avoid all saturated fats.
Coconut milk and cream: Pressed from the meat of the seed, coconut cream makes for excellent beauty treatments. It is said to produce a protective barrier and include tons of antioxidants. Many cultures claim moisturizing coconut cream is the key to a youthful appearance.
Coconut water: Found in the liquid center of the nut, the water provides electrolytes and twice as much potassium as a banana. However, the push for athletes to switch from sports drinks like Gatorade to coconut milk may not be the best. Although athletes need to replace lost electrolytes, they also need to replace sodium. Coconut water is high in electrolytes but low in sodium, which is great for us normal folk, but not so much for training athletes. Coconut water also contains zero fat.
Young coconuts contain more health benefits and nutrients than the older coconuts that are imported to the US for consumption. These older coconuts are degrading in nutrients and coming toward the end of their life cycle. The younger and greener the coconut, the better.
As far as claims that coconut can fight infections due to it’s antibacterial properties, smooth skin, aid in digestion, reduce diabetes, alleviate Alzheimer’s, cure diaper rash, improve dandruff and limit heart disease (the list goes on and on)… the jury is still out. Research is increasing, but still contradicting. Some independent studies have found a couple of the leading coconut water manufacturers have actually misrepresented the content claims on their packaging, inflating the sodium content to appeal to more athletes.
Don’t worry if you can’t afford coconut products or you simply don’t enjoy the flavor. You can still get all the health benefits of coconut by consuming other healthy foods. However, coconut has been a major staple in tropical cultures for centuries and consuming a natural product will surely benefit your health more so than processed foods and supplements. It’s okay to go a crazy for coconut. Worst case scenario, it may have you day dreaming of a vacation to the tropics. Best case scenario, it could save your life or dramatically improve your health.