Healthy Tips by Jessica Lynn
For thousands of years many cultures have greatly benefitted from the nutritional and medicinal qualities the coconut provides.
The coconut is made up of an edible flesh, or meat, that can be pressed to make oil or mixed with hot water to make milk. It is also made up of delicious hydrating water. Eating or drinking from the coconut can prevent excess fat accumulation in and on the body; replenish electrolytes and potassium after a strenuous workout; prevent viral diseases; and reduce gastric distress.
So what has happened to the coconut’s reputation in the last 60 or so years? It was blacklisted by the nutrition and science communities for accusations of causing heart disease, but is now making a comeback.
Until industrial times, when everything started being overly processed, coconut wasn’t seen as a heart disease bandit. With the age of processing (specifically hydrogenation, which gives food a shelf life) came the chemical imbalance of the elements that make up the coconut.
Coconut that has been hydrogenated (the process of mixing hydrogen with the liquid oil at a very high temperature) is toxic for humans to consume. This process eliminates the essential fatty acids and antioxidants from the coconut oil and turns the healthier saturated fat to killer trans fat.
Hydrogenated coconut oil was being used on theater popcorn, which scientists took to mean that coconut was the culprit of heart disease. What they neglected to tell us was how the process of hydrogenation is the true culprit in causing heart disease, not the coconut itself.
The saturated fat in coconut is made up of lauric acid and medium-length carbon chains from triglycerides. The medium chain fatty acids aid in blocking fat from accumulating in the body, whereas long chain fatty acids that make up the saturated fat found in lard has been known to clog arteries and lead to heart disease. Lauric acid is a fatty acid that has anti-microbial properties; increases cells’ insulin sensitivity, which discourages fat storage; and increases the amount of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
Lauric acid is quickly metabolized by the body, so it is used as energy instead of stored as fat. According to Kelli Jennings, RD, who recommends using coconut oil in nutrition for athletes, coconut oil is a quick energy source and a recovery aid. “After a hard training, it will simply help you store glycogen better (insulin sensitivity) and serve as an energy source to discourage muscle wasting and fatigue,” she says. Try ingesting a tablespoon around workouts to avoid gastric distress-caused by the “improper digestion of our food”, chronic stress, physical stress, prescription medications, alcohol, etc.
Give coconut a try, in moderation. Here are just a few ways to add it to your day:
- Use the oil as a body moisturizer right before bed. It won’t grease up the sheets and it smells delightful.
- Oil up the pan before sautéing vegetables, or mix a tablespoon of the oil with steamed veggies.
- Spread coconut oil on toast (add some cinnamon!) to refuel after a workout.
- Drink up! Have some coconut water following a workout. It’s full of electrolytes and potassium, which are usually lost during a sweat session.
- Add shredded coconut to trail mix.
- Use coconut milk in place of regular milk in a smoothie recipe. It’s super creamy and delicious!
- Or, just eat the coconut meat by itself.
It is very important to buy virgin or extra virgin coconut oil to reap the benefits that it provides. And there’s no need to fear using coconut oil for cooking; it can only be turned into trans fat during the hydrogenation process, where hydrogen and a very high temperature are used.
Anyway you want it, coconut will be sure to please the palate, soothe dry skin, and provide multiple health benefits.
Also, http://www.livestrong.com has a ton of articles on the coconut.