Nutrition - Coconuts

Friday 04 May 2018

I thought we would have a change of pace this week and have a look at coconut oil and coconut milk and its benefits in a similar way that we looked at Pumpkins a few weeks ago.

Is coconut oil good for you?
Many people I meet, at the cookery workshops mostly, get very confused about coconut oil and whether it is good for us or not. I think the confusion lies in the fact that coconut oil is made up of 95% saturated fat, and we consider saturated fats to be high in bad cholesterol and consequently bad for our hearts and circulatory system. Well this is all unfounded because as coconut is a palm oil and not derived from an animal it is actually free of cholesterol and in fact contains many health promoting properties some are very beneficial to people with cancer and also for general health. As a nutritional therapist I am not only interested in the symptoms that people come to me with but try to put measures into place which will ultimately benefit them as a whole.  

let’s have a look at some of the benefits of the coconut.

  • Firstly the water from the coconut is very useful for those who suffer from any diarrhoea as a result of treatment or at any other time. It is rich in inorganic ions potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, which are necessary to help replace the electrolytes that are lost when a lot of fluid suddenly leaves the body as in diarrhoea or profuse sweating.  This was clarified in a review in 2012 when coconut water was labelled a ‘functional food’ because of its benefits as an electrolyte drink. It has been adopted by the sports industry because of this quality. You can get it in many supermarkets and health food shops in individual cartons or larger packs. Just make sure that if it is flavoured that it does not contain sugar.
  • Coconut oil contains cytokinins which are molecules involved in our immunity. They have been shown to have anti oxidant, anti carcinogenic , anti thrombotic and anti aging benefits. The fats found in coconut oil are what are called medium chain fatty acids. The benefit of these, as opposed to long chain fatty acids, is that they are digested and absorbed very easily and used as an immediate source of energy and not stored as fat. This may help people with fatigue as it should give an instant energy boost (see recipe below).
  • The fatty acids are made up mostly of Lauric and caprylic acid which not just a source of instant energy but also bring very significant health benefits. They are anti microbial and anti bacterial which in turn helps to support the immune system and also helps keep the digestive tract healthy. Anything that supports the immune system should be considered. The fat also contains a chemical known as phenolic compounds which are thought to promote good heart health.
  • Finally it coconut oil supplies a good level of manganese, selenium and zinc. These are all important minerals as they all have antioxidant properties which help to protect the cells from free radical damage. Zinc is also needed by the immune system. Just for added information you can also find manganese in all types of nuts, buckwheat, rye, spinach and oats mostly, with lesser amounts in vegetables. Selenium is quite unique because it is also vital for the correct functioning of the thyroid gland which regulates metabolism. Other foods rich in selenium are Brazil nuts, oats, wholemeal bread, barley, brown rice and some greens. Zinc, as I have said is one of the most important minerals for the immune system it can also be found in Oysters!!!! Pumpkin seeds, most nuts particularly Brazil, whole wheat, rye, oats, green peas and parsley.

How to use coconut oil
Coconut oil and coconut milk lends itself to sweet and savoury foods. You can use coconut milk in almost any recipe in place of cow’s milk. If you want to buy coconut oil make sure that you try and buy cold pressed varieties as with any oil, whether it be olive oil or a seed oil. Any oil or fat prepared by using heat means that their nutritional benefits have been destroyed, heat also spoils their natural chemical structure which inevitably has negative consequences on health and cell metabolism.

Incidentally you can now buy coconut yogurt which has all the benefits of the coconut.

Coconut and pineapple high energy smoothie for you to try.
200mls of coconut milk
Water from 1 coconut
200mls of pineapple juice
1 banana
150g organic live yogurt or almond milk.

Simply blend all the ingredients together in a blender. You could add crushed ice to make it even more refreshing.

Coconut Blueberry Crumble

Another very simple nutritious recipe that you might like to try.

4oz/115g shredded coconut

115/4 oz pecan nuts or walnuts

60g/2oz dates

400g/14oz fresh blueberries

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp red grape juice or apple juice.

  1. Make the crumble topping by putting the coconut, nuts and dates in a food processor and mix until a coarse crumb is made.
  2. Put the blueberries, cinnamon and juice in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle over the crumble topping and bake for 20 mins till lightly golden.

Blog originally written by Caroline Dec 2012

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