There are many benefits of coconut and not to mention it is quite delicious! It’s rich and it’s satiating because it has a high fat content. There are many coconut-based products promising health benefits, from using coconut oil for cooking to adding coconut water to smoothies instead of dairy. It’s even referred to as a superfood. We’ve taken a look at some of the popular coconut ingredients to find out just how good they really are for us.
Benefits of coconut
One great thing about coconut oil is that it has a high-smoke point. This means it’s great for cooking meals that require high temperatures. When the oil is heated it produces fewer harmful free radicals and loses less of its nutrients.
Consumer advocate Choice investigated if there’s truth to the claims of the many wonders of coconut oil such as that it helps to:
- Control sugar cravings
- Control weight
- Ease digestion
- Boost metabolism.
Choice’s experts warn that although using coconut oil may have a few health benefits, none of the claims above have been properly researched or proven yet.
It was able confirm some of the benefits of coconut oil, however, including:
- Coconut oil has antioxidant properties, potentially because of plant nutrients
- It’s an unusual blend of short and medium-chain fatty acids not seen in other saturated fats
ABC Health and Wellbeing spoke to dietitian Julie Gilbert to find out if coconut water is all it’s cracked up to be.
“[Coconut water] may hydrate you, but that’s not to say another product won’t do it 10 or 15 times better,” she told reporter Cassie White.
The piece also examined whether coconut water was better than sports drinks at replenishing essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Coconut water contains some of these, most notably potassium. Research has found sodium-enriched coconut water can work as well as sports drinks for hydration after prolonged intense exercise.
As long as the coconut water isn’t sweetened, it’s probably a better option than the drinks that have added sugar.
There’s many forms of dried coconut. Desiccated coconut, shredded coconut or coconut chips (this is the version that looks like wood shavings and are often a decorative feature on smoothies or acai bowls).
According to dietitian Jill Corleone unsweetened dried coconut is high in calories and can be filing in small amounts. Good news if you’re looking to fill up without eating a lot. But the reason for that is the fat content.
There’s also not a lot carbohydrates, protein, vitamins or minerals in dried coconut so she recommend having a small amount.
Nutritionist Jo Lewin wrote in an article for the BBC that coconuts are highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.
“Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose free. If you have a lactose intolerance this mean it can be used as a milk substitute. It is a popular choice with vegans and makes a great base for smoothies, milkshakes or as a dairy alternative in baking,” Ms Lewin wrote.
“Coconuts are one of those foods that oscillate between the good food and bad food camps. Coconut milk, especially the lower fat variety, can be used in moderation (1-2 times per week).”
Which is best?
Lorinda Stutterd from Health Management Dietitians explained to the Cairns Post which parts of the coconut are the most beneficial.
“Although there are many benefits of coconut you are better off choosing whole coconut flesh to gain additional fibre and small amounts of protein and carbohydrates rather than just purely the energy-dense fats,” she said.
“Fats should only comprise up to 30 per cent of your total daily calorie intake. The intake should preferably come from unsaturated fats including fish, avocado, olive oil and nuts.
“I would recommend eating coconut products sparingly and only in small amounts.”