Food of the Week: Coconut
The mighty coconut has become probably the trendiest health food around, thanks to its awesome list of nutritious properties. Of any superfood, this has to be the one which comes in the most different forms…
fresh whole coconut or dried and flaked coconut comes from the meat
coconut butter (or manna) which comes from the jarred (finely ground) coconut meat, which is solid at temperatures below 76°F
and then there is coconut milk and coconut water
Here’s the low-down on why it really is a super-food…
Made up on 90% saturated fats, coconuts are made of mainly medium chain triglycerides. Unlike other foods high in saturated fats which have mainly a long chain length, this means the energy we take on from coconut is converted into energy almost as fast as glucose, so the body processes it more like a carb.
The key part is that MCT’s are metabolised differently, travelling straight to the liver from the digestive tract. What we need it uses and stores in muscle ready to fuel activity, and only excess is converted to fat. This makes coconut an awesome source of energy. Because of the very high fat content it has a satiating effect on appetite, so although calorific we eat less, and studies shows it effects how much we eat later on during the day, all thanks to those MCT’s.
It gets even better… consuming MCT’s has shown scientifically to increase how much energy we use every day, combined with its positive effect on metabolising fat for energy, it results in reducing abdominal fat. Now the fat we store around our middles is the most dangerous kind, and has the the most significant and accurate predictions of instances of heart disease. Super clever stuff.
And that’s just the start of it… Coconut is amazing for immunity with incredible anti-viral, anti-bacteria, anti-fungal and anti properties. About half of the fatty acids it is made of are lauric acid, which metabolise with enzymes in our gut to also make monolaurin. These fellas are kings of anti-viral, powerful enough get to kill viruses, bacteria and fungi including the yeast candida albicans and the monster pathogen Staphylococcus Aureus.
Coconut oil: We used to think all fats high in saturated fat are the devil, and responsible for heart disease. The MCT’s in coconuts actually do the opposite, and eating the oil regularly can increase our good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) and reduces the bad (low density lipoproteins). Awesome, right? 🙂
Coconut oil is also great for our hair and skin, improving moisture levels. Apply directly to skin, and massage into tips of hair before you shower.
Amazing to cook with, simply sub your olive oil for coconut when stir-frying, or add a spoonful to porridge and smoothies.
Coconut milk: made from the flesh and water of the coconut. This forms a super rich, thick and decedent cream, very high in calories. Use it in cooking, it adds a light fragrance and richness to sauces and curries, but use sparingly!
Coconut water: this is the well, water-like liquid rich in electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium and sodium. These guys regulate our water balance in our bodies. We sweat this minerals out when we exercise, leading to dehydration, making coconut water a great tool for post exercise rehydration.
Coconut flour: the dehydrated flesh is ground into flour form. This sweet, rich and dense flour is a fantastic substitute in cooking providing incredible levels of fibre (more than 2 grams per tablespoon!)
Coconut flakes and shredded coconut: are dehydrated flesh, and the easiest to add into your cooking. Make sure to choose unsweetenened versions with no added chemicals.
Thanks to coconuts are organic. When buying jars of coconut oil, make sure to pick “Virgin” oil which has not been heat treated. Also avoid unscented options (crazy right?) as these have also been heat treated, losing lots of nutritional points.