COCONUT – IS IT A SUPER FOOD?

November 17, 2015

 

 

So why is there so much talk about coconut? Is it really good for us or is this another trend that marketers are spruiking currently. Well, actually there is scientific evidence that has demonstrated the health benefits of coconut oil (but the jury is still out on the coconut water).

Like me, I’m sure you are interested to know what the health benefits of coconut are and should you start using it. Well, here are some of the benefits:

  • Increased energy - Most fats are stored in our bodies, but coconut tends to convert to energy, rather than it storing as body fat.  It boosts metabolism and increases energy because it is more likely to be burned as fuel than stored as body fat.

  • No Trans-Fats – Although coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats, it is not mainly made up of long-chain fatty acids, instead it contains a lot more medium-chain fatty acids, which are the healthy form of saturated fat unlike trans-fat.  

  • Insulin stabilisation - Studies have found that coconut oil protects against insulin resistance, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Coconut fibre slows down the release of glucose, which means less insulin is required to transport the glucose into cells where it is converted into energy.  What this means is that coconut oil relieves stress on the pancreas and enzyme systems of the body, in turn, reducing the risks associated with Diabetes.

  • Protects against heart disease - by increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and lowering the ratio of bad and good cholesterol (LDL). In some studies it has been found that coconut oil changes the LDL cholesterol to a benign subtype (17, 18).

  • Weight loss – Because coconut oil can boost metabolism and increases energy, it is more likely to be burned as fuel than stored as body fat.

  • Acts like a natural antibiotic - Almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are Lauric Acid, which when enzymatically digested, forms a monoglyceride called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful bugs such as bacteria, fungi and viruses.

  • Other benefits suggested – during the digestive process the coconut fatty acids go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source of energy or turned into ketone bodies.  It has been suggested to have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Some people believe it supports improved endurance during physical and athletic performance, as well as promoting healthy thyroid function which helps to relieve the symptoms of chronic fatigue.

Although there appears to be many benefits to introduce coconut oil in your diet, there are many people who are not totally convinced. The Heart Foundation strongly disputes the claims and says coconut oil should be avoided because of the saturated fat content. On the other hand retired CSIRO scientist and honorary research fellow at the University of Queensland, Mike Foale, says the Heart Foundation has got it wrong.

 

Foale has been studying the coconut palm for more than four decades and believes coconut is a superfood. He has stated "There is both scientific and abundant anecdotal evidence of great health benefits, including increased energy, weight loss, natural antibiotic activity, cholesterol reduction and insulin stabilisation". He believes coconut is a superfood.

 

Then there is Professor Mark Wahlqvist, director of the Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre at Monash University, who has been examining the health of people in West Sumatra, particularly the Minangkabau people for over 25 years. He noted that coconut is a staple of Minangkabau cuisine, but in recent years coronary heart disease has increased because the use of coconut is getting replaced with more convenient cooked foods. One of the reasons coronary heart disease may have increased is prior to the use of convenient food they had a high intake of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish in conjunction with coconut.

 

 I think from reading through all the information the key is moderation, which is what we should always do with nutrition. Switching to coconut oil has many benefits, particularly when eaten with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, but don’t think you can start cooking up those fries with it!

 

 

Resources and references:

 

http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/

 

Learn more about CSIRO scientist and honorary research fellow at the University of Queensland, Mike Foale:  http://bit.ly/1MP7cZ7

 

and

 

Professor Mark Wahlqvist, director of the Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre at Monash University: http://bit.ly/1NANIDK

 

Check out this link by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research: http://bit.ly/1H653I1

 

Am J Clin Nutr.  . 2009.27725v1 91/3/535

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease

Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu, and Ronald M Krauss

 

Am J Clin Nutr. 1986 Nov;44(5):630-4.

Thermic effect of medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides in man.

Seaton TB, Welle SL, Warenko MK, Campbell RG.

 

Lipids. 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601.

Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity.

Assunção ML1, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, Cabral CR Jr, Florêncio TM.

 

Lipids. 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601.

Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity.

Assunção ML1, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, Cabral CR Jr, Florêncio TM.

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