Why Everyone's Gone Crazy For Coconut
Haven’t you noticed? Coconut is everywhere! Touted for having mind-boggling health benefits, from promoting weight loss to preventing liver and kidney disease. But is this superfood all it’s cracked up to be?
A coconut is the brown seed of a tropical palm – hard shell on the outside with white flesh and clear liquid on the inside. Both the flesh and water can be consumed on their own or processed into other coconut products.
Coconut water is the clear liquid inside a young, green coconut that is naturally rich in electrolytes, magnesium and potassium and the reason it is touted as an ‘athlete’s best friend’ for rehydration. However, many of the coconut water products marketed are flavoured with added sugar and processed, reducing electrolytes and bumping up kilojoules.
Tip: Natural, non-sweetened coconut water can be a good alternative to fruit juice (straight from the coconut is best) but nothing beats good old H2O for your hydration needs.
Coconut milks (different to your classic coconut milks for cooking) are often labelled as low fat or mixed with other non-dairy milks such as nut milks. Sadly though they are still higher in saturated fat than their dairy counterparts and lower in protein and calcium. Most of them have added water and sugar as the first ingredients, along with emulsifies, flavours, preservatives, stabilisers and vegetable gums – a lot of money to pay for what is essentially sweetened water.
Tip: For your protein and calcium needs, dairy milk is always best. For non-dairy individuals always check the nutritional panel and choose products low in sugar, saturated fat and with minimal ingredients.
Coconut yoghurt is made by culturing coconut cream and often contains added sweeteners and flavours. As with coconut cream and milk, coconut yoghurt is also high in saturated fat – the type that clogs the arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Unlike dairy-based yoghurts, coconut yoghurt contains very little bone-strengthening calcium and is low in protein – exactly what you want for a satisfying snack.
Tip: With triple the amount of saturated fat (compared to full fat dairy yoghurt) as well as being higher in kilojoules and lower in protein – coconut yoghurt is not as healthy as it seems. Ensure portion control and limit servings.
Coconut oil is probably the most popular ‘superfood’ of the coconut family, but unfortunately it is made up of more than 90% saturated fat – a much higher proportion than butter. However, unlike the saturated fats from animal sources (butter, dairy, meat), coconut oil is composed largely of lauric acid, a type of saturated fat that tends to mimic healthy unsaturated fats by boosting HDL (good) cholesterol.
Tip: There’s still no convincing evidence to support the view that coconut oil reduces our risk of heart disease. Opt for making coconut oil an ‘occasional oil’ or best to stick to extra virgin olive oil, which has proven benefits.