Coconut oil is gaining fame as one of the healthiest oils on the planet, along with olive oil (famously used as part of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with heart health and a reduced risk of many non-communicable diseases and degenerative conditions). Coconut products have been used in Asian, Indian, and Polynesian cuisines for centuries, as both a nutritious food source and for medicinal use. Despite the misconception that coconut oil is bad for your health due to its saturated fat content, the structure and make-up of coconut oil is unique, unlike the saturated fats found in animal products. Coconut oil is composed of a unique group of saturated fats known as Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) . These fatty acids are easily digested, are able to bypass the liver after absorption, are transported to body cells, and are then broken down very quickly by the body for energy.
Coconut meat is a useful source of dietary fibre. Although excess consumption of coconut oil will provide the body with excess calories and may raise cholesterol levels, including recommended amounts of coconut oil and coconut products in the diet can be beneficial to health. In fact, studies have been done to show that coconut consumption has not been shown to negatively affect cholesterol levels. A few studies have found that coconut oil is able to moderately increase metabolic rate, and is thus often sold as a product that helps boost metabolism and contributes to fat loss and weight control. More research needs to be done into the true health benefits of coconut, however the following amounts of coconut oil and/or coconut products have been estimated as a guide to the daily intake of MCFAs associated with health benefits:
- 50 g pure coconut oil
- 150 g fresh coconut meat
- 80 g dried, shredded coconut
- 295 ml coconut milk
In excess, coconut oil and coconut products may lead to weight gain due to high caloric load, however, if used as part of a healthy, balanced diet, coconut in all its forms can greatly benefit our health and overall wellbeing.
Health Benefits of Coconut
Unlike many other plant-based and animal fats, coconut products have been shown to:
- Aid digestion and improve the absorption of minerals
- Promote weight loss
- Protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes
- Support and strengthen the immune system
- Provide antibacterial, germ-fighting properties when used both topically and internally
- Promote good gut health
Cooking with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is fairly stable when heated to 177 degrees C without changing its structure or compromising its health properties. Its stability means that it does not break down easily when heated. Unlike other vegetable cooking oils, heating coconut oil is less likely to result in the production of harmful free-radicals, which are linked to inflammation and many degenerative health problems. Thanks to its stability, coconut oil isn’t as susceptible to becoming rancid as many other cooking oils. Coconut oil can pretty much be used for any application where oil or fat is required so you can use it to prepare desserts, fish, veggies, meat, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
What is the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk?
Both of these products are made by extracting coconut flesh from a fresh coconut, blending it with filtered water, and straining the product through a nut milk bag or muslin cloth. Coconut cream is the product obtained after the first extraction, and coconut milk is what you get after the second extraction. The main difference in terms of their composition is that coconut cream contains a greater amount of fat than coconut milk.
- Components of total energy expenditure in healthy young women are not affected after 14 days of feeding with medium-versus long-chain triglycerides
- Endogenous fat oxidation during medium versus long chain triglyceride feeding in healthy women
- Effects of dietary medium-chain triglyceride on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in a group of moderately overweight free-living type 2 diabetic Chinese subjects