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The health and hype of coconuts

coconutsI love a good food craze. I adore it even more when it is with a food that is from nature and which has health benefits. Today I wanted to discuss coconut and whether it is worth adding to your healthy eating plan.

There are many ways to consume coconut. There is coconut water, coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut flesh dried and fresh and coconut oil.

Overall, coconuts have been eaten for many years in varying cultural and ethnic traditions and today it has permeated the western urban food chain with fierce velocity. But why? Why the hype?

Coconut Water

Coconut water is gracing our shelves in many brands. Fresh, refrigerated, tetra pack, you name it, it’s there. Coconut water is virtually fat free and is hailed the natural sports drink. It is incredibly high in potassium and magnesium and combined with its water and sugar content, it is a great source of natural electrolytes.

If you were an athlete competing in some serious training, coconut water is perfect for you. There are no artificial colours or sugars as the big sports drink names have, and it is incredibly thirst quenching. For us mere mortals, who walk or bike ride 40 minutes a day and do our 3 sets of push ups, sit ups and lunges, there is no real need to replace any lost electrolytes with coconut water or other sports drinks for that matter. Although of course if you like the flavour, go for it. But stick to the plain variety to avoid the added sugar.

In regards to the great source of potassium, if you are consuming you daily 2 and 5 of fruit and vegetables, you are already getting enough potassium. So the benefits of consuming coconut water for its potassium levels are lost as you gauge is already full. Plus, by consuming the water, you are missing the fibre that you would get from eating a potassium packed banana.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is not the same as the coconut water. It is the milk that is extracted from the pressing of the coconut flesh. Coconut milk and coconut cream (thicker version to the milk but achieved in a similar way as the milk) are often used in many Thai and Indian dishes. Although delicious, they can be quite high in fat, in saturated fat in particular, so keep a watch out for the fat content on the back of the can, as they can vary from 6g to 22grams of fat per 100ml.

Coconut flesh (dried)

Coconut in general is incredibly high in fat but it is also a great source of iron, fibre and manganese. Manganese is a trace mineral and involved in many enzyme reactions within the body including protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

As coconut does have a lovely flavour, it is a great addition to a Healthy Mummy smoothie or baked goods.

Coconut oil

90% of the coconut oil is from saturated fat. Although the saturated fatty acids in coconut are short to medium in length and are digested easier than some other long chain fatty acids say in meats or animal diary.

Due to the nature of the fatty acids, the oil is very stable and therefore is used often in food manufacturing as it does not go rancid quickly.

Despite the fact it has interesting properties, it is still very high in saturated fats and so is therefore still recommended to watch your intake of it and keep it in moderation. Although there have been studies that support its use in weight loss. Have a read here on our sister site, Lose Baby Weight about those findings.

Overall

Coconut is definitely the new ‘it’ food at the moment. Of course if you enjoy it for its flavour, go ahead and eat it. Although the beneficial effects from say potassium can easily be achieved with normal fruit and vegetable consumption. It is a wonderful sports drink, but unless you are eligible to even try out for the Olympics, you probably don’t ‘need’ a sports drink after your exercise session.

And yes, it can be incorporated into your diet, even though it is high in fat, specifically in saturated fat. Like most things, just eat/drink it in moderation.

With a Brazilian partner, I have drunk a few coconut waters in my time. I have also purchased some from the supermarket and had it after a big night out as a frappe with frozen berries. Very refreshing. I do also like it in a Healthy Mummy Smoothie, add about 1 -2 tablespoons to give a hit of flavohttps://www.healthymummy.com/recipes/white-meat/page/2/ur. Have a look here at another great recipe, again from our sister site. Or try it in a delicious Thai dish like this one.

mandy-dos-santos
written by:

Amanda Dos Santos

Mandy is an experienced Nutritionist, food scientist and writer with over 10 years experience in the Heath industry. She has been part of the Healthy Mummy team of experts since 2012, writing informative and current blog posts and contributing to our recipe books. She has played an integral part in creating the recipes on our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenges since they first started in July 2014.Mandy is a mum of three and loves working for The Healthy Mummy, ”Especially on the challenges as I can create recipes which empower women to create nourishing food for themselves and their families’."