The benefits of coconut

The coconut (cocos nucifera) belongs to the palm family (arecaceae). Grown in abundance in Malaysia, Polynesia and southern Asia, they are classed as a fruit and frequently confused for a nut – but the coconut is actually a one-seeded drupe. In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as kalpa vriksha – ‘tree which gives all that is necessary for living’ – because nearly all parts can be used, including the water, milk, flesh, sugar and oil. Even the husks and leaves are used as materials in furnishings and decoration. Palm trees produce coconuts up to 13 times a year, and although it takes a year for the coconuts to mature, a fully blossomed tree can produce between 60-180 coconuts in a single harvest.

Contents

How it’s made

Creamed coconut and coconut milk are made in a way surprisingly akin to their dairy counterparts. Coconut flesh (the white part) is grated and soaked in hot water. The coconut cream rises to the top and can be skimmed off. The remaining liquid is squeezed through a cheesecloth to extract a white liquid that is coconut milk. By repeating this process, the coconut milk becomes thinner. The thicker version is used for desserts and rich sauces. Thin coconut milk is used for cooking curries and soups. In the UK, fresh coconut milk is unavailable and coconut milk is bought in cans.

A note on coconut water…
Coconut milk is different to coconut water. Coconut water is the clear liquid from the centre of the young, green coconut and is low in fat but rich in easily digested carbohydrates. Coconut water has received a great deal of attention for its perceived health benefits, and is an important treatment for acute diarrhoea in the developing world. It is said to have a similar electrolyte balance as that found in isotonic drinks, which some claim to be useful for rehydration after intensive exercise. However, the research to date has shown inconsistent findings to support the use of coconut water as an alternative sports drink.

Nutritional highlights

Coconut flesh is highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. However, the coconut milk available to us in the UK is typically canned and potentially lacking in many of these valuable micronutrients. Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose-free so can be used as a milk substitute by those with lactose intolerance. It is a popular choice with vegans, and makes a great base for smoothies, milkshakes or as a dairy alternative in baking.

Coconuts are one of those foods that seem to oscillate between the ‘good’ food and ‘bad’ food camps. Coconut milk, especially the lower-fat variety, can be used in moderation (1-2 times per week). However, The British Heart Foundation recommends swapping saturated fats, including coconut oil, for unsaturated oils when cooking.

A 100ml serving of canned coconut milk

169 calories 1.1g protein 16.9g fat
(14.6g saturates)
3.3g carbohydrate

Coconuts contain significant amounts of fat, but unlike other nuts, they provide fat that is mostly in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs) in particular, one called lauric acid. Lauric acid is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease-causing organisms. It is therefore thought that consumption of coconut milk and other coconut-derived foods may help protect the body from infections and viruses.

MCFAs are rapidly metabolised into energy in the liver. It is thought that unlike other saturated fats, MCFAs are used up more quickly by the body and are less likely to be stored as fat. Research is mixed but recent studies are suggesting that the fats from coconut may not have such a detrimental effect on blood lipids and cardiovascular health as once thought. This is certainly one area of research to watch.

How to select and store

If you are able to get fresh coconut milk, be aware that it goes bad very quickly and should be used the same day as pressing. The canned variety is a useful storecupboard ingredient and can be stored at room temperature for a long time. Be careful to check the use-by dates and look out for damage or dents in the cans. Once opened, transfer the contents to a resealable container and refrigerate. Use within a few days. The high oil content makes coconut quickly turn rancid if not stored under proper conditions.

Make your own
Try making your own coconut milk with just water and unsweetened coconut flakes. Heat the water (make sure it doesn’t boil), add the flakes and blend. Pour through a colander to filter out the coconut pulp, then squeeze through a cheesecloth to filter out the smaller pieces of coconut. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to four days.

Recipe suggestions

Coconut milk has become a highlight of many cuisines in tropical and subtropical countries where they are grown. Coconut milk is a fantastic dairy-free alternative, popular in curry dishes.

Jersey potatoes and cauliflower make a great pairing, so why not try this tempting curry:
Cauliflower, egg & potato curry

Try lamb as part of a pilau dish:
Lamb, coconut & mango pilau

One pan, five ingredients, 20 minutes – it’s almost too good to be true:
Spicy prawn soup

Feeling the pinch? Try these soups, perfect for packed lunches or light suppers:
Spiced red lentil soup
Lightly spiced carrot soup

Coconut in Caribbean, Thai and Indian cuisines:
Easy jerk chicken with rice & peas
Thai coconut & veg broth
Kerala prawn curry
Red Thai meatball curry

Sticky rice, a Thai classic:
Sticky rice & mango

This article was last reviewed on 5 July 2019 by Kerry Torrens.

A nutritionist (MBANT) Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

Jo Lewin works as a Community Nutritionist and private consultant. She is a Registered Nutritionist (Public Health) registered with the UKVRN. Visit her website at www.nutrijo.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @nutri_jo.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

What is the nutritional value of coconuts?

Like most nuts, coconuts contain significant amounts of fat, but unlike other nuts, which contain mostly long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, coconuts provide fat that is almost all in the form of health-promoting medium chain saturated fats. Fresh, mature coconut meat contains more than 50 percent water and approximately 35 percent coconut oil, 10 percent carbohydrates, and 3.5 percent protein. 1-cup of the nutmeat provides approximately 500 calories. Fresh coconut milk provides about 600 calories per cup and is composed of 67 percent water, 25 percent coconut oil, 5 percent carbohydrates, and 3 percent protein. Dried or creamed coconut meat provides nearly 900 calories per cup and is composed of 65 percent fat, 23 percent carbohydrate, and 7 percent fat.
Coconuts are an excellent source of manganese, molybdenum, and copper. A 2-by-2- by-5-inch piece provides 0.68 mg of manganese (38 percent of the recommended daily intake), 13.28 mcg of molybdenum (30 percent of the RDI), and 0.2 mg of copper (22 percent of the RDI). Coconut is also a good source of selenium and zinc, with the same size piece of coconut meat containing 4.54 mcg of selenium (8 percent of the RDI) and 0.5 mg of zinc (6 percent of the RDI).

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

There was no interaction (P > 0.05) between coproducts and percentages of inclusion of NaOH for OM, CP, or hemicellulose. Therefore, the effects were studied separately for each one of these variables (Table 2).

Table 2: Mean values for organic matter (OM), crude protein (CP), and hemicellulose of whole coconut, coconut powder, and coconut fiber and of the coproduct treated with different percentages of sodium hydroxide (NaOH).

*Different lowercase letters in the same row indicate a significant difference (Tukey’s test, P < 0.05).

Among the coproducts, the coconut fiber displayed the highest (P > 0.05) concentration of OM and hemicellulose and the lowest (P < 0.05) amount of CP. The decrease (P < 0.05) in the percentage of OM as the concentration of NaOH was increased was expected due to the higher addition of Na. The higher CP content obtained with the higher NaOH concentration (P < 0.05) was a result of the release of protein bound to the plant cell wall or the fiber. This effect was associated with the reduction of NDF, ADF, and hemicellulose contents, which proves the solubilization of the plant cell wall.

No interaction occurred (P < 0.05) between coproducts and the hydrolysis level for NDF, ADF, or IVDMD, and thus the regression analysis was performed considering the inclusion levels within each coproduct (Figures 1, 2, and 3). The decrease in NDF contents for the three coproducts with the alkalinization can be attributed to the partial solubilization of the cell wall. The magnitude of this effect was more expressive in the treatment with the highest concentration of NaOH. Gomes et al. (2015) also found that sodium hydroxide was efficient in delignifying the cell wall of sugarcane bagasse. Addition of NaOH to whole coconut and coconut powder resulted in a greater reduction of the NDF content when compared with that observed by Pires et al. (2006) with sugarcane, who obtained a decrease of only 1.15 units of NDF per unit of NaOH added.

Figure 1: Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) contents of whole coconut, coconut powder, and coconut fiber hydrolyzed with sodium hydroxide (NaOH).

Figure 2: Acid detergent fiber (ADF) contents of whole coconut, coconut powder, and coconut fiber hydrolyzed with sodium hydroxide (NaOH).

Figure 3: In vitro dry matter degradation (IVDMD) of whole coconut, coconut powder and coconut fiber hydrolyzed with sodium hydroxide (NaOH).

Likewise, the ADF content was reduced with the alkaline treatments. The whole coconut showed a lower (P < 0.05) percentage of ADF relatively to the coconut powder and coconut fiber. The magnitude of the decrease in the concentration of ADF depended on the dose of NaOH utilized. Murta et al. (2011) observed that the treatment of sugarcane bagasse with increasing levels of sodium hydroxide decreased its NDF and ADF concentrations linearly, and that a dose greater than 2% increased the availability of cell wall due to its partial solubilization.

The whole coconut and the coconut powder showed a higher IVDMD (P < 0.05) compared with the coconut fiber; irrespective of the coproduct, the inclusion of 6% NaOH resulted in a higher IVDMD. This is the result of the delignification and partial solubilization of hemicellulose and the expansion of hemicellulose – a linear decrease observed in the NDF and ADF contents – which facilitated the attack of the cell wall by fibrolytic microorganisms.

The addition of one unit of NaOH provided an increase of 1.56, 1.58, and 1.78 units in the IVDMD of the whole coconut, coconut powder, and coconut fiber, respectively. The IVDMD of the whole coconut and of the coconut powder treated with 6% NaOH were higher than 50%, but the highest increase in IVDMD was obtained with coconut fiber, 41.1%. It is thus observed that alkaline hydrolysis benefited the nutritional value of these coproducts and can predispose animals to satisfactory performances when included in diets. Gomes et al. (2015) also obtained an elevation of more than 50% in the IVDMD of hydrolyzed sugarcane bagasse and attributed this effect to the partial solubilization of lignin; it also reduced the effect of this physical barrier for the degradation of the structural carbohydrates by the rumen microorganisms.

For the performance, apparent digestibility, and feeding behavior trials, the whole coconut treated with 6% NaOH (WC6%NaOH) was used as the only roughage in the sheep diets, as it presented the best chemical and fermentation characteristics compared with the coconut fiber, and also because of its lower cost relatively to the coconut powder.

Daily dry matter intake in percentage and per unit of metabolic size in the diets did not differ (P > 0.05) from each other despite the increase in the concentration of NDF, which is one of the main factors controlling DMI (Table 3). It is believed that the intake was not affected by the inclusion of WC6%NaOH due to the improvement in the fiber digestion with the alkaline agent. The DMI in g/day were higher than the 82.37 g/unit of metabolic weight found by Azevedo et al. (2012) with sheep fed a diet containing 30% roughage and 70% concentrate.

a,b Different letters in the same row indicate a significant difference (Duncan’s test, P < 0.05).

Likewise, the percentage increase in WC6%NaOH in the diets did not affect (P > 0.05) the crude protein intake (CPI), possibly due to the low CP content of WC6%NaOH and because the diets were isoproteic. The intakes of NDF (NDFI) and ADF (ADFI) did not differ (P > 0.05) between the diets; the lack of effects for DM intake might have contributed for this effect not to occur.

The DWG of the animals fed the diet containing 25% WC6%NaOH was higher than that observed with 40% of inclusion, which resulted in a better (P < 0.05) feed conversion. For the diet with 25% WC6%NaOH, DWG was higher than the 205 g observed by Azevedo et al. (2012) using tropical grasses as roughage with a roughage:concentrate ratio of 30:70 in the diet. The low NDF content and the higher energy uptake with the increased level of concentrate in this diet contributed to this result. Overall, the performance data observed with the diets containing WC6%NaOH were close to those observed with diets containing tropical grasses, between 104 and 194 g/d (Carvalho et al., 2006), or agro-industrial coproducts, from 195 to 228 g/d (Murta el al., 2011). This demonstrates this coproduct’s capacity of being used as a roughage source in high-concentrate diets. Feed conversion ranged from 4.7 to 7.7 and was negatively (P < 0.05) influenced (P < 0.05) by the WC6%NaOH inclusion levels, showing that the animals will need to consume greater amounts of feed to convert it to 1 kg LW. The same response was found by Azevedo et al. (2012), who detected a linear increase in feed conversion values as they increased the levels of macauba palm (Acrocomia aculeata) cake in finishing-sheep diets, with values ranging from 5.5 to 6.4.

The apparent digestibility of DM (DMD) differed (P < 0.05) between the diets with 25% and 35% or 40% WC6%NaOH (Table 4); between the diets with 25% and 40% WC6%NaOH, this difference was 7.3%. The apparent digestibility of OM (OMD) was higher (P < 0.05) in the diet with 25% WC6%NaOH. Addition of whole coconut did not interfere (P < 0.05) with CPD because the diets were isoproteic and because the concentrate contributed with the largest part of the dietary protein, since the whole coconut has a low CP content.

Table 4: Apparent digestibility of dry matter (DMD), organic matter (OMD), crude protein (CPD), neutral detergent fiber (NDFD), and acid detergent fiber (ADF), and total digestible nutrients (TDN) in sheep fed diets containing four levels of whole coconut hydrolyzed with 6% sodium hydroxide (WC6%NaOH).

a,bDifferent letters in the same row indicate a significant difference (Duncan’s test, P < 0.05).

For NDF, the diet treated with 25% WC6%NaOH showed higher values than that treated with 40%, but this effect was not sufficient to cause a rumen-fill effect, since it did not affect intake. This difference may be attributed to the lower percentage of NDF in this diet due to the lower proportion of roughage. For ADFD, however, no difference was detected (P > 0.05) between the diets, possibly due to the action of the sodium hydroxide on the cell wall, facilitating its attack by rumen microorganisms. In an experiment with sheep fed 50% sugarcane treated with 2.25% calcium oxide and 50% concentrate, Murta et al. (2011) obtained values close to those observed here with whole coconut for DMD, NDFD, and ADFD: 72.9%, 32.3% and 30.7%, respectively. The diet with the highest (P > 0.05) TDN content was that with 25% of inclusion of whole coconut, which can be explained by the higher proportion of concentrate. The DWG obtained with this diet was higher than that found by Xenofonte et al. (2008) using a diet containing 71% TDN.

As regards the feeding behavior, there was no effect (P < 0.05) of treatment on the time spent feeding (Table 5). The equal intakes of DM, CP, and NDF may explain the similarity between the times. Sá et al. (2015) evaluated the feeding activity of sheep fed diets with increasing inclusion levels of babassu (Attalea speciosa) cake and also did not find differences between feeding times. These authors attributed this result to the fact that the diets were isonitrogenous and isofibrous, along with the equal DM intakes.

Table 5: Feeding behavior of sheep fed diets containing four levels of whole coconut hydrolyzed with 6% sodium hydroxide (WC6%NaOH).

a,bDifferent letters in the same row indicate a significant difference (Duncan’s test, P < 0.05).

Rumination time was longer (P<0.05) by the animals fed the diet containing 35% whole coconut as compared with those consuming the diet with 25% of that ingredient, likely due to the greater NDF content of the diet (Carvalho et al., 2014). Sá et al. (2015) also found an effect of the NDF from babassu cake on the feeding behavior of lambs; with the inclusion of babassu cake in the diet, the sum of the times spent feeding and ruminating resulted in a longer chewing time. However, Cardoso et al. (2006) evaluated diets for sheep with increasing NDF levels ― between 25% and 43% ― and did not observe an effect on the time spent feeding, ruminating, and on other activities. When the rumination and chewing times are limited, saliva production is decreased, which may lead to a decline of the rumen pH and consequently a reduction of the fiber digestibility (Macedo et al., 2007). This reduction was not observed, since the DNDF in the diet with 25% WC6%NaOH did not differ from that with 35% of this ingredient, despite the shorter rumination time.

The time spent on other activities did not differ (P < 0.05) between treatments, though differences were found in rumination time between the treatments with 25 and 35% WC6%NaOH. As stated by Gonçalves et al. (2001), the longer times spent feeding or ruminating may lead to a reduction of the time spent on other activities, such as idleness.

What Is Coconut Meat, and Does It Have Benefits?

Coconut meat may benefit your health in a number of ways.

Much of the research on the benefits of this tropical fruit is focused on its fat content.

May boost heart health

Coconut meat contains coconut oil, which may boost HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Improvements in these markers may reduce your risk of heart disease (7).

One 4-week study gave 91 people 1.6 ounces (50 ml) of either extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or unsalted butter daily. Those in the coconut-oil group showed a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol, compared with those given butter or olive oil (8).

An 8-week study in 35 healthy adults showed similar results, finding that 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of coconut oil taken twice daily led to a significant increase in HDL cholesterol, compared with the control group (9).

Another 8-week study noted that people who consumed 7 ounces (200 grams) of porridge made with coconut milk had significant reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases in HDL (good) cholesterol compared with those who ate porridge made with soy milk (10).

May support weight loss

Coconut meat may aid weight loss.

Studies suggest that the MCTs in this fruit may promote feelings of fullness, calorie burning, and fat burning, all of which may support weight loss (11, 12, 13).

Additionally, the high fiber content of coconut meat can boost fullness, which may help prevent overeating (14, 15).

A 90-day study in 8 adults found that supplementing a standard diet with 1.3 cups (100 grams) of fresh coconut daily caused significant weight loss, compared with supplementing with the same amount of peanuts or peanut oil (16).

Keep in mind that these studies use very large amounts of coconut and MCT oil, so it’s unclear if eating smaller amounts of coconut meat would have the same effects.

May aid digestive health

Coconuts are high in fiber, which helps bulk up your stool and supports bowel regularity, keeping your digestive system healthy (6, 17).

Since these fruits are likewise high in fat, they can help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Additionally, the MCTs in coconut meat have been shown to strengthen your gut bacteria, which may protect against inflammation and conditions like metabolic syndrome (18).

What’s more, coconut oil may reduce the growth of harmful yeasts, such as Candida albicans, which can cause serious infections (19).

Other benefits

Eating coconut meat may have other benefits, including the following:

  • May stabilize blood sugar. This fruit may lower your fasting blood sugar and alter your gut bacteria to aid blood sugar control (20, 21, 22).
  • May improve immunity. Manganese and antioxidants in coconut may help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. This fruit’s MCTs may also have antiviral, antifungal, and tumor-suppressing properties (23, 24, 25, 26).
  • May benefit your brain. The MCTs in coconut oil provide an alternative fuel source to glucose, which may aid people with impaired memory or brain function, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease (27, 28).

Summary The MCTs and fiber in coconut meat may benefit weight loss, heart health, digestion, brain health, blood sugar levels, and immunity.

So you want lean muscle mass, eh? Then put down that burger and listen up! Regardless of all that propaganda out there telling you that beef is the best way to increase your muscle mass or that egg whites and chicken are foods you should eat to get lean, those health hypes couldn’t be further from the truth. While animal products are a source of protein, they also come with a major price. Inflammation, cancer, heart disease, clogged arteries, diabetes, chronic digestive problems, and even some hormonal problems have all been tied to animal protein intake.

Why Coconut is Packed With Benefits for Your Muscles and More

We all know we need protein to maintain lean muscle mass, even if that’s not as much as bodybuilders eat. Plant proteins are easy to come by and your body can use these proteins just as well as it can animal proteins. Not only are plant proteins easy to prepare, but they’re also delicious and sustainable.

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Along with popular options like lentils, chickpeas, black beans, soybeans (edamame), peas, chia, hemp, tempeh, quinoa, tofu, and vegan protein powders, we should also be considering adding another food to our plates to pump up our muscles: coconut. That’s right – the tropical fruit most of us relate to just an exotic healthy fat source is actually packed with nutrients that improve lean muscle mass and support the overall body.

The important thing to remember is that the whole coconut meat is what we’re referring to – not just the oil. Coconut oil may come with some benefits, especially when applied topically, but it’s largely still a refined food. It’s fine to bake with it occasionally or use in place of butter to coat a griddle pan, but don’t rely on it as a fat source alone. Opt for whole coconut meat that’s either fresh or dried, which is where most of the nutrients are found.

Check out the benefits of coconut and why it’s now the new “other white meat”:

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It’s Armed With Amino Acids and Protein

Coconut may not be a complete source of protein, but it’s still packed with amino acids. Containing 17 amino acids out of the 20 amino acids needed for optimal protein formation, it’s particularly high in threonine, an amino acid needed to protect the liver, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and to support the formation of collagen in the body. For your muscles, it builds connective tissues and maintains elasticity in the body, even in the heart. Threonine also supports healthy tooth enamel, and it speeds up healing from wounds or injuries throughout the whole body. Coconut contains almost 97 milligrams of threonine in 1/2 cup of fresh coconut meat, and while coconut is not the highest source of all foods (watercress actually is), that’s still pretty impressive for a fruit! In terms of overall protein content, there are 3.5 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons of coconut flour, 8 grams of protein in 1/2 cup fresh meat, and 2 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons of coconut butter. Coconut oil contains virtually no amino acids and 0 grams of protein.

An Unknown Source of Dietary Iron

Coconut is also a great source of iron, especially for a fruit. Two tablespoons of raw coconut butter contain 6 percent of your iron needs, while 1/2 cup of fresh meat contains 11 percent. Iron is needed to ensure optimal blood flow to the muscles and for optimal energy needed for exercise. It’s completely possible to eat a vegan diet and get enough iron; the important thing is to eat a variety of sources.

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Fights Abdominal Weight Gain

Coconut may not help you drop a significant amount of pounds, but it has been shown to reduce body fat in the abdominal region. This pertains to raw unsweetened coconut, not sweetened varieties or other highly refined sources of coconut (like the ice cream or flavored milks). Coconut’s fats are used by the liver for energy, and they help reduce insulin surges in the body, unlike sugary processed foods or refined grains. This can lead to a reduced amount of fat stored in the stomach, which often happens due to erratic insulin levels.

The fiber and medium chain tryglyceride fats in coconut also help boost the metabolism due to the way they are used during digestion. Not only does this give you energy, but also creates a thermogenic effect in the body where your calorie burn is increased naturally. Keep in mind, this doesn’t apply for eating coconut in excessive amounts, but instead to using it in small to moderate servings in place of sugary foods, refined grains, processed foods, fast food, etc., so use a few tablespoons a day to see how you benefit.

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Folate Powerhouse

Folate is a B vitamin we need for healthy metabolism and red blood cell function. It’s also essential for healthy brain development in infants. Coconut meat contains 20 percent of your daily folate needs in a 1/2 cup of fresh meat. Avocados, asparagus, bananas, spinach, and beans are also great sources of folate too.

Plentiful Potassium

Potassium is an incredibly important mineral for our health. It reduces high blood pressure and aids in water balance in the body to counteract too much sodium (bye-bye bloat!). We need 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best source, and coconut is a great option. The tropical fruit contains 285 milligrams of potassium in 1/2 cup of fresh meat. Coconut water is even higher, while coconut flour and butter are a bit lower.

Fiber

To add to the list of benefits, coconut is even a fantastic source of dietary fiber. Fiber keeps you regular which improves your energy, takes care of your heart, and can even help whittle your waistline too. Coconut meat contains more fiber than wheat bran or any other grain per serving! In 2 tablespoons of coconut butter, you’ll get 5 grams of fiber, while 2 tablespoons of coconut flour will give you 7 grams, and the meat of the coconut contains around 10 grams per 1/2 cup. Coconut oil contains no fiber.

Easy to Digest

Best of all, due to the way your body processes coconut, it is very easy to digest compared to meat, eggs, and even some nuts, seeds, and beans that may not be as tolerable. What you digest from food is just as important as what you eat, so always choose foods that are easier on your digestive system while supplying you with nutrients at the same time.

How to Enjoy Coconut:

You can use coconut in a variety of ways, since it’s one of the most versatile foods out there in terms of available forms. For instance, you can use coconut flour in place of other flours, or stir some into your morning oatmeal. You can even put a couple tablespoons in a smoothie to thicken it up and add fiber in a flash! Or, try mixing it with non-dairy milk and coconut yogurt to make an instant dessert pudding.Top some fruit with coconut yogurt, use coconut shreds in your raw vegan snacks, and be sure to try coconut butter in oatmeal, smoothies, right off the spoon, or used in place of cow’s milk butter.

Of course, if you can get your hands on some fresh coconut meat, please do enjoy the purest form of this amazing food for all of us; it’s the best! While you needn’t go crazy with serving sizes, coconut is a great food to eat in small doses daily and in addition to a diet full of vegetables, greens, other fresh fruits and other healthy fats.

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See all of our coconut recipes for more ideas to use this marvelous “other white meat” and tell us, what’s your favorite way to enjoy coconut? And for more recipes, download our Food Monster App where we have over 15,000 vegan and allergy-friendly recipes!

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Do you like coconuts? It’s one of those foods that’s so often demonized by calorie and fat counters for it’s saturated fat content. But, a growing body of evidence indicates that coconuts may actually help with weight loss. Details …

That’s Fit took a look at coconuts recently and provided some compelling evidence that they may help with weight loss–a fact that people in natural and integrative medicine communities have known for a long time, in fact. From That’s Fit:

“The saturated fat found in coconut oil is a particular type of fat known as MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides). MCTs are metabolized in the body differently from other saturated fats. They’re rarely stored as body fat–the body prefers to use them for energy, almost like carbohydrates, though they don’t raise blood sugar the way carbs do.”

“One study in the International Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders found that the MCTs in coconut increased fat burning and calorie expenditure in obese men, and also led to diminished fat storage. Another study in the same journal found that consumption of coconut oil fats over the course of 27 days increased both fat burning and calorie expenditure in women as well.”

So interesting! I think the bottom line here is–still–to not overdo it on coconut (like anything else, right–they’re still caloric), but gals, this is so not a forbidden food. In fact, you might try incorporating some coconut into your snacks. One of my favorite things is fresh fruit sprinkled with shredded coconut. Light (canned) coconut milk is also divine in Thai dishes.

What are your feelings on coconut? Have you avoided it in the past?

More coconuts:

The coconut water Madonna and other celebs are crazy for (I have to admit, I am too!)…

I tried it: Yogurt made from coconut milk!

Breakfast idea: Drizzle your oatmeal with coconut milk–yum!

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Nutritional Value of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Serving size: 3 Tablespoons (15 g)

  • Calories: 100
  • Total Fat: 10 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Lauric acid: 6 g
  • Carbohydrate: 4 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg
  • Fiber: 2 g

Health Benefits of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Unsweetened shredded coconut is composed mostly of fat, 90% of which is saturated in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, also called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are associated with many health benefits and have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, provide an immediate source of energy, increase satiety, and increase metabolic rate. Furthermore, the MCFAs in coconut, namely, lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid are antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. In addition to these benefits, phenolic compounds in coconut act as antioxidants.

Therapeutically, due to their ability to form ketones, MCFAs have been used to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients as well as uncontrolled seizures in children. For people with limited GI function, MCFAs provide an easily digestible and absorbable form of fat because they do not require the assistance of pancreatic enzymes or bile salts for processing and they transport directly from the intestinal tract to the liver via the portal vein.

Inulin, a fructan, is a prebiotic fiber found in coconut meat that promotes the proliferation of healthy bacteria. However, fructans can aggravate symptoms in people with IBS, SIBO, or FODMAP intolerance and may need to be limited.

Seasonality of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Coconuts are available year round but are at their peak October thru December. Green coconuts are immature and are harvested for coconut water. Mature coconuts have a very hard brown shell that is covered with stringy fibers and are harvested for coconut water and meat from which coconut milk, oil and all other coconut products are made.

How to Make Your Own Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

To make your own unsweetened shredded coconut, look for brown mature coconuts that are heavy, have no soft spots other than the eyes, and have a good slosh of liquid when shaken. Using a hammer and a large nail, tap a hole in the softest eye of the coconut and bake in a 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes or so until it cracks. Pull apart or carefully pry open with a strong knife or screwdriver. Once you get your coconut open, cut the meat out of the shell with a paring knife, remove the brown skin and grate by hand or shred in a food processor. One medium coconut will yield three or four cups of shredded meat. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for up to six months. Whole coconuts can be kept at room temperature for up to six months.

If you’re not making your own, you can find unsweetened shredded coconut at the supermarket in bulk bins, the baking isle, the specialty food isle or the freezer section. You may have to go to a health food store to find organic products that contain no added sugar, sulfites or preservatives, or you can order these products online.

Selected References:

The Weston A. Price Foundation
ScienceDirect
US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health

Coconut Nutrition 101: Benefits, Recipes, and Uses

Rich in saturated fats, electrolytes, and a host of important micronutrients, the coconut nutrition profile is practically bursting at the seams.

I know you’re probably thinking I must be nuts about coconut with all these posts on coconut milk, coconut flakes, coconut water, or coconut flour, and you’re right! I’m crazy for coconuts, but in a “good” crazy kind of way! Today, let’s talk all about coconut nutrition, including how to use it, how to eat it, and the different types of coconut.

Whenever I mention coconut oil as another cooking oil to be used, I hear roughly the same thing: “Eeek! McKel, that’s a saturated fat!” It sure is. In fact, coconut oil is comprised of about 90% saturated fat. So why do I personally use and recommend this oil in cooking?

The type of fatty acids that make up the coconut nutrition profile are about 65% medium-chain triglycerides, also known as MCTs. Unlike long-chain fatty acids, which make up the majority of fats in our diet, MCTs are able to be used very easily by our bodies. This is because medium-chain triglycerides are passively diffused from our gastrointestinal tract to the portal system. For this reason, our bodies find it super easy to break down the fat before absorbing it and using it for energy in the body.

Coming from a clinical background, MCTs are very commonly used in treating people who have malabsorption issues, epilepsy, or for increasing calories without much volume.

Benefits of Coconut Nutrition

1. May aid in weight management

Adding coconut to your diet is a great strategy to help support long-term weight control. Coconut meat, in particular, is loaded with fiber that can help promote satiety and keep you feeling full to curb cravings. Coconuts are also a great source of medium-chain triglycerides, which may be especially beneficial when it comes to weight control.

One small study actually found that eating between 15-30 grams of MCTs per day bumped up metabolism by 5%. While this may not sound like much, it could add up to almost 200 calories over the course of an entire day (1). Another study also showed that eating MCTs at lunch led to a significant reduction in the amount of calories consumed later in the day, thanks to the satiating effects of this incredible superfood (2).

2. Good source of fiber

With 7 grams packed into each cup, coconut meat is an awesome source of fiber. Not only can fiber be great for fighting cravings and promoting weight loss, but it’s also important when it comes to digestive health as well. Research shows that increasing your intake of fiber could help protect against digestive issues like constipation, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and more. Plus, studies show that higher fiber consumption could be linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (3).

3. Possesses antimicrobial properties

Several compounds found in coconuts contain powerful antimicrobial properties. Lauric acid, for instance, is a type of saturated fatty acid that has been well-studied for its antimicrobial effects (4). It’s also been shown to kill off specific strains of bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, a type of dangerous pathogen that can cause serious skin infections (5).

4. Supports skin health

Besides including coconut in your diet, you can also apply it topically to support better skin health. Coconut oil, in particular, is super moisturizing and makes a great addition to any natural skin care routine. One study out of the Philippines actually found that coconut oil was as effective as mineral oil at relieving dry skin (6). Plus, an animal study conducted by the University of Kerala showed that applying virgin coconut oil on the skin of rats enhanced wound healing and increased antioxidant status (7).

Coconut Nutrition Facts

In addition to packing a good amount of healthy fatty acids into each serving, the coconut nutrition profile also boasts a high amount of fiber, manganese, copper and selenium.

One cup of shredded coconut meat contains the following nutrients (8):

The coconut nutrition profile also contains vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, calcium, and riboflavin.

How to Choose, Use, and Store Coconuts

When selecting coconuts, be sure to choose one that is relatively heavy for its size. You should also shake it around a bit and listen for liquid sloshing around inside to help you pick the best coconut possible. Before they’ve been cracked open, coconuts can be stored at room temperature. Once you’ve opened the coconut, be sure to store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf-life.

Wondering how to use coconuts and crack them open? In mature coconuts, there are usually three “eyes” at the top, which you can use to crack the coconut with a hammer. Keep in mind that it generally helps to use the sharp side versus the flat head of the hammer to help it open more efficiently. In young coconuts, a machete works great, but most people don’t usually have machetes laying around in their garage. Instead, I usually use a sharp cleaver knife (like this one) and take three big swings at the top of the young coconut where the tip is. Then, slice three lines to form a triangle surrounding the top tip (see video here).

Coconut Recipes

Looking for some creative ways to kick up your coconut consumption? Check out these delicious coconut recipes for some ideas to get started:

  • Coconut Energy Balls
  • Red Lentil Daal with Squash
  • Chewy Coconut and Fruit Bars
  • Coconut Quinoa Porridge
  • Coconut Berry Smoothie

Different Forms of Coconut

There are several different forms of coconut available, each of which can contains a unique set of nutrients and can be used in different ways. Here are a few of the most common forms of coconut available, plus some easy ways to add them to your diet:

  • Coconut meat: this is the white flesh within the coconut. The coconut meat will vary depending on whether it’s a young coconut (with the green softer shell) or a mature coconut (with the brown hard shell). Young coconuts have very soft coconut meat similar to a gelatin, which is very soft, chewy, and great for blending in recipes. Mature coconuts have a very hard, dense, and fibrous coconut meat with a stronger coconut flavor than young coconuts.
  • Coconut water: this is the clear liquid that is within the coconut. Young coconuts will yield a greater amount of coconut water than the mature coconuts. Coconut water is high in natural electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, plus a small amount of simple sugars, making it a perfect choice for post-workouts. Alternatively, add to water and sip all day long to keep hydrated instead of standard sports drinks with additives and food dyes (no thanks!).
  • Coconut milk: this is the liquid that comes from grated coconut meat and is thick, creamy and white (hence the name “milk”). I use it in sweet and savory dishes, including Spicy Coconut Curry and Simply Coconut Milk Ice Cream.
  • Coconut oil: this is the edible oil extracted or pressed from the mature coconut meat. This oil will be solid at room temperature and melts around 76 degrees F. When possible, always choose organic, cold-pressed oil and stay away from any coconut oils that say hydrogenated. Not only is coconut oil great for cooking and eating, but you can also use it in your hair as a deep conditioner (you’ll need to wash it out after), and as a skin moisturizer.
  • Coconut butter: this form is made by pureeing unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut meat, which produces a combination of coconut oil and coconut meat. It’s great to use instead of butter, it has a naturally sweet flavor and thick creamy texture.
  • Coconut flour: this is simply dried and ground coconut meat. I’ve talked about the uses of coconut flour here as well. It’s high in fiber and great for gluten-free, low-carbohydrate baking.
  • Coconut shredded flakes: this is made up of mature coconut meat that has been shredded into either very small slivers or large, light flakes. Both are used in baking, raw desserts (my Almond Coconut Date Globes), and toppings. These can be toasted in an oven until golden brown for a nice toasted nutty flavor.
  • Coconut shell: What can you do with the shell of a mature coconut? Beauty scrub! Ladies (and gents, no discrimination here), crush the brown shell after using the meat/water from the coconut and add a little of the tiny ground pieces to your body wash. This is a perfect all-natural skin exfoliant.

Where to Find Coconuts

Unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere tropical, finding fresh coconuts can be a bit of a challenge. Here are a few places you can find the different forms of coconut.

  • Fresh young and mature coconut: health food stores, international grocery stores, and occasionally large grocery chains
  • Coconut oil: Trader Joe’s, Nutiva, and Artinsana
  • Coconut butter: Artisina and Let’s Do Organic
  • Coconut flour: Bob’s Red Mill, Coconut Secret Raw flour, Let’s Do Organic, and Honeyville Oragnic
  • Coconut water: Zico and O.N.E.
  • Coconut milk: Native Forest, Thai Kitchen and more
  • Coconut shredded: Let’s Do Organic and Bob’s Red Mill

NS Recommends

Thanks to the impressive coconut nutrition profile, this powerful ingredient has been linked to some serious health benefits. It’s also a great source of several nutrients, including fiber, manganese, copper, and selenium as well as healthy fats like medium-chain . triglycerides. Best of all, it’s also super versatile and can be easily incorporated into your diet in a number of different ways.

If you’re looking for more support and ways to integrate more coconut (and other healthy fruits) into your life, then check out our best-selling Online Education Programs. We offer programs to give you the tools you need for meal planning, learning how to stock your kitchen, give your body a reset with whole foods, and more. to explore what programs are right for you. Or if you’re ready to get started now with making Healthy Eating Simple, then take our free 4-part series, to join!

Coconut Secrets for Optimal Health

If you’re anything like me, you prefer the basic facts highlighted for you in bullet point fashion ~ everything important you need to know about the naturally occurring health benefits of coconut tree products.

So, I’ll get right to it…

    • Coconut Helps Prevent Obesity by speeding up metabolism, providing an immediate source of energy with fewer calories than other fats. People who consistently use coconut products, report a stronger ability to go without eating for several hours with no affects of hypoglycemia.
    • Coconut Improves Heart Health by providing healthy short chain and medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) that are essential to good health. Close to 98% of all fatty acids consumed are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA), which are very different from MCFA that have no negative effect on cholesterol ratios and help to lower the risk of atherosclerosis and protect against heart disease. Studies have shown that populations in Polynesia and Sri Lanka, where coconuts are a dietary staple, do not suffer from high serum cholesterol or heart disease. Unlike other fats, the unique properties of coconut also contain a large amount of lauric acid, which is the predominant fatty acid found in mother’s milk.
  • Coconut is High in Dietary Fiber rivaling other fiber sources such as psyllium, wheat bran, oat bran, and rice bran. Coconut supplies an impressive 61% dietary fiber! Foods contain two types of carbohydrates – digestible and non-digestible. Digestible carbohydrates (soluble fiber) consists of starch and sugar and promote calories. Non-digestible carbohydrates (insoluble fiber) contains NO calories. Since the body cannot digest the dietary fiber in coconut, no calories are derived from it and it has no effect on blood sugar.
  • Coconut has a Low Glycemic Index (GI) measures how fast available carbohydrates in food raise blood sugar levels. Coconut fiber slows down the release of glucose, therefore requiring less insulin to utilize the glucose and transport it into the cell where it is converted into energy. Coconut also assists in relieving stress on the pancreas and enzyme systems of the body, in turn, reducing the risks associated with Diabetes. Coconut Nectar and Crystals have a very low GI of only 35 (compared to honey with a GI of 55-83, and sugar with a GI of 65-100.)
  • Coconut Reduces Sweet Cravings and improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose. The healthy fat in coconut slows down any rise in blood sugar and helps to reduce hypoglycemic cravings.
  • Coconut Improves Digestion and many of the symptoms and inflammatory conditions associated with digestive and bowel disorders, by supporting absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids while also providing beneficial dietary fiber.
  • Coconut Provides a Quick Energy Boost that provides a super nutritious source of extra energy. Coconut is utilized by the body to actually produce energy, rather than to store it as body fat. It supports improved endurance during physical and athletic performance. As well, it promotes healthy thyroid function and helps to relieve the symptoms of chronic fatigue.
  • In addition, coconut contains No Trans-Fats, is Gluten-Free, Non-Toxic, Hypoallergenic, and also contains Antibacterial, Antiviral, Antifungal, and Anti-parasitic healing properties. Coconut helps to aid and support overall Immune System functions.

Resources:

Today’s Big Question: Is Dried Coconut Good For You?

Photo:

Dried coconut meat

You may have heard about the amazing health benefits of eating dried coconut.

In addition to its very high nutritional value, it’s also very good for our heart, skin, and blood.

Probably the most positive attribute of dried coconut is the high dietary fiber content.

Dried coconut has one of the highest percentages of fiber among all plant foods.

As a matter of fact, it contains four times as much fiber as oat bran and twice as much fiber as wheat bran or flaxseed meal.

Nutritionists recommend that we get 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day. Most Americans only get about 15 grams.

A tablespoon or two of dry coconut can be added to smoothies, cereals, casseroles, and soups.

This is an easy way to help you increase your fiber intake without making any drastic changes in the way you eat.

The main reason fiber is Beneficial is that it feeds the “good” bacteria in our gut that are essential for good health.

Modern research indicates that the good bacteria produce vitamins and other substances that are beneficial in promoting health and wellness.

When we eat adequate amounts of fiber it automatically causes the beneficial bacteria in your gut to flourish.

Harmful bacteria and yeast, such as candida, which compete for space in the intestinal tract, are then kept under control.

Furthermore, scientists have revealed links between gut bacteria and obesity, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, diabetes, and autism.

Will all these amazing health benefits, I’ll bet you want to rush out to the store to grab a few packets of dried coconut.

But hold up. Here’s what you need to know first.

Dried coconut side effects

Not only do you have to be careful about how much you eat, you also need to watch what type of dried coconut you enjoy.

Why? Because of the saturated fat content!

If we look at the nutritive composition on a packet of dried coconut, it is evident that it has a very high total and saturated fat contents.

Foods rich in saturated fat have been identified as potential risk factors in the development of heart disease.

Dietary advice would, therefore, be to use dried coconut in moderation.

High saturated fat content is not the only concern if you’re looking for maximum health benefits.

Many of the conventionally dried coconut products you find in grocery stores contain the preservative sulfur dioxide (number 220) to give it a longer shelf life.

Sulfur dioxide is still being used as a food preservative in many common snack foods despite being linked to many side effects.

These side effects include asthma attacks, stomach problems, and lower respiratory tract symptoms.

Luckily, there’s a really easy way to avoid all these problematic food additives: just buy organic.

The bottom line:

You’ll get greater benefits from eating good fats when you eat them in the recommended portions.

The saturated fat found in dried coconut (called medium-chain fatty acids, MCFA’s contain vitamins that are an important part of a healthy diet, so don’t be afraid of it.

In order to enjoy the health benefits, choose organic brands that don’t use preservatives including sulfur dioxide, in their produce.

Remember to read labels on food packages and shop as wholesome and organic as possible.

The more whole, natural foods you eat, the better off you will be.

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When compared to other dried fruits dried coconut often goes underappreciated. However, you definitely need to include it in your diet if you are interested in eating healthy. Dried coconut is a valuable addition to many meals mainly because of its high nutritional value and many health benefits.

The fact that it is delicious makes people incorporate it in several ways in their diets. Many tasty savoury and sweet dishes can be made using dried coconut. Just browse the net and you will be surprised at the number of dishes that can be prepared using dried coconut.

If you are making a transition to healthy eating you can do so easily by including dried coconut.

Dried Coconut Nutrition Facts

Its high nutritional value is one of the most important benefits of dried coconut. However, if you are trying to lose weight it’s a point that you will need to consider carefully. Unlike other dried fruits this fruit contains healthy fats, but there are still fats. So, when adding coconut dishes into your daily meal plan you’ll need to count your calories.

The nutritional value of desiccated coconut (28gm) is:

Dried coconuts

186 calories

Dietary fiber: 19% of the required daily amount (RDA) of

Vitamin E: 1%

Vitamin C: 1%

Vitamin B6: 4%

Riboflavin: 2%

Iron: 5%

Copper: 11%

Selenium: 7%

Calcium: 1%

Manganese: 38%

Dried Coconut Health Benefits

Here are some of the other benefits of eating dried coconut:

It strengthens your connective tissues

Your ligaments, skin, tendons and bones fall into the category of connective tissues. A great number of minerals are present in them. A particular part of your body will be affected if there is deficiency in any of these elements. One of your health priorities should be to keep your connective tissues strong. Any of the problems will make your existence as a whole highly uncomfortable and endanger your life itself. A wide range of minerals is present in desiccated coconut, which are easy for your body to process and absorb. Therefore, mineral deficiency can be prevented by including it in your diet. It can also reduce the risk of serious diseases, such as osteoporosis and arthritis.

It promotes your brain function

Dried coconut can help improve and promote healthy brain functions. The production of neurotransmitters as well as myelin can be promoted by certain chemicals present in the coconut meat. Neurotransmitters are the fatty outside layer that wraps neurons and permit them to transmit to the brain more powerfully. Note that severe neurological problems will result if there is any damage to myelin cover of your neurons. A recent research has found that coconut can prevent Alzheimer’s to a considerable extend. This is because of its power in promoting your brain health.

It helps lower your blood cholesterol levels

Desiccated coconut like any other source of healthy fats increases the level of HDL cholesterol and lowers your levels of LDL cholesterol. Therefore, it promotes cardiovascular health and strengthens your arteries.

It prevents anaemia

Anaemia or Iron deficiency affects mostly women in their 30s. The condition lowers your natural protections as well as affects your overall condition even though it in itself isn’t dangerous. Anaemia can lead to accidents as it causes bouts of dizziness. It also makes it easier for viruses and bacteria to attack your body. When you make your meal plan consider your iron intake as people rarely receive enough of this mineral from food. Dried coconut is high in ironcontent. You can reach the daily requirement of this particular mineral by adding dried coconut to some of your foods.

You can buy tasty and healthy dried coconuts from dry coconut suppliers online.

Coconut milk is a white substance that is extracted from the flesh of mature brown coconuts. It has been used for years as an ingredient in desserts, soups, and sauces. It is a popular component of Indian, Thai, Hawaiian and South American cuisines. The process of extraction involves grating the fleshy part of the fruit and soaking it in hot water. The cream that forms on the surface of the liquid is collected to be used as coconut cream while the remaining liquid is then sieved and separated from the pulp to obtain the coconut milk. Nowadays, you can simply buy this product off the shelf in any department store. If you are having bone or joint pain then a diet rich in coconut milk and a visit to a chiropractor in Tustin, CA might be right for you. Here is a list of other health benefits of coconut milk:

1. It aids in weight loss

Coconut milk is rich in short and medium chain triglycerides that are considered to be healthy fats. They prolong the feeling of satiety causing you to eat less and avoid giving in to cravings. In addition, they are more likely to be converted to energy as opposed to longer chain fatty acids. These are preferentially stored in the body contributing towards obesity.

2. It contains antioxidants

Coconut milk is rich in vitamins C and E that are well known for their anti-oxidant properties. Free oxygen radicals are formed by our body tissues during the process of metabolism. They are harmful to cellular components and contribute towards aging and tumor growth. Antioxidants contained in coconut milk help to neutralize these harmful substances.

3. Electrolyte balance

Coconut milk is rich in electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. Potassium is important for maintenance of a normal heart rhythm. It is also crucial for healthy muscle functioning. Magnesium is required for a healthy immune system as well as maintenance of normal nerve and muscle function. Phosphorus is a vital structural component of bones and teeth. By adding coconut milk to your recipes, you ensure that the body has enough supply of phosphorous to meet these requirements.

4. Prevents heart disease

Coconut milk is known to increase the levels of HDL cholesterol in the body. Scientific research now shows that coconut milk may help to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the body if consumed in low quantities. HDL cholesterol has anti-inflammatory properties that protect the endothelium or blood vessel lining. LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, promotes the formation of plaques in blood vessels causing pathological narrowing. When blood vessels supplying the heart muscles are narrowed, heart attacks can result.

5. Strengthens the immune system

Coconut milk contains lauric acid that is known for its antiseptic properties. It assists the body in fighting infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. A study done in The Philippines showed that children with pneumonia responded faster to treatment with antibiotics and coconut milk compared to those who were treated with antibiotics alone.

6. Prevention of anemia

Coconut milk has significant quantities of iron. Iron is an important mineral in the formation of healthy red blood cells with normal hemoglobin levels. Incorporating coconut milk into your diet will help you avoid anemia that often results from inadequate iron intake.

7. Healthy hair and skin

Recently, coconut milk has gained popularity for its use as a conditioning treatment for healthy hair. Its high-fat content acts as a sealant for moisture retention. When applied to the scalp, coconut milk helps to reduce dandruff and scalp itchiness. This is because it contains lauric acid that has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Coconut milk when applied topically on the skin helps in maintenance of the skin’s elasticity. This effectively reduces wrinkle formation giving you a more youthful appearance. Its antibacterial properties are said to contribute towards acne prevention. Women across the world now use this product for make-up removal.

8. Anti-inflammatory properties

Coconut milk aids in the reduction of joint pain and inflammation. Sugar is known to be pro-inflammatory. Substituting it for coconut milk as a sweetener can have remarkable results for those suffering from autoimmune inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus arthritis.

9. Promotes gastrointestinal health

Coconut milk is a healthy substitute for individuals that are lactose intolerant. In addition, it contains Zinc, a mineral that aids in the renewal of the cells that line the intestinal wall. This prevents the translocation of harmful bacteria from the intestinal lumen into the blood stream and reduces the incidence of diarrhea.

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By Franziska Spritzler

Coconut milk has recently become very popular.

It’s a tasty alternative to cow’s milk that may also provide a number of health benefits.

Coconut milk comes from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts, which are the fruit of the coconut tree.iStock

This article takes a detailed look at coconut milk.

What Is Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk comes from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts, which are the fruit of the coconut tree.

The milk has a thick consistency and a rich, creamy texture.

Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines commonly include this milk. It’s also popular in Hawaii, India and certain South American and Caribbean countries.

Coconut milk should not be confused with coconut water, which is found naturally in immature green coconuts.

Unlike coconut water, the milk does not occur naturally in liquid form. The solid flesh is mixed with water to make coconut milk, which is about 50 percent water.

By contrast, coconut water is about 94 percent water. It contains much less fat and fewer nutrients than coconut milk.

Bottom Line: Coconut milk comes from the flesh of mature brown coconuts. It is used in many traditional cuisines around the world.

How Is Coconut Milk Made?

Coconut milk is classified as either thick or thin, based on consistency and how much it’s processed.

  • Thick: Solid coconut flesh is finely grated and either boiled or simmered in water. The mixture is then strained through cheesecloth to produce thick coconut milk.
  • Thin: After making thick coconut milk, the grated coconut remaining in the cheesecloth is simmered in water. The straining process is then repeated to produce thin milk.

In traditional cuisines, thick coconut milk is used in desserts and thick sauces. Thin milk is used in soups and thin sauces.

Most canned coconut milk contains a combination of thin and thick milk. It’s also very easy to make your own coconut milk at home, adjusting the thickness to your liking.

Bottom Line: Coconut milk is made by grating flesh from a brown coconut, soaking it in water and then straining it to produce a milk-like consistency.

Nutrients in Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a high-calorie food.

About 93 percent of its calories come from fat, including saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

The milk is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals. One cup (240 grams) contains (1):

In addition, some experts believe coconut milk contains unique proteins that may provide health benefits. However, more research is needed on this (2).

Bottom Line: Coconut milk is high in calories and saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides. It also contains many other nutrients.

Effects on Weight and Metabolism

There’s some evidence that the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) fats in coconut milk may benefit weight loss, body composition and metabolism.

About half the fat in coconuts comes from a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid.

Coconuts also contain small amounts of other medium-chain fatty acids, including capric acid and caprylic acid.

Unlike longer-chain fats, MCTs go from the digestive tract directly to the liver, where they’re used for energy or ketone production. They are therefore less likely to be stored as fat (3).

Research also suggests MCTs may help reduce appetite and decrease calorie intake, compared to other fats (4, 5, 6, 7).

In a small study, overweight men who consumed 20 grams of MCT oil at breakfast ate 272 fewer calories at lunch than those consuming corn oil (7).

What’s more, the MCTs in coconuts can boost calorie expenditure and fat burning, at least temporarily (8, 9, 10).

A few controlled studies in obese individuals and people with heart disease showed that eating coconut oil reduced body weight and belly fat. Heart health markers also improved (11, 12, 13).

Although no studies have directly tested how coconut milk affects weight and metabolism, several studies show impressive effects from coconut oil and MCTs.

The same should apply to coconut milk, because it has the same fatty acids.

Bottom Line: The MCTs in coconut milk may reduce appetite, increase metabolism and help you lose belly fat.

Effects on Cholesterol and Heart Health

Because coconut milk is so high in saturated fat, people may wonder if it’s a heart-healthy choice.

Very little research examines coconut milk specifically, but one study suggests it may benefit people with normal or high cholesterol levels.

This 8-week study of 60 men found that coconut milk porridge lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol more than soy milk porridge. Coconut milk porridge also raised HDL (“good”) cholesterol by 18 percent, compared to only 3 percent for the soy (14).

Most studies of coconut oil or flakes also found improvements in LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels (11, 12, 13, 15, 16).

Although in some studies LDL cholesterol levels increased in response to coconut fat, HDL also increased. Triglycerides decreased compared to other fats (17, 18).

Lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut fat, may raise LDL cholesterol by decreasing the activity of the receptors that clear LDL from the blood (19).

Results of two studies on similar populations suggest that the cholesterol response to lauric acid may vary by individual. It may also depend on the amount in the diet.

In one study of healthy women, replacing 14 percent of monounsaturated fats with lauric acid raised LDL cholesterol by about 16 percent. In another study, replacing 4 percent of monounsaturated fat with lauric acid had very little effect on cholesterol (19, 20).

Bottom Line: Overall, cholesterol and triglyceride levels improve with coconut intake. In cases where LDL cholesterol increases, HDL typically increases as well.

Other Potential Health Benefits

Coconut milk may also:

  • Reduce inflammation: Animal studies found that coconut extract and coconut oil reduced inflammation and swelling in injured rats and mice (21, 22, 23).
  • Decrease ulcer size: In one study, coconut milk reduced stomach ulcer size in rats by 54 percent—a result comparable to the effect of an anti-ulcer drug (24).
  • Fight viruses and bacteria: The MCTs in coconuts, especially lauric acid, reduce the levels of viruses and bacteria that cause infections. This includes those that reside in your mouth (25, 26, 27).

Bottom Line: Coconut milk may reduce inflammation, decrease ulcer size and fight the viruses and bacteria that cause infections.

Adverse Effects

Unless you’re allergic to coconuts, the milk is unlikely to have adverse effects. Compared to tree nut and peanut allergies, coconut allergies are relatively rare (28).

However, some digestive disorder experts recommend that people who have a FODMAP intolerance limit coconut milk to one half-cup portion at a time.

Many canned varieties also contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that can leach from can linings into food. BPA has been linked to reproductive problems and cancer in animal and human studies (29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34).

Fortunately, some brands use BPA-free packaging, which is recommended if you choose to consume canned coconut milk.

Bottom Line: Coconut milk is likely safe for most people who are not allergic to coconuts. It is best to choose BPA-free cans.

How to Use Coconut Milk

Although coconut milk is nutritious, it’s also high in calories. Keep this in mind when adding it to foods or using it in recipes.

Ideas for Adding Coconut Milk to Your Diet

  • Include a couple of tablespoons in your coffee.
  • Add half a cup to a smoothie or protein shake.
  • Pour a small amount over berries or sliced papaya.
  • Add a few tablespoons to oatmeal or other cooked cereal.

Coconut Milk Recipes

Here are a few healthy recipes featuring coconut milk:

  • Easy Coconut Shrimp Curry.
  • Clean Eating Chicken Masala.
  • Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with Lemon.
  • Tropical Green Smoothie.
  • Coconut Milk Chocolate Mousse.

How to Select the Best Coconut Milk

Here are a few tips for selecting the best coconut milk:

  • Read the label: When possible, choose a product that contains only coconut and water. Avoid questionable ingredients such as carrageenan.
  • Choose BPA-free cans: Purchase coconut milk from companies that use BPA-free cans, such as Native Forest and Natural Value.
  • Use cartons: Unsweetened coconut milk in cartons usually contains less fat and fewer calories than canned options. Look for brands without carageenan, such as So Delicious and Silk.
  • Go light: For a lower-calorie option, select light canned coconut milk. It’s thinner and contains about 125 calories per half cup (120 grams) (35).
  • Make your own: For the freshest, healthiest coconut milk, make your own with this simple recipe using shredded coconut: Homemade Coconut Milk.

Bottom Line: Coconut milk can be used in a variety of recipes. Avoid types that contain questionable ingredients, or make your own at home.

Take Home Message

Coconut milk is a tasty, nutritious and versatile food that is widely available. It can also be made easily at home.

Including moderate amounts of coconut milk in your diet may pay off in better health.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

Coconut Milk vs. Coconut Water: Which One Is Healthier?

Coconut water | Source: iStock

It used to be that the only thing coconuts were good for was as a vessel for piña coladas during island vacations. But now it seems as if the world, or at least kitchens all across the United States, have been taken over by the coconut. Coconut oil is replacing the olive and vegetable varieties, coconut cream is used in drinks and desserts, and coconut flour is even making an appearance in the baking aisle at the grocery store. But none are quite so popular as coconut water and milk. To the uninformed they might seem like very similar things, but they’re actually quite different, in terms of health benefits and how they’re used.

Starbucks made headlines in mid-July when it launched a new drink with a base made of coconut milk. It’s the first beverage served by the coffee giant that highlights the coconut byproduct, though the chain has offered coconut milk as an alternative to other types of milk for a while. The company said it was a perfect starting point for the new Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato, since it’s lighter than normal milk and can have a more refreshing flavor.

Ultimately, both have their places in a healthy diet, but in each case moderation is key. When you keep both liquids as pure as possible, without incorporating sugars and other additives, they can be very good for you. If the only thing you know about coconuts is that you’re served fruity drinks with curly straws in them, it’s time to take a closer look. Here’s everything you need to know about coconut milk and coconut water.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk | iStock.com

Aside from being the hot ingredient at Starbucks, coconut milk is best known for being used in cooking, particularly in dishes from Thai or other Eastern cuisines. Coconut milk is a mixture of coconut water and coconut milk. As Epicurious explains, it can be made by simmering freshly shredded coconut meat in water to extract the flavor and juices (and later straining out the coconut pieces).

The BBC notes that coconut milk is lactose and nut ingredient free, making it a great alternative for dairy and other nut milks. It can come in cartons when it’s fresh (though it doesn’t last for very long), or more commonly is canned and sold in many grocery stores. The canned versions are less modified, Epicurious reports, and are more commonly used in baking and cooking.

What the experts say about coconut milk

Some worry too much fatty coconut milk could lead to heart troubles | iStock.com

Coconut milk is one of those ingredients that health experts disagree about. It’s a natural substance, but is extremely high in fat, particularly saturated fats. According to Eating Well, one cup of coconut milk typically contains about 445 calories and 48 grams of fat, 43 grams of which are saturated fats. Eating Well suggests using the “lite” versions of coconut milk, which often eliminate two-thirds of the calories and fat.

However, some health experts say that even the full-fat version can be good for you, in small and moderated servings. The saturated fat in coconut milk is something to be careful about, but it’s made up of compounds that raise your HDL (good) cholesterol — not the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol that’s raised when you eat bacon and other animal-based saturated fats. Jo Lewin, a nutritionist and contributor for the BBC, also reports that the saturated fats contain lauric acid. Lauric acid is converted in the body into an antiviral and antibacterial agent, and some experts now believe that coconut milk can help ward off infections.

If you consume limited portions of the milk just one to two times per week (some experts recommend ¼-cup servings of the full-fat versions), the product shouldn’t have any negative effects. Plus, that quarter-cup of milk contains large amounts of manganese, which assists with several vital functions in the body including metabolism, forming connective tissue, and nerve functions. It also contains copper, magnesium, iron, and potassium, among other vitamins and minerals.

Coconut water

Jessica Alba isn’t the only celebrity enthralled with coconut water | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for ZICO Premium Coconut Water

As its name implies, coconut water is a clear liquid that comes directly from the middle of young, green coconuts. It has a sweet, nutty taste, WebMD reports, and has been dubbed “nature’s sports drink” (and many variations thereof), thanks to the presence of electrolytes like potassium in the water. It’s also what fills an entire shelf of Tom Haverford’s refrigerator in Parks and Recreation, for those who recall the “girl heaven” apartment tour in Season 4.

Eating Well reports that one cup of coconut water contains 10% of the potassium you need each day, which can help to avoid muscle cramps after exercising. It doesn’t contain high amounts of sodium, however, so experts say it won’t replenish your system in all the ways you need if you’re heavily exerting yourself. Both Epicurious and WebMD say that despite that, the drink has become popular with athletes because of its refreshing properties.

According to one study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, coconut water does have the ability to rehydrate as well as bottled water and sports drinks after 60 minutes of exercise on a treadmill. However, the study was very small and only tested men who were already in shape, so it’s unclear whether those results would be the same across all demographics.

What the experts say about coconut water

Coconut water | iStock.com

WebMD reports that coconut water has fewer calories and less sugar than many sports drinks, and definitely most sodas. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s a blank check in terms of drinking all the coconut water you want. “One 11-ounce container has 60 calories and if you drink several in one day, the calories can add up quickly,” Registered Dietitian Lilian Cheung told the publication. To reduce the negative impacts, stick with plain versions instead of the flavored (and likely extra-sweetened) varieties.

As long as you drink in moderation, coconut water is likely the better choice for you in terms of fat content and overall benefits. Eating Well provides ideas for incorporating the liquid into smoothies and other recipes, although nothing’s stopping you from drinking it plain, either.

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