What's with the Coconut Craze?

Meat(less) Monday: Recipes, nutrition tips and advice on food your body will thank you for. OK, maybe not completely meatless, but healthy, for sure. 

By: Shirley De Leon

Countries in Southeast Asia have long treasured coconut for its ample health properties and sweet, rich taste. The water, milk and oil derived from this tropical fruit have recently become a trendy food in the U.S. but not without skepticism. Coconut itself, along with its milk and oil has a high-saturated fat content, the fat dieticians want you to avoid. How can coconut be healthful if it’s full of saturated fat? Turns out, saturated fat comes in different kinds.

Lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid found in coconut, happens to be the good kind. This fat has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and to raise HDL (good) cholesterol, making it better for you than animal fat but still not healthier for you than vegetable oils. Until more studies confirm that the fat in coconut is indeed heart-healthy, consume products made from coconut in moderation. You can find them at local health food stores and grocery stores. Here’s a breakdown of coconut water, coconut milk and coconut oil.

Coconut water: The clear, fat-free juice taken from young green coconuts. This sodium and potassium-rich drink helps build muscle, rehydrate your body and regain electrolyte balance after you exercise, making it a great post-workout drink. It’s a good source of vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium and fiber.

Coconut milk: White liquid extracted from the grated meat of the fruit. High in saturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids, iron, potassium and magnesium and low in sodium and cholesterol.  One cup has 5g each of fiber and protein. Naturally sweet but low in sugar, this drink is used in Asian and Caribbean dishes, including desserts.

Coconut oil: Sold as pale yellow oil or a milky, smooth cream. Can withstand high temperatures when used for cooking without losing nutrients. Monolaurin, a chemical made from lauric acid in coconut oil, carries antibacterial and antiviral properties. Babies who are breast-fed also benefit from disease-fighting monolaurin found in breast milk. When applied to skin, coconut oil heals and prevents infections, helps keep skin moisturized, and reduces wrinkles. It also minimizes dandruff and frizz in hair. Some oils may have bad-for-your-heart trans fats, so be sure to buy virgincoconut oil.



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