Coconut is everywhere right now (and has been for a while now, with no sign of going away) and I’m loving it!
This humble tropical fruit has been elevated to ‘superfood’ status, mostly via the help of fad diets and the celebrities who use it to stay beautiful. Much of this is just excellent marketing and brand creation BUT the reality is that coconut, in all its diverse presentations, is extremely healthy, nutritious and, most importantly, delicious and we should all be eating more of it every day!
One word: FAT.
Coconut is extremely high in fat, but it’s the type of fat in coconut that makes it so special; Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids or MCFAs. MCFAs are metabolised directly into energy for your brain and muscles rather than laying down fat storage. This is the ‘good fat’ you’ve heard about guys! Coconut oil has also been shown to reduce insulin sensitivity, boost metabolism, increase immunity – pretty cool!
Now saturated fats are a controversial topic, with evidence both for and against a diet higher in this life-giving-and-brain-nourishing macronutrient. Personally, I recommend coconut products to most of my healthy, active patients as I believe there is enough evidence emerging for me favour a diet higher in good fats rather than the traditional carbohydrate heavy paradigm of old.
As an active person who eats little refined carbohydrate (in the form of bread and other grain-based products), I would struggle to live without coconut when it comes to getting my daily energy and nutrient quotas.
The exciting thing is that good quality coconut products are so easy to find these days but
Here’s a few tips as to what to look for:
Fresh coconuts come in two varieties, young and mature. Young coconuts are best for juice (water) and the mature for the delicious white flesh. The juice of coconuts is liquid gold in our household – we use it as an electrolyte-rich ‘sports drink’, a marinade for meats or in smoothies. You can also make coconut milk by grating the flesh and adding water. And yes, organic and ethically sourced is best.
Coconut oil is pressed from the white meat; this stuff is for cooking and baking or if you’re like me, eating straight from the jar! Like I mentioned before, coconut oil is dense with good fat and nutrients but it is important to buy organic virgin or extra virgin coconut oil as the regular stuff if often chemically extracted and bleached – yuck!
Coconut milk or cream has plenty of daily uses – curries, smoothies and even baking. Again, go for organic and avoid the ‘Lite’ stuff – remember, you want all of that good fat firing up your brain!
Dried coconut/coconut flour - everyone has used good old desiccated coconut, especially in baking. I like it in my smoothies and protein balls. Coconut flour is also a fantastic alternative for coeliacs.
Coconut sugar is fabulous and you may have seen it being touted as a low-GI, ’healthy’ sugar. While coconut palm sugar does contain various nutrients not found in table sugar and is lower GI, it should be used like honey; ok in small amounts but you’re better off without any. It’s also unsuitable for those avoiding FODMAPs or who have fructose malabsorption so watch out.
Now, I don’t buy into the whole ‘superfood’ thing, simply because we can’t rely on one food or macronutrient for that matter, to make us happy healthy and beautiful – no matter how awesome and delicious it is! Coconut is amazingly dense in energy and macronutrients but we need to remember anything we put into our bodies can be a poison – what is important is the dose. It’s the sum of our diet and lifestyle that makes up ‘healthy’, not so called superfoods.
So with that I’m off to have a glass of fresh coconut juice to kick start my day!
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