Coconut Oil - Can it really be good for you?

Coconut Oil - Can it really be good for you? | Mr Vitamins
After years of being treated as a dietary no-no, coconut has become a favourite ingredient of foodies and health nuts alike. Here naturopath Jayne Tancred introduces you to the new generation of coconut products you’ll find at Mr Vitamins, and explains why you might like to give coconut a second chance.

The Coconut Oil Palm is the 'Tree of Life"

You’re probably very familiar with coconut milk, desiccated coconut and shredded coconut, but the coconut palm, sometimes referred to as the ‘tree of life’ has even more to offer. Below are just a few of the coconut products now available. They’re all delicious, so give them a try!

Coconut sugar:

Coconut sugar is obtained from coconut nectar, and is a great tasting alternative to cane sugar, especially as it has a relatively low glycaemic index (GI) and contains a wide variety of minerals. To enjoy coconut sugar in your baking, substitute it for brown sugar, using the same quantity stipulated in the original recipe.

Coconut flour:

Coconut flour is produced by drying and defatting fresh coconut flesh, and then grinding it into a fi ne consistency. The result is flour that contains almost 40 per cent fibre plus all eight essential amino acids – making it much more nutritious than standard baking flours, even wholemeal varieties. It also has a low GI, and is gluten-free. For a simple way to top up your daily fibre levels, just add a spoonful to your breakfast cereal or stir a little into a smoothie. It’s great in baked goods too – just replace 20 per cent of the wheat, rye or oat fl our with coconut flour (it’s best when combined with other fl ours rather than on its own), you will also need to add an equivalent quantity of water/ fluid to compensate for the highly absorptive nature of the coconut flour.

Coconut water:

Young coconuts contain a clear liquid referred to as coconut water, which makes a delightfully tasty and refreshing drink. The water is particularly high in potassium and other minerals, so it’s a great choice to replenish the electrolytes lost through perspiration during hot weather or after exercise. Scientific research suggests that its effects are similar to those of electrolyte-replacing sports drinks, but easier to consume in the quantities needed, and less likely to cause stomach upsets.

Coconut oil:

Coconut oil has a high smoking point and is very heat stable, making it well-suited to frying and other types of cooking that require high temperatures. A number of different processes can be used to extract oil from coconuts, and the nutritional properties and taste of the resulting products can vary markedly. Always choose virgin coconut oil, which is expressed under cold temperatures from fresh coconut flesh using pressure, often by small-scale producers working sustainably. In contrast, conventional coconut oil is highly processed resulting in lower quality oil with an inferior taste.

But I thought coconut oil is bad for you?

About 86 per cent of coconut oil is consists of saturated fats, which are the type we’re usually urged to avoid in order to help maintain heart health and reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the saturated fats found in coconut oil have a different chemical structure to those found in animal products. They are predominantly composed of medium-chain fatty acids (not longchain fatty acids) and contain high proportions of a fatty acid called lauric acid. Some people believe that these characteristics of coconut oil make it one of the healthiest oils, and that it’s previous reputation as an unhealthy food may have been partially due to hydrogenated coconut oil (which is high in trans fats that promote free radical activity and may increase cardiovascular disease risk) being used in research studies. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2003 revealed that while the lauric acid found in coconut oil increases total cholesterol levels, it largely achieves this by increasing levels of the beneficial HDL-cholesterol, so in fact it is good for heart health! Mr Vitamins stocks a large range of coconut products so come in and  'ask a Naturopath' which coconut products are right for you. Naturopath Jayne Tancred writes for GoVita.