Since Jess and I have gotten extremely into Crossfit, we keep hearing the word coconut- coconut water, coconut oil, coconut milk… Now keep in mind that prior to Crossfit, the only coconut we have ever cared about were the ones they offered us on our honeymoon that contained rum and a large straw. Neither of us really like the taste of coconut, but all the craze in the Crossfit community forced us to look into it a bit more. So after my research, I found that there is a lot of controversy on this fruit…but I have made some conclusions.
Coconut water is an excellent source of rehydration. It can be a good alternative to sports drinks because it is lower in calories, sugar, and sodium and contains more potassium than a banana. Not to mention, it is natural. There is no harm in drinking coconut water on occasion, I would just advise not to count on it for any other health benefits such as anti-aging or weight loss…. More studies should be done before we can call this drink a health phenomenon. Also, make sure you check the label. Companies have caught on to this craze and some coconut water contains more added sugar than those sports drinks! Shoot for the unflavored coconut water drinks and even then, check the label and ingredients.
Coconut oil has some fantastic health claims. Some studies have said it will help in preventing heart disease, cancer and more. It has even been said to help with weight loss. Because coconut oil contains a substance called Lauric Acid, some people say that this medium-chained fatty acid can have a positive effect on HDL and cholesterol levels. But remember, Lauric Acid is still a saturated fat and the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories in order to prevent risk of heart disease and stroke. For a person eating 1500 calories a day this equals 12g of saturated fat per day. And 12g of saturated fat is exactly what you will find in ONE TABLESPOON of coconut oil.
Coconut milk can be made thin or thick. Thick coconut milk (cream) is made by squeezing the milk directly from the coconut meat. Thinner coconut milk can be made by blending shredded coconut with water. For those who are vegetarian or have lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, coconut milk might be a good alternative for cow’s milk. Just be aware of the labels on coconut milk. One cup of the thick, creamy milk can provide more saturated fat grams than needed in almost a whole week! But even still, the thin coconut milk will usually contain more fat than 1% or skim cow’s milk. Another thing to keep in mind is that cow’s milk is a great source of calcium and protein, and coconut milk is not. If you are using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, be sure that you are getting enough of these nutrients from other foods.
My overall opinion on the hype…
Coconut is no better for you now than it was 20 years ago. It is just one of the latest food trends. No matter your opinion on the recommended daily saturated fat intake, you can agree that it is daily lifestyle and diet that impacts overall health- not one specific product. I have yet to either jump on or off the coconut bandwagon because I do agree with some of the claims, but i also disagree with some. There is no doubt that occasional coconut in our diets will positively benefit our health, but it will NOT decrease your risk of heart disease if you are drinking your coconut milk alongside a Big Mac and Super Size Fries, Americans!
The number one goal should be consuming a variety of natural, nutrient dense foods…. and with that comes some coconut in moderation.