7 Reasons I love Coconuts

August 22, 2013

A couple of years ago I spent three weeks couch-surfing my way down the East coast of the USA. Pizzas, bagels and tacos in New York...Greasy spoon breakfasts in D.C ...Huge burgers, po-boys and fries in New Orleans... I definitely brought my gastronomic A-game with me. Needless to say I piled on a couple of pounds. A week in the beautiful coastal town of Samaná, Dominican Republic was the saving grace of my trip. I ran out of money and ended up living on fresh coconuts supplemented with some local tropical fruit and dubious tinned sardines. The weight came off by the time I returned home to Australia. My love of coconuts started in the Dominican Republic and is still going strong. Here are seven reasons why I dig coconuts.

  1. Versatility: Coconuts are prized throughout the tropics as all-rounders. The meat can be eaten raw or ground into flour. The water is great as a re-hydration drink, containing potassium and sugars. For heavy workouts you should add some salt to coconut water because it is too low in sodium to replace this important electrolyte. The oil is great for cooking. The sap can be fermented to make coconut aminos (a soy sauce substitute) or further dried into a sugar.
  2. Resilience: Coconut oil doesn’t require any refrigeration so it’s a good one to take hiking or camping in replacement for butter or for a quick energy boost. Just make sure you keep it in a tightly closed jar because it liquefies at 76◦F.
  3. Anti-inflammatory: Low in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), coconut oil has the lowest PUFA content of any (non-hydrogenated) vegetable oil at just 3%. This makes it resistant to oxidation and low in inflammatory omega 6 fats.
  4. MCTs: The main fats in coconut oil (~65%) are medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). As you can probably tell by the name, these fats have a medium chain length. In contrast, about 98% of fats in the typical Western diet are long chain (LCTs). MCTs are absorbed easily into the blood stream and used immediately for energy while, in the presence of carbohydrates, LCTs are unlikely to be used for energy and are more likely to be stored as fat. MCTs provide an immediate source of energy. Human and animal studies have shown that when MCTs are eaten in place of LCTs, there is less weight gain for the same fat (and energy) intake. MCTs are used immediately for energy-this produces more heat than slow burning LCTs. This heat energy is ‘wasted’ as body heat.
  5. Lauric acid: Lauric acid is the major fatty acid in coconut oil. It is converted into monolaurin, a potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoan compound. Lauric acid also raises HDL cholesterol more than any other fatty acid.
  6. Ketone generating: MCTs are metabolised to yield ketones at a high rate. Ketones are intermediates of fat metabolism which can be used for energy. They are used preferentially by the brain over glucose, suppress appetite and may help to prevent neurodegenerative diseases. My interest in ketones is in relation to enhanced cognitive function. Ketones are usually only present in significant concentrations during fasting or very low carb dieting but eating coconut fat products is one way to ‘hack’ your way into higher blood ketone levels.
  7. Tastes great: I dont think I need to elaborate on this point...

Until next time...

Happy eating.

Tash




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