Crazy for Coconut? Maybe You Should Be.
Talk about trendy! Everything coconut has been all over the health and nutrition market for the past few years. Coconut water, coconut butter, coconut oil, coconut chips… they’ve all been touted as the next big health breakthrough.
Coconut oil really does make a great smoothie mix-in, an interesting cooking choice, and even an all-natural skin care method. Coconut oil can benefit your weight loss efforts and your heart health while providing you with tons of beneficial antioxidants.
Before we get started on coconut oil, let’s take a quick second to talk about the less trendy types of coconut: coconut meat and coconut milk!
Coconut milk is great for energy! It’s also an amazing source of vitamins C and E, most of the B vitamins your body needs, and the bone-supporting power-combo of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Because it’s rich and creamy while still being completely vegan, coconut milk is a popular substitute for people who don’t want to consume animal products or who are lactose intolerant.
Coconut meat, unsurprisingly, has all the same nutrients as coconut milk, with the added benefit of healthy fiber. Coconut meat makes a delicious snack–it’s now popular in resealable packages kind of like beef jerky. And because it retains so much moisture, it makes a super delicious additive to baked goods–even healthy ones without a lot of fat!
Coconut water has been in vogue recently because of its amazing powers of hydration. It contains electrolytes that replenish your body when you’re working super hard, which is why marathon runners and other athletes often swear by this drink. While some people complain of a “sweaty” taste to coconut water, this is the taste of natural salts and sugars that your body needs when you’re exercising… and it’s way better for you than the sugary workout drinks you see in vending machines. If the flavor isn’t quite your thing, coconut water makes an amazing addition to smoothies and shakes!
And now… let’s talk about coconut oil, the trendiest version of this yummy fruit.
Coconut oil is, well, an oil. That means it’s greasy and full of fat. So how can it possibly help you lose weight?
First of all, as with any fat, coconut oil has to be used in moderation. One serving is a single tablespoon: the same size as a serving of olive oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil. If you’re using oil as a smoothie mix-in, as a cooking fat, or even as a salad dressing, you shouldn’t have trouble limiting yourself to the appropriate amount as long as you use your measuring spoons. No deep-frying when you’re trying to lose weight!
In short, coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, compounds which boost your metabolism and encourage your body to burn more fat. These types of triglycerides are broken down and utilized differently from other fats. Your body burns them more quickly, turning to them for energy instead of stocking them away in your body’s fat cells.
This seems to have the effect of speeding metabolism and causing some weight loss, because of the “thermogenic” effects of medium-chain fatty acids. Whereas most thermogenic products contain caffeine, coconut oil is an all-natural alternative that has similar effects.
One important tip to remember: You need to use virgin coconut oil to get all of the weight loss benefits. That means unprocessed, unrefined, and not treated with any solvents or high temperatures. You probably already buy virgin olive oils to avoid unnecessary processing, so this probably isn’t a big surprise. You’ll be able to tell for sure that your coconut oil is virgin because it should smell and taste a bit like coconut! Processed coconut oil is tasteless and odorless.
Virgin coconut oil is often touted as a heart-healthy alternative to other oils, even the olive oil that’s been so popular during the past few decades. While science doesn’t agree one hundred percent on the benefits of coconut oil, research points towards coconut oil reducing your cholesterol–not just your overall cholesterol, but particularly your “bad” cholesterol, or LDLs.
There’s a lot of controversy over cholesterol. Should we worry only about reducing it all, or should we balance our concerns over “bad” and “good” cholesterol? Are all sources of cholesterol equally bad, or do some have more negative effects than others? But we can all agree that reducing bad cholesterol is a good thing.
As in weight loss, keep in mind that regular coconut oil–the kind you often find in chocolate bars and other processed foods–is not good for your heart. But virgin coconut oil seems to produce benefits in cholesterol levels, having positive effects on cardiovascular health.
The bottom line? Limiting your fat intake is always a good way to go, but since we all need fats to survive, we should try to choose the healthiest options, and it looks like coconut oil might be one of the best choices available.
We’ve all heard about antioxidants, and we know that they’re in all the trendiest superfoods: acai berries, pomegranate juice, kale. But coconut oil is also packed with antioxidants, and it’s a little more versatile than all of those fruits and vegetables when it comes to cooking. With coconut oil, you can add antioxidants to almost anything.
Why are antioxidants good for us? To put it simply, antioxidants help prevent damage to our cells caused by everyday wear and tear and aging. Science still isn’t solid on the details of how antioxidant work or whether they can actually prevent aging in our cells, but getting more of antioxidant-rich foods can’t hurt, especially since these foods tend to be good for us all around.
As in other cases, only virgin coconut oil can be relied upon to supply you with beneficial antioxidants. Research showed that virgin coconut oil had far higher antioxidant content than oil that had been processed and refined.
Coconut Oil Recipes
If you’re just getting started with coconut oil, you might wonder how you can use it in your cooking. Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your culinary adventures!
- Easy Coconut Oil Popcorn: If you’ve made stovetop popcorn before, this will sound familiar. The method is the same, but you’re using coconut oil instead of butter. This basic popcorn can be topped with anything, sweet or savory: garlic salt, cinnamon sugar, nutritional yeast, ranch powder, whatever you like.
- Pumpkin Bread with Toasted Coconut: This quick bread uses coconut oil in place of butter or vegetable oil, and includes healthy ingredients like pumpkin for fiber and pumpkin seeds for iron and magnesium. The coconut oil flavor is enhanced by a toasted coconut topping.
- Carrot Cake Granola: If you need to add more nutritional components to your breakfast, this granola is a great way to do it. You won’t even notice that you’re eating carrots at 8am! The combination of coconut oil, cinnamon, and nuts is extra delicious. Eat with nonfat Greek yogurt for plenty of protein.
- Tropical Quinoa Pilaf: Here’s a savory coconut oil recipe, packed with super healthy kale, quinoa, and macadamia nuts. This salad is excellent with grilled chicken or pan-fried white fish. The nutty flavor of quinoa goes perfectly with coconut oil and is enhanced by macadamia nuts. Delicious.
If you’re looking to balance your diet, look into our IdealPlan for weight loss and health. This easy-to-follow meal plan gives you five meals every day and can help you change your relationship with food forever… and for the best!