Long prized for its sweet flavor and high fiber content, coconut has been deemed by many health gurus to be a superfood – but its uses go back far longer than most of us can imagine.
From coconut oil to coconut water, this food truly has the potential to do it all. It makes a great post-exercise drink(source), produces the perfect healthy fat to use in food preparation(source), and even coconut flouris, it turns out, healthier for us than wheat bran(source).
But there’s even more to this food than that.
COCONUT OIL AND BRAIN HEALTH
The fact of the matter is, our brains need fat in order to function(4). All fats will help improve your mood, but coconut oil in particular is associated with anti-stress and anti-depression benefits due to being a medium-chain fatty acid.
VIRGIN COCONUT OIL (VCO), WHICH MAY BE PRODUCED FROM FRESH COCONUT MEAT, COCONUT MILK OR COCONUT MILK RESIDUE, IS RICH IN MEDIUM-CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES (TGS) AND LAURIC ACID. VCO HAS BEEN WIDELY CONSUMED AS A HEALTH FOOD AND HAS ALSO BEEN UTILIZED FOR COSMECEUTICAL PURPOSES. PREVIOUS STUDIES REPORTED THE BENEFITS OF VCO CONSUMPTION, INCLUDING ANTIULCEROGENIC, ANTINOCICEPTIVE, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, ANTIHYPERCHOLEROLEMIC, ANTOMICROBIAL AND HEPATOPROTECTIVE EFFECTS… AS VCO IS RICH IN MEDIUM-CHAIN FATTY ACIDS AND POLYPHENOLS, IT MAY BE USED AS AN ANTISTRESS AND ANTIDEPRESSANT NUTRITIONAL OIL,” ONE STUDY CLAIMS
COCONUT OIL AND DIGESTIVE HEALTH
Coconut oil has been shown to improve digestive health in animal models(source) (source), and it’s true that coconut itself is a high-fiber food – meaning it’s great for your digestive tract. Coconut flour is particularly high in fiber, making it a great alternative to standard white flour.
COCONUT OIL AND HEART HEALTH
While conventional wisdom is that all saturated fats are bad for your heart, this may not actually be the case, as indicated by an exhaustive 2010 review.
THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANT EVIDENCE FOR CONCLUDING THAT DIETARY SATURATED FAT IS ASSOCIATED WITH AN INCREASED RISK OF CHD OR CVD,” THE AUTHORS CONCLUDED
So don’t feel bad about cooking with coconut oil.
In fact, coconut oil can help regulate cholesterol levels(source), having beneficial effects on both lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. That’s good news when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease.
CHOOSING COCONUT PRODUCTS
There’s no shortage of coconut products on the market, especially as the food gains popularity among Western consumers. How do you know which products to buy?
When in doubt, always go organic. Due to the increasing popularity of coconut products, many are sourced from unreliable companies that use chemicals or process the coconut in ways that damage its nutritional value. Check for the USDA certified organic seal.
Always buy raw and unsweetened coconut shreds, and extra-virgin, cold-pressed or raw coconut oil – this ensures that you’re getting a product that’s gone through only relatively minimal processing.
Finally, opt for GMO-free brands whenever you can – while GMO coconut products won’t kill you, they’re often unsustainable and can have a negative impact on the environment and the livelihoods of coconut farmers.