There aren’t many issues of Get Fresh! that don’t feature a recipe containing coconut or one of its many fabulous derivatives, yet it won’t have escaped your notice that there’s some controversy and debate as to their health benefits. In her ‘Don’t be Fooled by….health foods that aren’t really healthy’ column in the Daily Mail recently, Angela Dowden declared: "An 80 gram portion of fresh coconut flesh can count as one of your five a day, but, very unusually for a fruit, it’s astonishingly high in saturated fat… A typical serving of 80 grams supplies 283 calories and 24 grams of saturated fat, more than the guideline daily amount of 20 grams a day."
I’m not a nutritionist, but I’d like to dispute just about every word there! For starters, most of us know that the whole ‘five a day’ concept is severely flawed. We need probably more like ’15 or 20 a day’ of 100% natural fresh fruit and veg.
I believe fats are vital for us and ‘good fats’ are not as villainous as the media would have us believe. Fats found in ‘real’ food (that’s 100% whole foods without processing) are essential. Even olive oil, well documented to be a good monounsaturated fat, is 14% saturated fat. The myth has arisen because most anti-fat arguments are really referring to
But let’s remind ourselves of the amazing nutritional benefits of coconut oil. Extra virgin coconut oil (especially if it’s high cold pressed, 100% raw and organic) contains medium-chain fatty acids, which are absorbed directly by the liver and turned into energy straight away and not stored as fat, unlike all other types of saturated fat. These fats play a fundamental role in cleansing the body from toxins. Virgin coconut oil is ideal to purify the body and provide the energy required when less food is being consumed. It’s crucial to those who suffer from candida or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as it’s completely free from sugar and other carbohydrates, which efficiently starve all candida in the system. It’s good for fixing all types of digestive problems and restoring healthy balance to the digestive system. Coconut oil also contains high levels of lauric acid; its strong antiviral properties can protect against and even destroy lipid-coated viruses like flu. Lauric acid is actually one of the main components of breast milk.
In her article Angela does acquiesce that “a high proportion of the saturated fats in coconut are medium-chain triglycerides, which have the unusual benefits of increasing the amount of calories burnt off as heat – and therefore not laid down as fat, these triglycerides might not be quite as bad in terms of their artery clogging effects as other saturated fats either, although the jury is still out on this issue.”
Well the jury isn’t out as far as I’m concerned. I’m certain that if the coconut flesh is fresh, it will do you no harm. As for coconut oil, it’s a superior culinary oil that is a brilliant alternative to cooking oils, is a fantastic dietary supplement, and due to the way it speeds up the metabolism, it’s an excellent aid to weight loss.
Certainly, I’d advise that you only buy the best. I use the Fairtrade certified Tiana Organic Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Tiana also does excellent gluten-free organic coconut flour and wondrous organic raw crystallized coconut nectar. I feel some yummy treats coming on and I won’t be worrying about the calories.
Janey Lee Grace is a Radio 2 host and the author of several books on holistic living – including the bestselling Imperfectly Natural Woman. Her latest book is Look Great Naturally – Without Ditching The Lipstick. Visit www.imperfectlynatural.com to browse Janey’s recommended products.
This article is from the Summer 2012 issue of Get Fresh! magazine
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