The Mail Online recently carried an article in praise of a food much loved in low-carb high fat circles – the coconut…
…It has been said that if you were marooned on a desert island, a coconut would be all you need for survival. ‘Coconuts are a perfect example of a natural, real food,’ says nutritionist Zoë Harcombe. ‘They contain all the macronutrients – carbohydrate, fat and protein. As well as being absolutely delicious and full of natural fat, coconuts are a rich source of minerals, including copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium.’
Coconut oil first caught our attention back in 2008 when Jennifer Aniston was spotted wheeling a supermarket trolley full of the then little used substance. Despite boasting a saturated-fat content of 87 per cent, it is actually said to aid weight loss: ‘Many models add it to their diet because it helps to metabolise fat, meaning that you burn more calories,’ says celebrity trainer and founder of Bodyism James Duigan.
Sarah Wilson, author of the bestselling I Quit Sugar, explains: ‘Coconut oil contains short- and medium-chain saturated fat. But it is good saturated fat – it’s the artificially adjusted trans fats you want to avoid, such as hydrogenated vegetable oil. Coconut oil is mostly made up of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which produce a whole host of health benefits. MCFAs go directly to your liver, where they are immediately converted into energy, rather than being stored as fat, and help to stimulate your body’s metabolism.
They also increase the activity of the thyroid, leading to weight loss.’ A bonus is that while being naturally sweet, coconut oil contains no fructose – a simple sugar quickly absorbed by the body resulting in an instant sugar rush, currently demonised by health experts.
Opt for coconut oil when cooking and baking in place of butter (it is one of the few oils that remain ‘healthy’ and do not oxidise when heated). James Duigan recommends taking four teaspoons of coconut oil every day, adding it to smoothies or tea. Sarah Wilson eats hers straight from the jar: ‘It fills me up immediately and kills my sugar cravings.’
Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a saturated fat that enhances the immune system through its antiviral and antibacterial effects, so can be used to ease skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis when applied directly; those who suffer from yeast infections or thrush may benefit from a more coconut-rich diet because of its antibacterial qualities. And as author of Grain Brain Dr David Perlmutter says, ‘It is also a superfood for the brain, reducing inflammation and stimulating the growth of new brain cells.’
…But what about coconut itself? … ‘It has an excellent ratio of fats to protein, providing long-lasting, slow-release energy that will get you through to dinner time,’ says nutritionist Petronella Ravenshear.
Like coconut oil, coconut milk and cream (always opt for unsweetened versions) are high in saturated fat at about 16 per cent but can prove a lifesaver for those who don’t eat dairy, and will make dishes deliciously creamy. ‘We’ve got used to the idea that for food to be good for us it’s got to taste horrible, but coconut does the double duty of tasting good and being nutritious,’ says Petronella.
So the unassuming coconut is now taking its rightful place as the darling of the foodie brigade. ‘I love coconut in any shape or size,’ says wellbeing expert Calgary Avansino. ‘Don’t be put off by its richness; it’s 100 per cent healthy.’ They may not be much to look at, but coconuts are your best food friends. So work these hairy wonders into your diet and reap the health benefits – if you can manage to crack them open, that is.