Is coconut the ultimate ‘super food’?


It appears a simple food has become the super food, drink, oil and cosmetic product that we have all been longing for.

But what are the real benefits of coconuts and how much should you include in your diet?

Coconut oil is a fat like all other oils, however unlike other oils in the cooking aisle, coconut oil is made up of 90 per cent saturated fat which is why it was previously recommended to limit it in our diets.

It has since been discovered that coconut oil is unique when compared to its fellow saturated fat family members, in that it is made up of medium chain triglyceride (MCT) fatty acids unlike other forms of saturated fat, which are made from long chain triglyceride (LCT) fatty acids.

Because of this, coconut oil is metabolised slightly differently through the liver and the energy from the oil is more likely to be used unlike other saturated fats which the body prefers to store. 

A low to moderate intake of coconut oil results in an increase in energy expenditure (photo: theapplediaries)

A study also found that a low to moderate intake of coconut oil (15-30 grams) in 24 hours actually results in an increase in energy expenditure by approximately five per cent or 500 kilojoules per day. The study was limited to 24 hours so we are still unsure if this is simply a one-off effect.

There have also been other health benefits recognised, including the fact that the MCT fatty acids are made up of mostly lauric acid which is also found in human, goats and cow milk.

It is this lauric acid that has the greatest impact on increasing someone’s HDL cholesterol (the good one), therefore protecting against heart disease and improving healthy cholesterol levels and lessening the risk of heart disease.

Raw coconut is a positive way to include healthy fats in your diet (photo: coconutoil)

The days of including as little fat in the diet as possible are gone, these days we know that we should be aiming to include 15-30 grams of healthy fats in our diet per day. One tablespoon of coconut oil will provide 18 grams of fat (648 kilojoules).

One of the most popular coconut related products is coconut water which contains on average; 315 kilojoules per serving, zero grams fat, zero grams saturated fat, 18-20 grams of carbohydrates (sugar), sodium and potassium.

Due to the sodium and potassium, coconut water is recommended as an effective rehydration drink. 

Coconut water is recommended as an effective rehydration drink (photo: unconventionalkitchen)

Raw coconut is a positive way to include healthy fats in your diet, with 30 grams containing up to nine grams of fat, a single gram of carbohydrate and one gram of protein (390  kilojoules).

This is higher than amounts found in desiccated coconut which is often used in cooking, and has pretty much exactly half the above nutrient quantities for the same amount of product.

Snacks high in coconut oil are on the rise (photo: everybodylikessandwiches)

Snacks high in coconut oil are also on the rise, but remember that the fat content of these products make the total energy quite high with a chocolate and coconut cacao ball containing a minimum of 30 grams of oil + coconut + cacao (1500 kilojoules, one gram of protein, up to three grams of carbohydrate).

Whereas a tin of sardines will provide you with 15 grams of healthy fat, zero grams of carbohydrate and 21 grams of protein for 915 kilojoules.

The fat content of these products make the total energy quite high (photo: wisegeek)

So in summary, coconut oil should definitely be added to the cupboard collection and be included as one of the oils you use throughout the day to ensure you reach your 15-30 grams of healthy fats.

However, be cautious with coconut products and be aware that coconut oil is still a fat so snacks, chocolates and cakes made on coconut oil will still add a lot of kilojoules into your day.

Coconut oil should be included as one of the oils you use throughout the day (photo: blogspot.)

Of course, the fact still stands that the only super food that is sugar, fat, gluten, sodium, and energy free – is natural water!

(photo: mindbodygreen)