The Richmond Register

Lifestyles & Community

June 5, 2014

Going ‘nuts’ for coconuts!

RICHMOND — Coconut oil or coconut water, we just can’t seem to get enough coconut these days:

Coconut oil comes from the fruit of mature coconuts. It is a saturated fat, and consumers are cautioned against a diet high in saturated fat. It is unique though.

Not only is it solid at room temperature, it is the only saturated fat that does not come from an animal source such as meat or dairy.

The benefits of coconut oil are related to the fact that virgin coconut oil is high in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that raises both good and bad cholesterol levels.

Coconut water is the liquid that comes from an immature or green coconut. It emerged into the public eye several years ago and still remains hot.

While many producers and media sources have tabbed it as a type of miracle beverage that has potential to cure everything from heart disease to obesity, there isn’t actually a lot of hard evidence to back those claims just yet.

You may see gym-goers or celebrities with coconut water in hand following a workout or on a hot day. The idea that coconut water makes a good post-exercise drink because it contains electrolytes is only partially true.

Yes, coconut water does boast electrolytes, which you lose when you sweat, but for the average light-to-moderate exerciser, if you’re consuming enough water and eating healthy meals throughout the day, there is no significant benefit of coconut water over plain old H2O. 

In addition to containing electrolytes, coconut water also is a source of potassium, which is likely responsible for the claim that coconut water is good for your heart and may help prevent stroke and heart attack.

The theory that potassium helps counteract the blood pressure-boosting effect of sodium is valid. The body however, cannot differentiate between the potassium in coconut water, the potassium in a banana or the potassium found in a potato.

Potassium is great, but coconut water is not a miracle cure for heart disease.

Here is some good news. If you’re looking for a drink with some flavor but want to save on calories, coconut water can be a better choice than juice. Coconut water often has about half as many calories as fruit juice and as mentioned previously, double the amount of potassium. Just be sure to choose unflavored coconut water, once you add sugar, the calories start adding up.

(Source: Janet Mullins, Extension Specialist for Food and Nutrition, University Of Kentucky; College of Agriculture, Food and Environment)

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