I fell for it, just like the rest of the world, for that tree whose moniker is ‘Tree of Life’! Half of my friends smell like the beach at school pickup because they mix organic coconut oil into their body lotions, or smear it into their hair, to beat the humidity. The other half have switched over to cooking with it instead of sunflower or canola oil because of its high frying point and mild flavour. Me? I overdose on coconut water after an intense workout, imagining my muscles thanking me for the influx of its potassium-rich hydration. So with coconut this and coconut that, I decided to do a little bit of research to find out how much was truth and how much was hype…
What is Coconut Water?
Coconuts are not an entirely new superfood. Tetra packs brought them into spotlight as the silvery cardboard packaging extends a shelf life that otherwise normally deteriorates right after removal from the fruit.
The unsweetened varieties are definitely the better choice if you’re looking to cut calories while hydrating au natural. An 8-ounce carton of unsweetened coconut water has roughly 40 calories and 9 grams of sugar compared to the 50 calories and 14 grams of sugar in your Gatorade bottle – not to mention the artificial dyes and colours! However, compared to conventional sports drinks, coconut water doesn’t replenish sodium which is the main electrolyte you lose through sweat, and it’s also low on carbohydrates which is needed to restock the body’s spent energy after a workout.
However, Coconut water is an excellent source of potassium, with 430 milligrams per 8-ounce serving. This means it can prevent muscle cramps and supplement our recommended daily requirement of 4700 milligrams. But still, you’d still have to consume it in moderation, and it shouldn’t be used as a sole hydration source as too much potassium is not good for you.
What About Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk?
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of matured coconut, while the milk is a mixture of coconut water and freshly grated coconut. Both have been used in cooking in the tropical parts of the world for thousands of years, but recently the oil gained in popularity because of its nutty sweet flavour. The milk, on the other hand, is widely consumed as a healthier alternative to dairy products, especially in baking.
The Monounsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFAS) content of coconut oil and milk is known to increase both the HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and the LDL (low-intensity lipoprotein) cholesterol. While the harm is counterbalanced, many advise moderate consumption as its saturated fat content can be dangerous to heart health.
Weighing both sides of the argument, coconut oil and milk is still a better alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil because of its medium-chain triglycerides, which makes it much easier to digest.
And What’s Coconut Sugar?
Coconut has vital nutrients such as Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Potassium as well as anti-oxidants. The sugar is derived from the flowers of the coconut palm rather than from the actual fruit, which makes it more beneficial. You’d have to consume large quantities to be able to benefit from the nutrients, but because coconut sugar is basically sucrose, which is the same compound found in table sugar, use moderation when consuming it.