What are the benefits of coconut water and other products derived from coconut? Not that long ago, unless you lived in the tropics, you probably seldom thought about coconut. Perhaps you had a coconut flavored drink every so often (more likely than not, one containing alcohol!) – but you never considered coconut to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Now, however, it looks that every other product that's for sale in a natural foods store has coconut in it!
Yes, we're hearing about the benefits of coconut water, coconut milk and coconut oil all the time. Coconut oil is not only good for cooking, but it's used in all kinds of skin care products. Coconut water is now becoming popular as an alternative sports drink. Coconut milk, meanwhile, is starting to become a leading milk substitute, especially as soy based products are becoming suspect in many ways. So let's take a closer look at this coconut craze and see what benefits can be derived from this wonderful fruit from the tropics!
Coconut water is the clear liquid you find when you open a young coconut. It's naturally sweet, yet low in calories and it's fat and cholesterol free. For this reason, it makes an excellent sports drink. It's the ideal compromise between people who find plain water too boring but who do not want to load up on sugar and empty calories that are found in commercial sports drinks.
Coconut milk is the thicker, creamier white liquid that's prepared from meat of the coconut. In other words, you can not crack open a coconut and get coconut milk – you only get coconut water this way. Coconut milk has to be made.
Coconut milk is sweeter and richer than coconut water, making it a good substitute for regular milk or soy milk. While coconut milk is considered by many to be very healthy, these claims are sometimes disputed because it's high in saturated fat (the same is true for coconut oil, as we'll soon see). However, many nutritionists are rethinking the whole "saturated fats are bad" philosophy.
Coconut oil is enjoying a real renaissance in the health food community, probably even more so than coconut water or milk. Suddenly, we're hearing that this oil, although high in saturated fat, is ideal for cooking as well as for skin care.
It seems that previous research that supposedly proved that coconut oil caused a rise in cholesterol was based on using hydrogenated coconut oil. As many people are now aware, this is a process that produces the "bad fats" or trans fats that are the cause of so many health problems. Trans fats in anything raise the LDL or bad cholesterol to go up. Pure coconut oil, however, has no such effects – just the opposite.
One of the major benefits of coconut oil is that it contains lauric acid, which is a natural enemy of many harmful microorganisms and possibly even cancer cells. Lauric acid helps protect the body against bacteria, fungi and viruses, so it has many healthy qualities.
Coconut Products and Weight Loss
If you're trying to lose weight, which coconut products should you consume? The short answer is, "all of them!" This does not mean, however, that you have to go overboard and drink or eat coconut products from dawn till dusk. Even though coconut milk and oil both contain healthy fats, if you're trying to cut back on calories you obviously do not want to overdo it with any kind of fat.
You can use all of the products in moderation and gain the benefits. This is true for everyone, whether you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight. You can drink coconut water as a sports drink, or just when you want a refreshing cold drink. Do not drink it in place of regular water, though. Pure H20 should still be your primary beverage of choice!
Coconut milk is probably the best milk substitute if you're vegan or lactose intolerant. Even if you do eat dairy, there's no reason not to add coconut milk to your diet. You can find many healthy recipes that use coconut milk, or you can just drink it as a refreshing beverage that's a bit more substantial than coconut water.
Coconut oil is ideal for cooking. This is one big edge it has over the other super healthy oil – olive oil. I'd never suggest giving up olive oil, as this is not only delicious but it's one of the healthiest "good fat" foods you can consume. However, olive oil is not good for cooking, as it loses its benefits and actually becomes toxic. So, if you want a simple formula, consume olive oil raw and coconut oil for cooking (though coconut oil is also fine uncooked).
Coconut oil also has many other benefits, and it can be used as a moisturizer and even in your hair. You can find many products on the market that contain coconut oil, but very often it's safer to just use it straight up. Many products, even those sold in health food stores and online from health and nutrition companies contain all kinds of suspect ingredients.
Do your research – the Dr. Mercola website has a lot of good information on the dangers of many supposedly healthy and natural skin care products, shampoos and so forth. With plain coconut oil, you do not have any such worries! You can not really use pure coconut oil as a shampoo, but you can use it in your hair as a conditioner and then wash it out with a gentle and preferably organic shampoo.
In conclusion, more benefits of coconut-derived products are being discovered all the time. Of course, the native peoples of regions where coconuts grow – many tropical regions from Africa to the South Pacific- have long known how healthy, as well as delicious this fruit is. Now, however, modern civilization is finally catching up. So, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil – and just plain coconuts of course- are all foods you can eat with pleasure and without guilt!