Sorry, coconuts may NOT be as good for you after all
From a sprinkling of desiccated coconut on sponge cake or coconut milk in creamy curries, it hardly seems the stuff of super-healthy diets.
Yet coconut has had something of a reinvention as a health food, with coconut-based products becoming increasingly popular, fuelled by growing numbers of people cutting out dairy.
Devotees claim coconut contains ‘healthy’ fats, which are better for the heart and can even aid weight loss.
But Helen Bond, a leading dietitian, isn’t convinced. ‘People think that because coconut is natural it must be healthy — unaware it carries surprising amounts of calories and saturated fat,’ she says. Here, she assesses the most popular coconut products …
Too much saturated fat
Coconut oil is touted as a good alternative to other oils because it has a slightly higher smoke point, meaning that when it’s heated it produces fewer harmful free radicals — molecules linked to ageing and disease — and loses less of its nutrients.
It is also been claimed to speed weight loss; a Brazilian study in 2009 found that obese women on coconut oil supplements lost more weight around the abdomen than those on a soy bean oil supplement.
‘I can’t see how it could aid weight loss,’ says Helen Bond. ‘Coconut oil has the same calories as olive oil, but 1tbsp provides 13g of saturated fat, compared with 2.1g in olive oil.
A woman is recommended to have no more than 20g saturated fat in a day [and a man 30g], so that’s a huge amount.’ However, fans of coconut oil argue that most of its fats are a type known as medium-chain triglycerides, which the body burns off more quickly than other fats. In particular there is a lot of hype around lauric acid, a fat found in coconut, which is said lower cholesterol and boost immunity.
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