Coconut has gained amazing popularity over the past decade. Despite its trendy modern label, however, coconuts have been praised as one of nature’s wonders for hundreds of years. The coconut palm is quite aptly known as “the tree of a thousand uses” and “tree of abundance” in Malay and Filipino cultures. For centuries the coconut palm has been life-sustaining for many cultures by providing not only nutrition and hydration, but also the raw materials for furniture, and baskets, and the oil for cosmetics and cooking. In our modern world coconut also has so much to offer. The milk, oil, flour, flakes, meat and water each have unique uses and benefits. We’ve explored how you can incorporate coconut into your healthy lifestyle:
1. Coconut flour for heart healthy
Coconut flour makes the perfect addition to baked goods. It not only gives baked goods a naturally sweet flavour and tempting aroma, but it’s also gluten-free, low in carbs and may be good for your heart!
Coconut flour provides an impressive 5g of fibre per two-tablespoon serving, contributing up to 20% of our total fibre requirements per day. Fibre is incredibly important for gut health, blood sugar regulation and heart health. A small study from 2004 showed that supplementing your daily cornflakes breakfast with coconut flakes resulted in reductions in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. While this study was too small to make conclusions, the results are certainly plausible. Coconut flour is rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, which we know play a role in reducing ‘bad cholesterol’ levels.
Many of our treats would benefit from some coconut goodness! Coconut flour makes the perfect substitution in cookies, pancakes, muffins, or even bread. Be aware that coconut flour absorbs a bit more liquid than wheat flour, so you may need to adjust the liquid used in the recipe. To start with, replace each cup of flour with ¼ cup of coconut flour, and adjust the liquid in the recipe if needed.
2. Coconut milk for dairy free cooking
Forget coconut oil - have you tried cooking with coconut milk? This creamy delight is made from the flesh of the coconut, cooked in water and then pulverized and strained. The product is then left to stand where the cream separates from the milk.
Concern about heart health is often raised when opting for coconut products, and understandably so! Over 90% of the fat found in coconut milk and cream is saturated fat (the fat associated with undesirable cholesterol levels). This is the reason why coconut oil is often discouraged. But before you discard coconut milk, consider this: a 2020 meta-analysis found that while coconut fat can negatively affect cholesterol levels, it does so to a lesser extent than animal fats (such as cream and butter). What’s more, evidence from cultures that traditionally eat coconut cream has indicated that it does not appear to contribute to heart disease in the context of an overall healthy diet.
With the research in mind, if your diet is generally healthy, using coconut milk or coconut cream from time to time may be a better choice than using traditional cream. We suggest using it to make some of your favourite creamy, comforting delights such as curries, risottos and soups.
Learn more about the science of coconut milk on our blog post: “What are you really getting from your milk alternatives?”
3. Coconut water for sweat sessions
All the rage in the fitness space, coconut water is often referred to as “Nature’s Sports Drink”. Coconut water naturally contains many of the components often found in sports drinks: a small amount of sugar, plenty of potassium, as well as small amounts of sodium, magnesium, calcium and B vitamins. But does it live up to the hype? Should we all be using coconut water?
While some sources have eluded to its hydrating effect, research has found coconut water to be no more hydrating than water. So even though an average recreational athlete may find coconut water a convenient, low calorie and tasty way to replace some of the water and electrolytes lost in sweat during an hour workout, they are likely to get similar results with plain water and a snack.
It's also important to note that for endurance athletes, coconut water alone may not be sufficient. Coconut water provides five times more potassium than sodium, which means it may fall short for rehydration since our sweat contains a lot more sodium than potassium. Coconut water may also be too low in carbohydrates to fuel a long workout. If athletes whose training sessions exceed 60 - 90 minutes want to use coconut water for rehydration, they may need to dilute it with water, additional salt and possibly more carbohydrates in the form of sugar, honey, or fruit juice.
4. Coconut oil for skin-care
Looking for a natural approach to soft, moisturised skin? Coconut oil may be your solution! Not only is the science supportive of coconut oil for skin health, but it has been used with great success in certain regions for hundreds of years.
Many of the moisturising benefits of coconut oil have been attributed to its fat profile, and research has shown that it may be useful in managing xerosis (dry skin). Also, studies have shown that a monolaurin, a particular type of fat found in coconut oil, may have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Further studies have also found that coconut oil may have the potential to improve the barrier function of the skin, help with wound repair, and can be useful in the treatment of dermatitis.
If you are looking for a natural skincare option, coconut oil may be for you. It is especially popular as an effective, yet gentle makeup remover. Remember to chat to your skincare specialist before diving into coconut oil. We all have a unique skin profile, and what works wonders for one person, may not be ideal for another.
To coconut, or not to coconut?
With all that coconut has to offer, it's not surprising that the wellness world has gone ‘nuts for coconuts’. From the kitchen wizz to the fitness fundi to the self-care gurus, there is certainly a part of coconut to help everyone along their wellness journey.
CircleDNA Premium can tell you more about your unique skin profile, fat sensitivity, and water loss during exercise so you can make informed decisions about when and how best to use coconut.