Coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm, a part of the palm tree family. Originally found in tropical regions, this fruit is commonly harvested for its tasty flesh, oil, and juice. Today, coconut has become more accessible in local markets globally due to its flavor and culinary uses.
However, taste is not all the fruit has to offer. Coconut also offers numerous health benefits due to its rich nutrient profile. This article discusses the nutritional composition of the tropical fruit and the benefits of including it in your diet.
Data from Food Data Central shows that a hundred grams of coconut contains the following:
Unlike many other fruits, which are high in carbs, coconut has mostly fat. Much of the fat in the fruit comes in the form of medium-chain triglycerides. The body metabolizes medium-chain triglycerides much differently from other types of fat. It absorbs them straight from the small intestine and uses them for energy.
Coconuts are highly popular for their disease-fighting properties. Some of the perks of integrating the fruit into your diet include:
Some studies have shown that oil from coconut can prevent the growth of some bacteria strains. A test-tube study found that virgin coconut oil stopped the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible for staph infections.
Also, a study of 50 children showed that it effectively reduces the growth of Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria causes dental caries and is one of the major contributors to tooth decay and cavities.
Additionally, one test-tube study found that a mixture of coconut oil and water was effective against Staphylococcus epidermidis and Escherichia coli, both bacterial strains linked to foodborne illness.
There are various claims that coconut may prevent heart disease. This assertion comes from the fact that many people from tropical areas where coconut originated recorded few cases of heart disease.
A 1981 epidemiological research showed that people who ate coconut daily had fewer incidence of heart disease or hypercholesterolemia. However, the researchers noted that these people's diet was also rich in fish and other plants.
Also, coconut increases your HDL ("good") cholesterol, which fights against bad cholesterol and prevents it from occupying your arteries. Cholesterol buildup is one of the most common causes of a heart attack.
In contrast to many fruits, coconut is low in carbs and packed with fat. It is also high in fiber, which means it may aid blood sugar control. A review proposed that coconut may help lower blood glucose levels, attributing this benefit to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
What's more, another study involving people with metabolic syndrome found that those that replaced fats in their diet with virgin coconut oil enjoyed improved levels of triglycerides and lower blood glucose.
Experts also believe that the high fiber content in coconut slows digestion and improves insulin resistance, thereby regulating blood sugar levels. However, more research is required to properly understand coconut's effect on blood sugar levels.
Over the years, many proponents of coconut have touted its body fat reduction benefits. Now, experts believe that their claims may be true. A 2018 analysis of various studies suggested that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut support fat burning, suppress appetite, and increase energy use. However, you'll only gain these benefits when it is taken as a part of a low-fat diet.
Another review compared the effect of medium-chain triglycerides and long-chain triglycerides on weight loss. The study authors concluded that replacing medium-chain triglycerides with long-chain triglycerides could induce weight loss.
The experts have noted that further research is required to confirm these findings and determine the recommended intake for healthy body weight.
Coconut is high in fiber, which adds bulk to your stool and improves bowel regularity. This supports a healthy digestive system. Since the fruit also has fat in abundance, it can aid your body's absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Also, research has shown that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut can strengthen your gut bacteria, preventing inflammation and other conditions like metabolic syndrome.
What's more, experts believe that coconut may prevent harmful yeasts such as Candida albicans from growing. Candida albican causes oral thrush, a mouth and throat infection.
Your options are unlimited when it comes to incorporating coconut into your diet. Shred coconut into your salad or make it a part of your smoothies. You can also use coconut oil for cooking various meals.
Although coconut's health benefits are undeniable, it is best to consume it in moderation due to its high amount of saturated fats. Also, many dried and prepacked coconut products have been heavily sweetened, contributing to high sugar content.