At Fitter London we are coconut crazy. It’s great for digestion, energy, skin health and much more. So we thought we’d fill you in on why and how to go coconutty!
The humble coconut is a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition, that includes every part; the flesh, the juice, the milk and oil…ok maybe not the hairy bit…but the rest contains stacks of nutrients. You can eat, drink and smother all over your body to get the benefits.
Originally known as cocos nucifera which translates as “monkey face” (given it slightly resembles a monkeys head). Coconut is rich in fibre, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals. It has many healing and antibacterial properties so is often used for medicinal purposes, including treatment of asthma, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, fever, flu, gingivitis, skin infections and ulcers.
As a saturated fat coconut oil has been largely dismissed as unhealthy in the past. However, research has discovered coconut oil is a remarkable exception and provides extensive health benefits. What makes coconut oil different is the unique structure of the fat molecules. For more information on all fats check out our Fat Facts.
Most of the fats and oils we eat are long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) however, two thirds of coconut oil is composed of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). You’ve heard of the saying “size matters” and with fats this is definitely the case! The size of the fatty acid chain dictates how it affects our body and metabolism.
The Fitter Fat
The best thing about medium chain fatty acids is they:
• Enhance Performance and Burn Fat
The ease of absorption of medium chain fatty acids through the digestive tract means that coconut oil provides a readily available source of energy and has been shown to boosts energy, endurance and physical performance, actually helping the body burn fat stores.
• Heart Protective
Medium chain fatty acids have a number of properties that may be beneficial in preventing atherosclerosis (the biological process behind heart disease). MCTs have anti-coagulating effect (lowering risk of blood clots), studies have also shown these fats may act as antioxidants within the body and even help balance blood sugar levels by lowering levels of glucose in the blood.
• Digestion and Absorption
Medium chain fatty acids improve digestion and increase the body’s ability to absorb nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Increased calcium and magnesium absorption supports the development of strong bones, protecting against osteoporosis. Medium chain fatty acids have also been used clinically to relieve symptoms of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and stomach ulcers.
• Immune Strengthening
The antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid in coconuts help to strengthen the immune system with antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
How to get your Fix!
Cook it, Eat it
You can use coconut oil for cooking. It has a higher smoke point than most fats and as a saturated fat is less likely to be damaged by heat it is ideal for stir fry’s and oven baking foods.
Coconut milk, cream or oil can be added to stir fry’s, curries, protein shakes and smoothies. Never buy the reduced fat option, the fat is the good stuff! If you don’t like the strong taste of tinned coconut milk try Kara coconut milk which is a diluted version and can be used as a milk substitute (available in supermarkets and Holland and Barratt stores).
You can now buy coconut cream in jars which melt easily when placed under a hot tap turning it into in liquid so you can easily add to your smoothie or shake.
Bake it, Eat it
You can use coconut flour in place of grain flours for cakes, muffins and pancakes. As a high fibre, low GI alternative, it is a great way to have your cake and eat it without too much damage to the waistline! You can also substitute butter and vegetable fats with coconut oil. Try out these Coconut Pancakes! Our pal Ceri Jones, Natural Chef, has some great recipes for baked treats on her Natural Kitchen Adventures blog .
Coconut water contains potassium and is a great way to hydrate and restore electrolytes post workout. If you’ve had an intense session add a touch of Himalayan/Celtic sea salt and freshly squeezed fruit juice (lime and orange works well) to replenish glucose stores after training. Beats a sugar filled energy drinks any day!
Coconut oil is an excellent moisturiser on all types of skins. It also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and infections.
You can also use coconut oil to for your hair, it acts as a conditioner and promotes healthy growth It can also be used to treat the scalp for dandruff, lice and dryness.
Great tip from Mike Mahler rub coconut oil around your gums and teeth to make the most of its antibacterial properties, gum disease (gingivitis) is now linked to heart disease as the same bacteria can potential damage the heart, what a lifesaving tip!