Today’s article is by Melanie Beers, a dietetic intern from the University of Delaware Distance Internship program.
It seems that new coconut products are all over store shelves these days. It has been heavily debated whether coconut products are a healthy or unhealthy addition to the diet. Let’s take a look at the facts…
Coconut water is the liquid from an immature coconut, not to be confused with coconut milk, which comes from the meat of the coconut. Coconut water contains electrolytes that are lost in sweat, and has become a popular post-workout drink or more “natural alternative” to sports drinks. However, for those of us who are not running marathons or breaking a serious sweat, this drink is not going to rehydrate us more than water. Coconut water is low in calories (8 fl oz=48 calories) and is a good source of potassium, sodium, and vitamin C. Choose the unflavored varieties instead of flavored varieties, such as mango or pineapple, to avoid added sugar.
Coconut milk comes from the meat of the coconut, and is commonly used as cream in ethnic cuisine, such as Thai and Indian dishes. Coconut milk is high in calories and saturated fat (1 cup=550 calories, 51 gm saturated fat). If you must use coconut milk in a recipe, choose the “light” version, and don’t use as much.
You may have noticed that “coconut milk beverages” have now joined the non-dairy beverage aisle, along with soy, rice, hemp, and almond milk (who knew you could milk an almond?). One cup of So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Beverage contains 80 calories, 4 gm saturated fat, 9 gm sugar, and no protein or calcium. Although lower in calories when compared to cow’s milk, coconut milk beverages are lacking the protein and calcium we need, while containing the saturated fat that we don’t. If you are lactose intolerant, lactaid milk may still be a more nutritious option.
Coconut oil has gained popularity due to health claims that consuming this oil speeds up metabolism to aid in weight loss, or reverses Alzheimer’s. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature because it contains high amounts of saturated fat and lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that raises both good and bad cholesterol levels. The bottom line is that there is no conclusive research to support these health claims, and it is recommended not to replace your healthier unsaturated oils, such as olive, canola, or peanut oil with coconut oil.