Are coconuts all they’re cracked up to be?
Can coconut oil help you to lose weight? A 2009 study indicated, it could. Fans claim that, even though coconut oil is packed with more saturated fat than butter (and beef dripping), around half that fat is lauric acid which can be converted more easily into energy, so doesn’t get stored around your belly.
Healthspan nutritionist Robert Hobson is unconvinced.
‘Those people who took part in the trial had already begun a weight loss regime before they started using coconut oil,’ he says. ‘The only thing that really boosts your metabolism is exercise.’
But, he says, eating small amounts of coconut oil (no more than 20g a day for women and 30g for men), plus protein and high fibre foods is the best approach for weight loss.
You may have noticed coconut sugar among the many sugar alternatives in health shops. While there’s no such thing as a healthy sweetener, it’s fine to have in moderation.
Technical and commercial nutritionist, Shona Wilkinson says ‘Coconut sugar has a low glycaemic index rating which means you’ll avoid those highs of energy followed by slumps.
Coconut milk is a good alternative to milk for vegans, or anyone avoiding lactose. The slightly thicker, tinned version is great for adding to quinoa to make a rich, protein-dense porridge – or add it to lentil dahls to make them more filling.
Don’t forget coconut yogurt, either – delicious on its own as a snack or blended with other ingredients, such as lime, avocado and agave to make a scrumptious dairy-free frosting for cakes.
Coconut oil is undoubtedly high in saturated fat – but is this fat the heart danger it was once considered?
‘Some research has suggested coconut oil can increase levels of good HDL cholesterol and lower the unhealthy LDL form,’ says Robert, although he cautions there’s not enough evidence to make solid heart health claims.
When hot, coconut oil remains stable, and therefore doesn’t smoke or become toxic.
‘It helps flavour dishes such as curries and stir-fries. And it’s a myth that coconut oil is high in cholesterol. That’s a hormone made in the bodies of humans and animals and it isn’t found in plant foods.’
1. Nutiva Coconut Manna, 425g, £10.99
An ideal ‘everything’ spread to replace cream, cream cheese and butter in vegan baking. Has a deliciously buttery texture.
2. Dr Organic Virgin Coconut Oil Lip Balm, 5ml, £3.79, Holland & Barrett
This soothing lip balm gives instant relief from dryness, and helps protect against UVA and UVB rays.
3. Rebel Kitchen Dairy Free Organic Coconut Yogurt, Original, 125g, £1.99
Tastes like a natural yogurt but without the dairy. Made with live vegan cultures for an authentic yogurt tang.