Coconut is once again in the limelight and not just from a health perspective but also as a key ingredient in beauty products. A home grown superfood, coconut has emerged out of the shadows to shine like no other.
From being maligned initially for being a wrong fat to now being hailed as a superfood, incidentally for the same fat, coconut has seen a long journey. Coconut oil, in particular, has a great reputation in traditional societies, particularly in India. But it was maligned and rejected in the West mainly due to the fierce market competition gave rise to the unpopularity of coconut oil. However, coconut oil is certainly one of the few foods that are considered a superfood. This is because of its unique combination of fatty acids that have positive effects on your health. According to ancient Ayurvedic texts, coconut in Sanskrit is ‘kalpa vriksha’ or the ‘the tree that supplies all that is needed to live’.
Coconut is high in fiber and MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides), it offers a number of benefits, such as improved heart health, weight reduction, and digestion. The MUFA (Monounsaturated fat) in coconut oil is made entirely of oleic acid which has anti-cancer benefits and in PUFA (Polyunsaturated fatty acid) has Linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid. Harshita Dilawri, Nutritionist, Know Your Nutrients, Delhi says, “the benefits of cooking with this superfood are many and mainly due to its MCT’s content which is a healthy form of dietary fat that can be broken down rapidly and absorbed to provide health benefits; starting from skin repair to weight management. Coconut oil is beneficial in case of thyroid issues too and research says that it can also improve the thyroid profile in thyroid patients. It can also aid digestive health owing to their shorter chain length and is absorbed quickly in the body hence helps in people with gastrointestinal issues.” Dt. Shikha Mahajan, Holistic Nutritionist, Diet Podium adds, “one of the most significant properties of coconut oil is that it is ‘thermogenic’ which simply means that it increases our energy expenditure compared to the other calories from different fats. By including coconuts in our daily life routine, it reduces our appetite and increases the fat burning process effectively as it contains a unique combination of fatty acids with powerful effects on metabolism.” Ushakiran Sisodia, R.D Clinical nutritionist and Lifestyle medicine practitioner, Head of Department, Nanavati Super Specialty Hospital adds, “for elderly and baby food one should give milk made by coconut. Coconut meat is when the coconut matures, some of the juice remains in liquid form while the rest ripens into the solid white flesh is coconut meat.”
The only people who should avoid are the ones who have chronic kidney issue because of the high potassium content in coconut. Karan Kakkad, Founder & CEO, Reverse Factor says, “young coconuts are the most healthy. The water in the young coconut is one of the highest sources of electrolytes which helps keep the body properly hydrated so the muscles and nerves can function appropriately. It is recommended to drink it after an intense workout rather than the commercial sports drinks we see advertised.” Coconut has a whopping 61% dietary fiber content. Like all high-fiber foods, coconut fiber slows down the release of glucose, relieving stress on the pancreas and enzyme production. “Coconut contains useful nutrients like cytokinins, kinetin and trans-zeatin which are known to have anti-ageing effects. They are also known to have anti-carcinogenic properties,” says Ghazal Alag, Co-founder, Mamaearth. In our daily dietary recommendation 15-20% fat is required which is coming from oil. Our body needs both saturated as well as unsaturated fat. “Coconut oil contains 50% of lauric acid (which is medium chain triglyceride), 18% of myristic acid and 8% of palmitic acid (which is long chain triglyceride). Its unique combination of fatty acids makes it unique and gives positive effects on our health. The desirable ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat in diet is 1:1. Coconut oil contains healthy saturated fats. It is said that fresh coconut meat has healing properties because it is high in antioxidants,” says Dr. Sandipa Sen, Chief Dietitian, Malathi Manipal Hospitals, Jayanagar, Bangalore. If you are looking to lose weight, coconut oil is a great ingredient. Vidhya Ramasubramanium, Chief Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru says, “the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil have been shown to increase calories burned over 24 hours by as much as 5%. Fatty acids in coconut oil play a leading role in savaging appetite, thus playing a distinguished role in weight loss diets.”
Virgin coconut oils and cold pressed coconut oils are the best ones to cook with Not all refined coconut oils are indistinguishable and most are refined utilizing a concoction refining process reliant on lye or other unforgiving solvents or they are produced using the rotten oil side-effects remaining from making desiccated (dry) coconut pieces. “Tragically, these are refined, blanched, and freshened up with an end goal to make a satisfactory item that can be offered to buyers. Numerous coconut oils are even hydrogenated or somewhat hydrogenated. However, there is some quality, non-hydrogenated refined coconut oils accessible that are refined utilizing a characteristic, synthetic-free cleaning procedure for the most part including steam and additionally diatomaceous earth,” says Dr. Siddhant Bhargava, Fitness and Nutritional Scientist, Co-Founder of Food Darzee.
Coconut oil uses for beauty are aplenty. This beauty enhancer has a long shelf life and numerous health benefits. It can be basically used for anything that people can discover breath freshener, makeup brush cleaner, hair mask, lip scrub, and many more. You can also use it for everything from healing scars to moisturize dry skin. “Even the most potent waterproof mascara cannot stand a chance against coconut oil. Apply it directly to your face as an oil cleanser, or let it settle on your skin with a cotton pad to remove makeup. Coconut oil contains antifungal and antibacterial properties. Gargling for nearly 20 minutes with a spoonful of oil helps clear up germs present in the mouth, leading to fresher breath, whiter teeth, and stronger gums. Sweet-smelling coconut oil is filled with fatty acids, making it a perfect moisturizer, and it absorbs quickly. This is the real key because it means that the oil makes your skin look more glowing than a lotion. Coconut oil is a fantastic remedy for chapped lips particularly because it remains semisolid at room temperature,” says Avni Kaul, Nutritionist & Wellness Coach, Founder of NutriActivania. Dr. Nirupama Parwanda, Dermatologists & Founder – Zolie Skin Clinic avers, “coconut oil has been an answer to most skin concerns and otherwise too. It has been used as an after bath oil, as a makeup remover, cuticle cream, hair mask, scar reducing oil and as an overnight used face oil.What makes coconut oil such a versatile beauty ingredient is its excellent moisturising property and also it’s antibacterial property.”
Do it Right
As coconut oil has a unique flavor it is healthy to consume in moderation even though it is higher in saturated fat. Coconut oil is best consumed in small quantity as a periodic alternative to other vegetables oils. “When it comes to choosing right coconut oil we must keep in mind that all coconut oil have similar fatty acid profile but virgin coconut oil contains some nutrients like Vitamin E and polyphenol. Poly phenols are packed with antioxidants that help to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. It is better not to use any processed coconut oil,” says Emmany D R, Senior Clinical Dietitian, Narayana Health City, Mazumdar Shaw Medical Centre. It can be used in place for traditional cooking oils such as refined oil and mustard oil and has a similar number of calories per tablespoon as olive, avocado, and grapeseed oils, if you like to cook and bake with coconut feel free to do it. “It is usually suggested to stir-fry foods when cooking in coconut oil. If you want to get the best results, then you can go ahead with medium heating of the foods especially vegetables and the foods which require proper attention. Prefer to keep the gas flame at medium level.” Coconut oil has a high smoking point which means it can sustain cooking at high temperature which most of the oils may not sustain and hence ideal for Indian cooking methods. Dr. Deeptii Tejas, HOD-Healthcare, Team Reset avers, “it’s nature of being solid at room temperature makes it useful in baking methods instead of margarine or butter. Although filled with goodness care must be taken to use it in right proportions as it is high in calories. While adding coconut in any form, taking care of overall fat intake of the day is an important factor to be kept in mind.” So get ready to give your diet a coconut twist – it will do you a lot of good.
This story first appeared in Smartlife Magazine’s Nov 2019 issue here: