One day pundits say it helps to lower your cholesterol, the next day it’s considered a saturated fat that in excess can lead to heart disease.
The media has confused us all of the beneficial properties of the infamous coconut – so, what’s the truth?
(AND – is it a fruit, seed or nut?)
A Miracle Food for Performers?
Akin to the “Tree of Life” due to its multipurpose use, the coconut’s entire content can be used as milk, fiber, fuel, utensils, and even musical instruments.
So what can it do for you? If you are trying to keep your energy levels up during tour, practice and performance, here is your secret: coconut oil.
For decades Americans have given the coconut a bad rap based on its high fat content. The truth, however, are that it’s good for the body, and easy on the taste buds.
Before we get into the fat issue, let’s look at the unique contribution of coconuts for our bodies
Know About MCT
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), the main component of the coconut, provide the missing energy source your body needs to help maintain satiety and for muscle recovery.
They are quickly converted into energy in the same way as carbohydrates, without spiking your sugar levels and ‘crashing’ after afterwards.
Think of it…right before band practice you need a jolt of fuel, so you grab the food closest – bag of chips, box of crackers, candy bar, etc. all which leave you hungrier and more tired an hour later.
That’s your hormones talking to you saying, “You didn’t give us what we need.”
You use so much energy on stage, and just to prepare for your performance takes practice, organization, traveling, managing your stress levels, and training…all which use a huge source of energy.
What better way to get an energy boost and glowing skin and fuel fueled for hours than with MCTs? They improve your energy, mood and metabolism.
8 Benefits of Coconut
I’ve taken the science behind coconuts and have broken it down in simpler terms for you (to save your energy for band practice):
Thermogenesis (helps burn fat) – you do want to look good on stage, don’t you?
Enhance brain cognition – keeps you focused when training
Provides energy if you are on the latest trend of a low carb diet
Natural antimicrobial- improves gut function and helps eliminate waste
Improves nutrient absorption- you want your vitamins to work in your favor
Lauric acid content- helps fight viruses, since you get so much sleep, right?
Phytoesterols- naturally reduce cholesterol in the blood
Hi fiber content- helps keep you full in between the long periods of time that you can’t eat
This last point really applies to those of you who are constantly on the go and on tour. Your digestive tract is not functioning normally due to change in time zone, and off eating habits, so it is crucial that everything that goes in actually comes out, so be sure to get the transit system moving.
The Fat Issue
Although there are major benefits to consuming coconut, we must not discount the fact that it is still a saturated fat.
This does not give you the green light to be spooning the solid form of fat into your diet. Coconut oil still contains 117 calories and 8 grams of fat per tablespoon which is the same as most other oils such as olive oil, canola, vegetable oil, etc.
However, MCTs are absorbed directly without the need for digestive enzymes like most other saturated fats; this makes it easier for the body to utilize as energy.
It does not contain any cholesterol or trans fat. In fact, the phytosterols, which are one component of the statins found in plants, help lower cholesterol! Limit yourself to two tablespoons per day.
Coconut water, however , as the liquid portion of the fruit, is fat free and a great source of potassium and electrolytes to keep you hydrated.
When comparing fats to carbohydrates as a cause of weight gain we get into controversial data. Some studies have shown that calories from simple carbohydrates such as bread, rice, and sugar get stored as fat quickly and make it harder to lose weight.
However, fats eaten in excess can lead to a higher calorie intake which can also lead to weight gain. So be sure to watch your portions and balance your diet with carbohydrates from mostly fruits and vegetables.
Whatever form of coconut you choose; shredded, coconut milk, cream, and oil, it is sure to add an exotic twist to an ordinary dish.
So, Fruit, seed or nut?
Botanically speaking, the one seeded drupe (hard stony covering enclosing a seed) can be considered all three.
Sharon Zarabi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (RD, CDN) and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with the International Fitness Professional’s Association (IFPA) and Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA.) She is a contributor to The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health (Oxford University Press) and her work can be viewed at www.sharonzarabi.com/