coconut

Dearest Martha: Why You Need a Dietitian (*Me) On Your Staff

For the longest time, Martha Stewart has been an idol of mine. Her successful entrepreneurial spirit and love for simple yet delicious cooking is all I’m looking for in a career role model. Naturally, I subscribe to Martha Stewart Living, her monthly publication. Its arrival month after month puts me in a state of utopia simply thinking about the domestic wisdom this goddess chooses to bestow on her readers. So it pains me to write that she and her staff made a slight misstep in the October issue which featured a spot on coconut oil, highlighting its ‘benefits’ and uses. The article includes recipes for a smoothie, soup, scallops, and chocolate bark.

The article opens with the following paragraph:

It’s soaring in popularity – and well on its way to becoming a kitchen stable. After all, it’s as rich as butter (without the cholesterol) and as versatile as vegetable oil. Grocery stores now stock the good stuff…and it’s a wonderful vegan substitute for butter in baked goods.

Shoot girl – this the not the promotion coconut oil deserves, despite how popular it may be. To me, it is the equivalent for promoting bacon for its health benefits.

Image from Google

Image from Google

Coconut oil, be it ‘refined’ or ‘virgin’, contains more saturated fat than butter. One tablespoon of this solid fat contains 117 calories, nearly 12 grams of saturated fat and less than one gram of monounsaturated fat. You want to limit your saturated fat consumption because it raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. The mono- and polyunsaturated fats are the ‘healthy fats’. Found in plant-based foods, these fats help to lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).

The American Heart association recommends limiting your saturated fat consumption to 5-6% of your daily calories.

Bottom line: if you MUST have your coconut oil, reach for the virgin coconut oil. It’s high in lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid found in the saturated fat family, which has been shown to raise both your good and bad cholesterol levels. If I were you, I’d stick the olive, canola or avocado oils.

Resources:
http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442477202
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Monounsaturated-Fats_UCM_301460_Article.jsp

May’s Nutrition Hot Topic: Coo Coo for Coconut Water

If I had to define coconut water in two words it would undoubtedly be ‘sexy beverage’. Literally, Vita Coco just came out with a lemonade coconut water. It’s slogan: ‘Lemonade was a one piece…we made it a bikini’. For reals. I don’t know what it is about this stuff, but professional athletes and supermodels around the world are promoting coconut water as if it were liquid gold. So why is it so popular?

Truth is, I am constantly asked about the health benefits of coconut water. ‘Will it help me lose weight?’ ‘Why aren’t you (a dietitian) guzzling this stuff?’ ‘If I want to increase muscle definition, I should only be drinking coconut water, right?’ Sweet baby Jesus, the list goes on and on.

Image from Google Images

Image from Google Images

I suppose coconut water isn’t all that ‘new’, but I still get questioned on it every few weeks at work and that’s why it is May’s Nutrition Hot Topic. I thought it would be good to hone my standard answer with a bit more research and provide some insight for you people. Psh, you’re welcome – no big deal. 

The health-conscious and celebratah are downing coconut water like the world’s last coconuts are falling from palm trees and dehydrating as fast as my skin in December. You see, at baseline, coconut water is made from -oh my God, you guessed it – water! Ahhh. So yeah, it’s hydrating…most water based fluids are. That last statement could send us down a dark, weird path so I’ll move on quickly. Coconut water should not to be confused with coconut milk. Coconut milk is an emulsion of coconut water and grated coconut. Coconut water is the fluid found inside the coconut (also not to be confused with coconut flavoring added to water). Make sense? To make it even simpler, technically coconut water is a type of juice. I’ll wait while the blowing of your mind subsides…

Now then, coconut water’s big claim to fame is its electrolyte content. Think of it as Mother Earth’s

Image from Google Images

Image from Google Images

Gatorade. It is a good source of potassium, magnesium and sodium. Potassium is the big spotlight mineral of coconut water. According to The American Heart Association, potassium helps keep our fluid

balance regular, stimulate nerves and contract muscles. Basically our cells need potassium to function properly. Sounds pretty essential, right? But coconut water isn’t the only source of potassium. You know where else it’s found? Fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

So if you have a balanced diet and aren’t working out like Michael Phelps, do you need to be drinking coconut water for its electrolyte content? Only you can answer that question. The answer lies in the calorie content of this sweet, sweet nectar. An average 8-ounce serving carries between 45-60 calories. The real question is, do you need those calories or can you accommodate them in order to prevent weight gain? As most of us know, weight gain occurs when you consume more calories than you burn on a daily basis. I agree dear reader, 45-60 calories does not sound like much. However, if you consumed 8 ounces of coconut water daily for one year and did not account for it in other places of your diet or exercised a tid bit more, it would result in roughly a 5 pound weight gain annually. Food for thought! Don’t believe me on the math? Post your dispute in the comment section below.

Look, I’m all for finding natural hydrating products. Ones that aren’t loaded with artificial sweeteners sound great! I love the initial slogan of Vita Coco. ‘Hydrate Naturally’. Hey fools, you know what else can do the same thing?! A banana and a large glass of water. Just saying. And by all means, omit the banana if you’re not massively hungover or having just finished an aggressive workout.

Finally, to put it simply, the calories in coconut water are coming from it’s carbohydrate content = sugar. I don’t mean to be a dietitian downer, but you should know all the facts. Coconut water is no devil beverage, but consume responsibly with an informed mind.

Happy Hydrating 🙂

Resources:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Potassium_UCM_306021_Article.jsp
http://www.mayoclinic.org