WATCH YOUR MOUTH! the raw coconut

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It was the third day of our honeymoon vacation in Port Douglas, Australia when we took a long bike-ride along a gorgeous stretch of beach with no clouds in sight.  It was so darn hot and humid, 110 degrees to be exact, I wanted to strip down and sprint (not run) into the tempting cool waters.  Needless to say, when we got to the town’s famous farmers’ market that morning, we were over-heated, hungry, and darn thirsty (this time, not for a beer.)  Thankfully, a coconut vendor stopped us in our tracks and offered us 2 fresh ice-cold coconuts, tapped with a paper straw.  Mere seconds after grabbing the coconut from his hands and sucking it down like I didn’t even know I could, I was literally struck at how amazing I felt. 

Within minutes, I felt fully hydrated and cooled, more than water or any juice has ever made me feel. After finishing my last sip, the coconut man offered us breakfast.  He cracked open my empty coconut, shaved the flesh, added a local ripened banana, and stuck in a spoon.  My husband looked at me and whispered, “I’m going to need something more substantial than this for breakfast, just so you know.” I know, baby, I know.

So we sat, eating our coconuts for our (pre) breakfast.  We were cooled. We were quenched.  And…surprisingly…we were full.   We spent the rest of the morning running around town and exploring, repeatedly remarking to each other how great we felt since drinking and eating our coconuts.  It was so tasty and satisfying that we actually went back for lunch, except this time we added arugula, mung beans, and tamari.  Ever had a salad in a coconut? It’s just yum…

That night (and every night since) I spent a long time thinking about coconuts.  In nutrition school, I learned they are very high in bad fats (the oil is almost 90% saturated) and was encouraged to categorize them as something we shouldn’t eat too often, especially if one has heart disease.  We thought of them as a “fad.”  And, when you think about the fact that generally saturated fats are correlated with everything bad in your cardiovascular system, including LDL or “bad” cholesterol, it makes sense that one would deduce that coconuts aren’t that great for us.  But after that night, I began to do a little more research on the topic.  What is it about the coconut that made me feel so unbelievably hydrated, satisfied, and…good?

It turns out there are a lot of benefits to coconuts seen in the literature, but they’re still not exactly accepted mainstream. That is, many scientists, doctors, and nutritionists are still not convinced that coconut oil is much more than the lard equivalent of a vegetable.  But I urge you to make your own decision on this, read up for yourself, and see on whose side you stand.  Did you know that many island populations that get close to half their calories from coconuts in the pacific have almost non-existent rates of heart disease?1 I put together a little information here for what the research is beginning to see.

RAW coconut oil may:

  • Fight infection from bacteria, fungus, and viruses (due to lauric acid, the type of fat in coconuts.)2,3,6,7
  • Reduce LDL cholesterol4
  • Reduce blood pressure4
  • Protect from arteriole damage4
  • Pomote weight Loss. Due to the medium chain fatty acid length, coconut oil is theoretically easier to digest and break down, keeping metabolism high.5,8
  • Improve Digestion. Due to the anti-microbial properties of lauric acid, people with IBS have experienced some improvement with indigestion. 3,5,8
  • Support those with liver disease and assist in dissolving kidney stones8
  • Help control blood sugar 2-8 

I obviously and most certainly have shifted my mindset around raw coconuts and their oils, all starting when I ate one from a local tree and experienced its benefits for myself.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had coconut water though, and I will say I never experienced this same feeling when I had the store bought brand of coconut water.  This MAY be because those brands are almost always pasteurized, which in my opinion totally changes the properties of a food.  In the end, I guess just like kombucha, not all coconut waters and oils are created equal. My opinion is to check out the research yourself and buy the whole and unpasteurized versions if you can. 

One day I had a coconut for breakfast and for lunch, and I haven’t felt the same since.   I want it again…

References:

1) Kaunitz H, Dayrit CS. Coconut oil consumption and coronary heart disease. Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine, 1992;30:165-171

2) (5) Dr. Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., F.A.C.N. Source: Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century

3) Isaacs CE, Schneidman K. Enveloped Viruses in Human and Bovine Milk are Inactivated by Added Fatty Acids(FAs) and Monoglycerides(MGs), FASEB Journal, 1991;5: Abstract 5325, p.A1288.

4) Raymond Peat Newsletter, Coconut Oil, reprinted at www.heall.com. http://www.heall.com/body/healthupdates/food/coconutoil.html An Interview With Dr. Raymond Peat,www.heall.com. http://www.heall.com/body/healthupdates/food/coconutoil.html An Interview With Dr. Raymond Peat, A Renowned Nutritional Counselor Offers His Thoughts About Thyroid Disease

5) St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue, International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 2003 Dec;27(12):1565-71. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12975635

6) Isaacs CE, Litov RE, Marie P, Thormar H. Addition of lipases to infant formulas produces antiviral and antibacterial activity, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 1992;3:304-308.

7) Mitsuto Matsumoto, Takeru Kobayashi, Akio Takenakaand Hisao Itabashi. Defaunation Effects of Medium Chain Fatty Acids and Their Derivatives on Goat Rumen Protozoa, The Journal of General Applied Microbiology, Vol. 37, No. 5 (1991) pp.439-445.

8) Geliebter, A 1980. Overfeeding with a diet of medium-chain triglycerides impedes accumulation of body fat, Clinical Nutrition, 28:595

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Daina Slekys, MS, MPH is a Nutritionist and co-founder of Health-Ade kombucha, in Los Angeles, CA.  Email Daina your health questions and she’ll be happy to help! daina@health-ade.com

Daina Slekys Health-Ade

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