The most common means of consuming coconut would be in the form of coconut oil and coconut milk. Some people also prefer eating the coconut meat or kernel. So are coconuts fattening? The answer would have to be a 'NO'. In fact in comparison to the other oils such as soya oil, canola oil, safflower oil and ground nut oil, coconut oil has lower calorie along with an added fat burning property.
Note: We are talking about virgin coconut oil here and not the hydrogenated coconut oils with trans-fats
Coconut oil would have to be one of the healthiest oils around even if it’s rich in saturated fats. This is because, the saturated fats present in coconut are MCFA (medium chain fatty acids) which get broken down quickly in the liver and are utilized as body fuel instead of being stored up as “fat”. Most other oils, including hydrogenated vegetable oil, are have fats present as LCFA (long chain fatty acids) which are absorbed by the fatty tissues of the cells and contribute to weigh gain and obesity. No wonder, coconut oil is espoused as the low-calorie non-fattening oil.
Why is coconut oil not fattening?
First of all it should be made clear that excessive consumption of any food will induce fattening. If you go beyond your body’s requirement of calories, it is bound to get stored as fat. So you can eat an excess of carbohydrate, protein or fat and increase you calorie intake to the extent where the extra calorie start getting stored in the adipose tissue which contributes to weight gain.
So the question of whether a food is fattening should always be in context of “moderate” intake. Coconut oil is rich in “fat” content, close to 85% of its calories is in the form of saturated fat. “Fat” is known to be more calorie intensive than carbohydrate or protein. In spite of all these negative piled up against coconuts they still remain “non-fattening” in nature. What’s their secret?
Coconut fat is in the form of medium-chain fatty acids which are rarely found in any other “fat” food source. This special group of fatty acids is extremely healthy for the body. In fact, the fatty acid present in coconut, lauric acid, is the same as that present in a human mother’s milk. These fatty acids are easy to digest, and they direct end up in the liver where they are burnt up to create body fuel. They are not stored up in the adipose tissue and hence don’t contribute to “fattening”. That’s the secret.
People living in the tropical regions in Southern India, Sri Lanka and other parts of the world, well know for coconut consumption have reported very low percentage of obesity and heart disease. Coconut has in fact been recommended by “Ayurveda”, a traditional branch of medicine in India, as a holistic food for the body.
Instead of believing the “hear says” you should more interested in the living proof of the efficacy of coconut. Saturated fat is bad for the body and results in fattening, but the ones present in coconut are unique in their nature (being MCFAs) and hence should not be bracketed in the same category.
Why did coconut oil earn a bad name?
FDA has cautioned people on the intake of coconut oil, stating that it is high in saturated fats and can increase the cholesterol levels. But this premise is not based on any adequate study per se. It’s simply based on the contention that people should limit fats in their diet because of their cholesterol forming properties.
You only have to look at the people whose primary consumption is coconut oil and coconut milk, to get the living proof of its health benefits. A state in India, Kerala, where people purely depend on coconut oil in their cooking, are among the healthiest population in India.
Studies are being conducted which are proving the healthy effects of MCFAs present in coconuts. To label coconuts as a “fattening” or cholesterol inducing food simply based on the premise that it contains saturated fat is quite unfounded. Saturated fats which contains LCFAs (long chain fatty acids), present in raw milk, butter, beef and vegetable oils contribute to fattening but the saturated fats present in coconuts being MCFAs in nature have totally different behavior in the human body.
In fact, MCFAs get digested immediately and are burnt up to generate body fuel which instead the metabolism rate and helps the body burn up excess calories present in other foods taken during the meal. Many weight loss diets are encouraging people to replace their cooking oils with coconut oil. You should try it out for yourself and see that coconuts are non-fattening and a great asset for a healthy body.