Natural Weight Loss Ally: The Power Of Coconut

  • Soumya IyerInternational Baccalaureate, Natural Sciences, Global Schools Foundation
  • Christina WeirMSc, Biotechnology, Bioprocessing & Business Management, University of Warwick, UK

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Introduction

Coconuts are very versatile in the ways they can be consumed (i.e., its skin, water, oil and milk). Due to the numerous unique properties that coconuts have, they can aid in weight loss and improve one’s health. Weight loss is important to prevent heart diseases like coronary artery atherosclerosis and other damaging conditions like diabetes. Inculcating coconut in your daily life can provide a lot of nutrients that are important for many of your bodily functions.

The nutritional profile of coconut

Coconuts can be split into water, milk and oil alongside its meat. Due to the difference in texture and composition, they all possess varying nutritional uses. Based on one’s diet goals, coconut can be prepared in different ways.

Nutrient content

Coconut is filled with plenty of nutrients that are essential for growth and development, with different forms having varying nutrient profiles. In liquid form, coconut is used as oil, milk and water where water is the only one not processed. Coconut oil has a higher percentage of fats compared to coconut milk whereas milk is higher in protein, carbohydrates and water. In terms of micronutrients, coconut milk has a higher proportion of vitamins and minerals than coconut oil making it better for developing individuals. 

Coconut water is filled with anti-oxidants and micronutrients that are necessary for metabolic reactions. Anti-oxidants are necessary for improving eye health and reducing the effects of free radicals such as cell damage. Since it's high in ions, it's perfect for replenishment after vigorous physical activity.

Coconut oil and weight loss

The role of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil

Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which have plenty of health benefits. MCTs are chains of fatty acids that have 6-12 carbon atoms. In coconut oil, this is highly present in the form of lauric acid. Lauric acid has anti-microbial properties against viruses, bacteria and gram-positive bacteria. Additionally, it is also the saturated fatty acid that causes the least accumulation of fat within the body as it is a quick source of energy.

Increased metabolic rate and thermogenic effect of coconut oil

Since coconut oil is high in MCTs, it can easily be digested and absorbed by the gut. Consecutively, it also has a positive effect on thermogenesis within the body. Thermogenesis is the energy expenditure by the body to produce heat which boosts our metabolism and aids in weight loss. 

Coconut water as a natural hydration and weight loss aid

Nutritional composition of coconut water

Coconut water as compared to soda has less added sugar and contains natural sweetness. The picture below shows the nutrient composition of water. Various ions such as calcium and potassium are in high quantities allowing for a balanced electrolytic drink. It is also very high in vitamin C which is needed to form collagen and muscles.

As it has high electrolytic content, it helps provide the feeling of satiety thereby reducing snacking and overeating. This is also supported by the thick nature of coconut water.

Coconut meat and weight loss

High fibre content and its role in appetite control

Coconut meat has a high fibre content which is necessary in providing the feeling of “feeling full”. Fibres take longer to chew as well as add density to the meal providing a sense of satiety. This helps in reducing the amount of calories consumed therefore helping with weight loss. Soluble fibres also elongate the intestinal phase of digestion giving rise to feeling full due to prolonged absorption of macronutrients.

Supporting healthy digestion and gut health

Since coconuts are high in fibre, they support healthy digestion and waste removal. Coconut contains Inulin, a prebiotic that can support healthy bacteria in the gut. Subsequently, the fibre along with inulin helps efficient waste removal and adds bulk to stool. Coconut water also contains enzymes like amylase which are required for proper digestion hence improving gut health.

Substituting snacks with coconut-based alternatives

For those with lactose intolerance, coconuts are a good alternative to replace the nutritional value of milk without compromising on taste. In drinks like coffee and milkshakes, coconut milk can be used to provide the creaminess generally associated with animal milk.

In terms of snacks, coconut oil is frequently used for fried goods as it contains healthy fats that can provide benefits. 

Incorporating coconut into your diet

Practical tips for adding coconut to meals

Coconuts can easily be incorporated into one’s diet as there are many forms it can be used in. Coconut water or milk can be used to make smoothies and milkshakes. Their slight sweetness makes them perfect for use in desserts as a substitute for animal milk. With the increase in people adopting a vegan lifestyle, coconut milk has become extremely popular. 

Another way of using coconuts in your meal is the use of flakes and the skin for curries and garnishes. It is a staple in many Asian dishes like laksa and thai curry. These are generally consumed with other anti-inflammatory ingredients which help reap more health benefits. In addition to these dishes, the skin also serves as a snack in terms of coconut flakes that can either be neutral or flavoured.

Coconut’s calorie density

Despite the numerous benefits of coconuts, they contain high amounts of calories and therefore need to be consumed in moderation. 100g of coconut has 453 calories, which is 1/5 the necessary calories an adult human needs in a day.

Coconuts are termed as saturated fats which come with several health benefits including cognitive function, therefore, it's important to regularly include them in our diet in strict proportions.

Exercise and coconut: a synergistic approach

Coconut and being active

Coconut on its own cannot aid weight loss so it needs to be accompanied by an active lifestyle. A combination of these can kickstart the weight loss process alongside a calorie deficit plan. 

Pre-workout energy with MCTs

Since coconut oil contains MCTs, it is perfect for pre-workout consumption (an hour before ideally). This time allows the MCTs to be digested and converted into ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are used as an alternate energy source to glucose therefore can provide quick fuel to muscles in pre-workout conditions. Since it energises and satiates one’s body, it reduces the need for carbohydrates for the feeling of being full hence reducing caloric intake. 

Post-workout recovery with coconut water

In terms of post-recovery drinks, coconut water is ideal as it contains electrolytes like calcium and sodium that are lost via sweat in a workout. It’s important to replace these naturally instead of always having sports drinks making coconut water the perfect choice. Additionally, it is high in potassium, another essential element that is required to prevent muscle cramping and improve recovery which is required to improve muscle endurance and growth.

It is also low in calories compared to sports drinks making it a good replacement. Subsequently, coconut water contains anti-oxidants that are necessary for relieving inflammation and oxidative stress. 

Pre and post-workout coconut-based snacks

There are many ways to consume coconut pre and post-workout. 

Some of the pre-workout snacks include coconut energy balls, coconut strips and coconut almond bars. Most of these can be easily homemade following online recipes.

Some of the post-workout snacks include coconut water, coconut yoghurt and coconut milk smoothies. Since it's important to have a well-rounded nutritional diet by the end of a workout, there needs to be a proportion of other ingredients alongside the coconut aspect.

Potential side effects and allergies

Brief overview of allergies and intolerances related to coconut

Coconut products can trigger the stomach linen of those with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). There is malabsorption of these products as the intestine is unable to properly digest fatty acids, leading to diarrhoea and cramps. Even though coconut is generally highly fibrous and helps in bowel movements, it is important to understand its effect on your body before consumption.

Those who are allergic to coconut develop rashes, swelling and cramps. Some individuals with tree-nut allergies also react adversely to coconuts therefore should try to avoid coconuts whenever possible to avoid any allergic reactions.

Summary

  • Coconut is powerful in causing weight loss when combined with an active lifestyle
  • Coconut can be consumed as oil, water, milk and flesh making it versatile in terms of weight-loss dishes
  • Coconut water is a natural way of consuming vitamins, minerals and electrolytes making it very useful as a pre and post-workout meal
  • Too much coconut might lead to an increased calorie consumption so it should be consumed in moderation
  • It should only be consumed if the person has no allergies or digestive problems
  • Although coconut provides numerous health benefits, it is very important to consult a healthcare professional before making drastic changes to your diet

References

  1. Yacoubian J, Gasparyan A. Coconut oil vs. coconut milk - what’s the difference? [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Sept 11]. Available from: https://foodstruct.com/compare/coconut-oil-vs-coconut-milk#a_h2_3 
  2. Nutrition facts for coconut , recommended daily values and analysis. [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sept 12]. Available from: https://nutrientoptimiser.com/nutritional-value-nuts-coconut-meat-dried-desiccated-sweetened-flaked-canned/ 
  3. Dayrit FM. The properties of Lauric acid and their significance in coconut oil. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 2014;92(1):1–15. doi:10.1007/s11746-014-2562-7 
  4. Hewlings S. Coconuts and health: Different chain lengths of saturated fats require different consideration. Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease. 2020;7(4):59. doi:10.3390/jcdd7040059 
  5. Ujifood. Natural refreshment: The power of Coconut Water as a post-workout recovery drink [Internet]. Medium; 2023 [cited 2023 Sept 21]. Available from: https://medium.com/@ujifood123/natural-refreshment-the-power-of-coconut-water-as-a-post-workout-recovery-drink-dcf083b79d5d 
  6. Hb Jill Castle M. How to cope if you’re allergic to coconut [Internet]. Verywell Health; 2023 [cited 2023 Sept 21]. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-coconut-allergy-diet-guide-1324149#:~:text=Summary,lips%2C%20tongue%2C%20and%20face
  7. Clark MJ, Slavin JL. The effect of fiber on satiety and Food Intake: A systematic review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2013;32(3):200–11. doi:10.1080/07315724.2013.791194 
  8. Tools OH. When to take MCT oil pre-workout [Internet]. https://www.openhealthtools.org/. 2021 [cited 2023 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.openhealthtools.org/when-to-take-mct-oil-pre-workout/#:~:text=MCT%20can%20be%20extremely%20useful
  9. Jadhav HB, Annapure US. Triglycerides of medium-chain fatty acids: a concise review. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2022 Jun 22;3.
  10. Saat M, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG, Nawawi M. Rehydration after Exercise with Fresh Young Coconut Water, Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Beverage and Plain Water. Journal of PHYSIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY and Applied Human Science. 2002;21(2):93–104.

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Best Milk Alternative
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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Soumya Iyer

International Baccalaureate, Natural Sciences, Global Schools Foundation

Soumya is currently an undergraduate student pursuing BSc Biological and Biomedical Sciences (joint degree with National University of Singapore) at the University of Dundee, Scotland. As someone very passionate about scientific communication, she’s undertaken this internship following her previous experience in writing scientific reports.

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