Standard medical advice has long proclaimed that the consumption of saturated fats can increase the risk of heart disease. So then why are coconuts, which are loaded with saturated fat, one of my Sinatra's Super Foods? Because convincing research has shown that the saturated fats in tropical oils such as coconut do not contribute to heart disease and, in fact, there are multiple coconut health benefits for your cardiovascular system, as well as the rest of your body.
Polynesian Islanders Enjoy Coconut Health Benefits
In a population study of the Polynesian islands of Tokelau and Pukapuka, investigators tracked folks who consumed a high-fat diet derived primarily from coconuts—every one of their meals contained coconut in one form or another. The researchers reported that their overall health was much more favorable than that of Westerners and that despite a diet high in saturated fat, the participants did not seem to have high cholesterol (saturated fat is usually broken down into cholesterol). And coronary heart disease, colitis, colon cancer and other bowel disorders occurred only rarely.
The truth is, even though coconut oil is a highly saturated fat, it's the oil least vulnerable to oxidative stress and free-radical formation. And because coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids—not the long-chain fatty acids in most fats/oils—it doesn't have a negative impact on cholesterol levels. In fact, coconut oil actually reduces LDL cholesterol levels, raises beneficial HDL levels, and makes blood platelets less sticky. Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, which is a natural antiviral and antibacterial compound, and myristic acid, another important fatty acid used by the immune system to fight tumors.
Coconut Recipes for You
I'm so nuts about the health benefits of coconuts, that I recommend incorporating them into your daily diet. One good way to do this is to cook with coconut oil, as its fatty content is very heat-stable and holds up the best against oxidation in cooking. You can also consume coconut oil straight—a tablespoon three times a day—or added to steamed vegetables, stirred into hot cereals or mixed with olive oil for salad dressings. Look for unrefined and organic coconut oil in your local health-food store.
There are also lots of tasty ways to enjoy the health benefits of coconut and coconut products, such as coconut milk. Shredded coconut is a great topper for cereals, salads and yogurt. And it's the perfect addition to any trail mix. Coconut milk can be used to make shakes and smoothies. You can also pour it over hot or cold cereal or seasonal organic berries. I like to bake fish in coconut milk to keep it moist and enhance the flavor. And I love using coconut water, which is loaded with blood pressure-lowering potassium, in the following recipe for my morning fruit-vegetable drink. (Get more heart-healthy recipes.)
The Sinatra Sizzle Coconut Recipe
Throw at least eight of the following fruits and vegetables (make sure to use organic whenever possible) into a blender—adjusting the proportions to your taste:
- Swiss chard
- Brussels sprouts
Along with your selected produce, add in coconut water. I prefer Taste Nirvana Real Coconut Water with Pulp, 9.5 oz., which is available at health-food stores. Then simply blend all together. I drink 6 to 8 ounces once or twice a day, and make enough at a time to last a week.