Coconut and Cholesterol

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Coconut and Cholesterol

Post  mrsamct on Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:20 am

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Despite the name, coconut is not truly a nut. Rather, it is a fruit (drupe type) of the palm, Cocos nucifera. It is the endosperm of coconut fruit that is edible. In a tender coconut, the endosperm is liquid, and is widely consumed as coconut water. As the fruit matures, it hardens to a white, solid meat. Coconut is consumed in a number of ways. But, what remains doubtful amongst health conscious people is, whether this tropical fruit negatively affects the heart and cholesterol levels or not.

Coconut Nutrition Facts

For better understanding about the relation between coconut and cholesterol levels, let's try to understand the nutritional value of this fruit. Coconut is a storehouse for some of the essential nutrients for the body. The health benefits of coconut are attributed to dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals present in it. But, the concerning issue is, presence of high quantities of saturated fat in coconut oil and alike products. As per nutrition data, the percentage content of fat in this fruit is higher than that of fatty dairy products, margarine and butter. This is where the confusion arises about coconut effect on cholesterol.

Effects of Coconut on Cholesterol Level

Refer to coconut health benefits, and you will come across the claim that this tropical food is beneficial for lowering high cholesterol levels. Well, it is a debatable issue, taking into consideration the high fat content of coconut. Lots of researches have been carried out with regards to coconut and cholesterol. It is found that approximately half of the saturated fat in coconut are lauric acid. This fatty acid having a medium long chain is present in mother's milk, which is beneficial for counteracting the actions of pathogens. And myristic acid responsible for increasing cholesterol accounts to about 19 percent of total fats in coconut fruit. Coconut consumption and its actual impact on cholesterol level is discussed below.

Coconut Water and Cholesterol
Coconut water is used as a refreshing drink in tropical areas, where coconuts are produced on a large scale. This nutritious liquid is believed to lower total cholesterol level, while raising the percentage of good cholesterol. A study conducted in animal models reveal that coconut water is effective for reducing total cholesterol by about 26 percent, and increasing good cholesterol to as high as 46 percent.

Coconut Milk and Cholesterol
Don't confuse coconut milk with that of coconut water or juice. It is prepared by grating coconut meat and treating it with hot water (or milk). As expected, it contains saturated fat, but lesser than that of coconut oil. When served in large amounts, it raises total cholesterol level. Fresh coconut milk is a better alternative to canned and packaged products. You can read more on coconut milk nutrition.

Coconut Oil and Cholesterol
A type of tropical oil, the percentage of saturated fatty acids in coconut oil is relatively high. But, the fats in unprocessed coconut oil are not the culprit for raising bad cholesterol. When virgin coconut oil is hydrogenated or processed, the fatty acids get converted to trans fats, which play a major role in increasing LDL. To be more precise, hydrogenated coconut oil is unhealthy for heart.

The bottom line is, coconut and its products do play a role in elevation of total cholesterol. But, along with increase in bad cholesterol, the good cholesterol level is increased. In short, the ratio of HDL/LDL is increased, thereby reducing the chances for heart diseases. And one more thing, coconut provides various nutrients to the body. So, a healthy approach is to monitor consumption amount of coconut, and reduce intake of other foods rich in saturated fats. This will minimize the risks for high cholesterol and heart diseases, while you still get the benefits of coconut.

mrsamct

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