Is Coconut Milk Good For You?
by Alan Wong
One of medical columnist Mitchell Hecht's readers recently asked a good question related to Thai food. The reader said they enjoy Thai food, but wondered about dishes with coconut milk.
The reason they asked is because coconuts sometimes have a bad reputation. They have a high fat content (70 percent) with 90 percent of that being saturated fat.
Hecht then picked up an old April 2003 study in Atherosclerosis that compared the number of deaths from heart disease between residents of Singapore and Hong Kong. The study found that deaths from heart disease were about three times higher in Singapore. Researchers cited one factor could be a higher consumption of coconut and palm oil in Singapore.
"While experts are still debating the matter, the cautious thing would be to limit the amount of all saturated fats," he concludes.
And, that said, Mitchell Hecht is wrong. Any time you consider eating foods, you have to weigh the potential risks with the potential benefits. First thing's first, coconut in coconut milk and coconut oil has not been shown to increase cholesterol levels. Rather, some studies show that coconut actually lowers cholesterol and raises HDL in some populations.
Thailand, where coconut is abundant in the diet, has the lowest cancer rate of the 50 countries surveyed by the National Cancer Institute. So it could very well be that the Singapore diet has other factors involved that have nothing to do with coconuts.
Why Coconut Is Good For You.
Coconut milk is a good source of calcium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and iron. The recent trend in drinking coconut water is related to these nutrients as well as the fact that coconut water measures the same pH as our blood. According to one wellness center article, coconut milk and coconut oil contain lauric acid, which is considered antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal.
Coconut milk is also believed to cause the disintegration of viruses, including HIV, measles, herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus influenza virus, and pneumonovirus. And, it can eliminate many fungi, yeast, and protozoa, including several species of ringworm. Even more amazingly, coconut oil can help decrease white fat stores, produce fewer fat cells, and improve the body’s metabolic rate.
So how could a medical health columnist get it mostly wrong? The only time fats in coconut oil are bad for you is when those fats are hydrogenated and turned into trans fatty acids that they become harmful. Trans fatty acids are what can cause a rise in blood cholesterol, but these substances do not occur naturally in coconut oil.
If we had to guess, the columnist probably researched some studies on the presumption the reader's concern was valid. So, he looked up studies that say coconut oil is good for you, or bad for you, and made an "educated" opinion based on those studies. While he did say "an occasional Thai meal made with coconut milk isn't going to cause heart disease," the whole answer made coconut milk look suspect.
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