Why Coconut Products are Good for the Paleo Diet
This blog does not intend to provide diagnosis...
In this article:
- Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
- Health Benefits of Coconut Milk Powders and Creamers
- Health Benefits of Coconut Meat
The Paleo Diet, also called the Paleolithic, caveman, or hunter-gatherer diet, is a way of eating based on what proponents claim were the foods available to prehistoric humans in the Old Stone Age or Paleolithic Era (roughly 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 B.C.).1 The foundation of the paleo diet is an emphasis on lean proteins such as lean cuts of red meat, poultry, pork, wild fish, and shellfish. The diet also emphasizes eggs, organ meats, and moderate amounts of fruit and non-starchy vegetables, along with healthy fats from seeds, nuts, olive oil, and avocados.
For several reasons, unsweetened coconut products have become very popular among followers of paleo and ketogenic diets. Like other nuts, coconut meat is mostly low in carbohydrates and is filled with healthy fats. Coconut products are also extremely flavorful.
The taste and health benefits of coconut products suitable for the Paleo Diet include:
- Coconut Oil
- Coconut milk powders and creamers
- Coconut meat
- Dried (shredded, flakes, or chips)
While coconut oil is largely composed of saturated fat, it is a different type of saturated fat than found in meat, cheese, and other dairy products. The saturated fats in coconut oil are shorter and utilized by the body in beneficial ways. Specifically, coconut oil contains about 65% medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), preferentially burned as energy versus being stored, increase in the body’s metabolic rate. MCTs can increase the burning of calories (thermogenesis) by as much as 50%, and they may also help the hormone insulin work better to help stabilize blood sugar levels.1 These effects explain why some clinical studies have shown that coconut oil promotes weight loss, but more research is needed on this use.2
Coconut oil can be used as a cooking oil for sautéing, pan-frying, and stir-frying at temperatures below 350° F. It can also replace butter in any baking recipe on a 1:1 basis. And because coconut oil is solid at cooler room temperatures or in the refrigerator, it makes a delicious spread or dip. Note: Coconut butter is pureed coconut that behaves like butter as a spread.
Coconut milk is produced from the meat of coconuts commercially by grating and grinding. It can vary in thickness based upon the ratio of the grated meat to water. Thicker coconut milk is generalized as coconut cream and has the highest soluble, suspended solids and a fat content of 20 to 50%. In contrast, coconut milk typically has a fat content of a maximum of 20% fat to negligible amounts of fat.
Coconut milk and cream are available in both liquid and dried forms. Both dried coconut milk powder and coconut creamers have become popular additions to coffee, hot cocoa, and other beverages.
The health benefits of dried coconut milk powder and coconut creamers are foremost related to the rich source of MCTs. However, these products also supply some antioxidants to help protect the body from oxidative damage that can lead to inflammation, poor immune response and accelerated aging.3
The simplest form of coconut is raw or dried meat. This form has the full range of nutritional compounds provided in coconut. Dried coconut products include shredded coconut and coconut flakes or chips. Shredded coconut is often added to fruit salads and used in baking recipes, while coconut flakes and chips are popular snack foods.
- Deen A, Visvanathan R, Wickramarachchi D, Marikkar N, Nammi S, Jayawardana BC, Liyanage R. Chemical composition and health benefits of coconut oil: an overview. J Sci Food Agric. 2021 Apr;101(6):2182-2193. Doi: 10.1002/jsfa.10870.
- Clegg ME. They say coconut oil can aid weight loss, but can it really? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017 Oct;71(10):1139-1143.
- Shahid MB, Sultana B, Akhtar MS. Nutritional and health benefits of coconut milk powder: A review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2020;60(7):1041-1051.