Coconut oil, milk, water, flesh – what is the difference
Coconut is a popular food and has different products that are produced from it:
Coconut oil is a fat that is made from the pressed flesh of the coconut. It is useful cooking oil and can be used to prepare many amazing dishes. 80-90% of coconut oil is saturated fat, which doesn’t bode well for your health.
Whether the large fat content of coconut oil is healthy or not is still debated (see pros and cons), we tend to agree with Harvard Health Publishing:
I’d use coconut oil sparingly. Most of the research so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels. We don’t really know how coconut oil affects heart disease. And I don’t think coconut oil is as healthful as vegetable oils like olive oil and soybean oil(source)
Coconut oil also has antioxidant and antistress effects.
Two main types of coconut oil exist:
- virgin coconut oil: it is made from fresh coconut meat
- refined coconut oil: it is made by pressing the dried coconut flesh
Coconut milk and cream are the results of heating the coconut meat in water then filtering the end product. It is rich in fiber and has various health benefits like weight loss, digestion.
Just like oil, coconut milk and cream contain a lot of calories and fat. Therefore they should be consumed in moderation, if at all.
Both milk and cream have their advantages and disadvantages, but most experts seem to agree that they cannot be considered healthy. Other plant-based milks, like soy or almond, are preferred.
Coconut water is the juice usually found in the center of the young green coconut. It is the source of nourishment for the fruit. As the coconut gets mature, the water remains in liquid form, and the rest ripens into the solid white flesh, also known as coconut meat.
Coconut water is typically found in young coconuts about 6-7 months of age but can also be found in mature coconut.
Unlike milk and oil, coconut water is low in calories, and drinking it can be a good way to stay hydrated.
Pros and cons of coconut
In terms of the benefits of coconut, it is highly nutritious and provides mostly fat compared to other fruits, which are rich in fiber. Coconuts are rich in manganese which is important for healthy bone growth.
Coconut is also rich in iron and copper and helps in the formation of red blood cells. Coconuts are rich in selenium, an antioxidant that keeps your cells protected.
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are metabolized differently in the body and rapidly converted into energy. They are also helpful for the heart and can also reduce belly fat.
On the downside, coconuts are also high in calories and might lead to weight gain.
Some people are also allergic to coconuts and should avoid all coconut products.
If you have high cholesterol, you should always consult with your healthcare provider before eating to determine your risk of heart disease. The effect of coconut on cholesterol is still debated, although there are studies – like this one – that suggest coconut oil is still better than e.g. butter.
Can coconut cause chest or stomach pain after eating?
While coconut water is considered a safe drink even if you have digestion problems, coconut oil and milk might not be that easy on your belly.
The most common reasons why cooconut might trigger stomach or chest pain after eating are simply eating too much, allergy, and acid reflux.
Eating too much
Since coconut gives a delicious taste to most foods, it is very easy to eat too much of such foods.
Eating too much can cause digestion problems, even for healthy people. If you have an underlying health condition, like acid reflux, or gallbladder problems, your chances to experience stomach or chest problems are even higher.
Coconut allergy is very-very rare. If you have a tree nut allergy, you might still be able to eat coconut. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology:
Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to your allergist before adding coconut to your diet.(source)
The most common allergic reactions are mild to moderate:
- itchy eyes
- runny nose
- stomach pain
However, sometimes allergic reactions can be very serious, e.g. anaphylaxis. If coconut or any other food causes you allergic reactions, make sure to consult with your doctor!
Coconut and heartburn
Acid reflux affects about 20% of the people in the US. Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux, it is a burning sensation in the middle of the chest, caused by stomach acids flowing back into the esophagus.
Many people try to soothe their symptoms by using coconut products. Let’s see how the different coconut products interact with acid reflux.
Is coconut water good for acid reflux?
For anyone with acid reflux, unsweetened coconut water is a great option for dealing with the condition.
Coconut water is one of the best sources of helpful electrolytes. These electrolytes help your body maintain an optimal pH balance. As such, you will be able to control acid reflux and prevent symptoms like heartburn.
Coconut water is alkaline and can easily bring your acid levels back in check when you have a reflux attack. The water also soothes your stomach and prevents constipation.
In addition, coconut water is easy to digest and replenishes your body’s water content when you have lost bodily fluids due to gastric illnesses.
Is coconut milk good for acid reflux?
Coconut milk might be soothing and alkaline, but it also has high-fat levels. As such, it could be problematic for acid reflux symptoms. The high-fat content means that coconut milk triggers the secretion of more acid in the stomach.
While it is being digested, the acid levels in the gut increase. Coconut milk can make the effects of acid reflux a lot worse. Coconut milk, unlike coconut water, is not ideal for dealing with acid reflux.
It would be best only to drink it in moderation as the high fat takes longer to digest. It is best to avoid coconut milk when you are experiencing symptoms of acid reflux. It does not help as much as coconut water does, which makes the difference.
Whether coconut is healthy food and a good acid reflux remedy or not is still debated.
Most experts seem to agree that coconut water is safe to consume and can be part of any healthy diet.
However, coconut milk still seems to be controversial, some say it’s healthy and safe to consume, others say you should only consume it in moderation. Experts only agree that more research is needed.