Crazy for coconuts
Fuzzy, round coconuts are the latest darling of the food world. New coconut products are lining up in natural food store shelves, such as Nutiva Coconut Manna, an organic, creamy coconut spread made from dried coconut flesh that can be used as an ingredient in foods or as a simple spread to replace butter, peanut butter or mayonnaise.
Coconut Manna is to coconuts what peanut butter is to peanuts; it’s just milled coconut mixed with coconut oil for smoothness. Its calorie count, total fat and fiber content are quite similar to peanut butter. Where the real difference lies is in Coconut Manna’s fat profile. Peanut butter, as is the case with most nut butters, is low in saturated fats and high in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Coconut Manna is so high in saturated fats – one tablespoon provides eight grams – that it’s solid at room temperature; you have to dip the jar in warm water in order to spread it.
Preliminary research indicates that coconuts may have anti-inflammatory properties. Sure, Coconut Manna is high in fat, but remember that today’s health consensus is that our fat phobia over the past few decades has done more harm than good to our health, since we tended to replace fat in our diets with refined carbs.
Unfounded health claims for coconut fats, such as prevention of HIV, cancer and diabetes, abound on the Internet. Controversy still swirls around whether coconut fat, naturally high in saturated fat, is a “healthy” fat. Researchers in Asia, where coconut oil is widely consumed, present both sides of the debate.
One camp says that Asian countries that have been relying for decades upon coconut oil, which contains different types of saturated fatty acids than animal fats, show no significant evidence of deleterious health effects, while the other camp points to the increasing rates of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity in populations like India where coconut oil intake is rising.
The American Heart Association still cautions you to limit saturated fats, including coconut oil, to below 7 percent of your total calories – that’s about 16 grams per day for the average person. If you use this rule of thumb, one tablespoon of Coconut Manna would use up half of your allotment for the day. Until there’s more research, it’s probably best to enjoy Coconut Manna in small doses.