Cracking the Coconut Craze
Coconut is having a major moment: hailed as a superfood, weight-loss secret weapon, and healthy kitchen superstar all rolled into one—coconut now sits at the center of many obsessions. And, it's showing up in a bevy of kitchen staples from vegan bacon strips to coconut flours, and cold-pressed oils to coconut creamers.
Is Coconut Oil Healthy?
You are seeing more and more coconuts and coconut products on the shelves for good reason. Functional medicine prizes cold-pressed coconut oil for its medium-chain triglycerides (which may have beneficial effects on metabolism and insulin), lauric acid (a natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral), and coconut's ability to give “good” HDL cholesterol a boost.
But, it's fair to be skeptical. The truth is that many health professionals remain divided on coconut’s heath merits. Medical groups such as the American Heart Association and Harvard School of Public Health have urged caution due to coconut’s ability to raise LDL cholesterol and its high saturated fat content.
How to Shop for Coconuts
If you do choose to shop for this touted health food, there are a few important things to keep in mind. As you shop, how can you be sure you're choosing the best brands? It's vital to choose brands that are are building solutions to help lower coconut’s environmental impact, and not the opposite. Unlike a lot of other well known steps we often take to eat cleaner and more sustainably, coconuts can be harder to crack. (For starters, they're not going to show up in our CSA box anytime soon!)
In a nutshell, whether you’re whipping up smoothies or churning out coconut ice cream this summer, here are the 4 easy tips I recently shared with Clean Eating Magazine to help you choose the most eco-friendly and ethical options from this far-flung favorite.
1. Support eco-friendly public-private partnerships.
Look for coconut products that have partnerships with respected global conservation groups like Conservation International, where each purchase you make helps replenish and restore habitats.
2. Choose organic or Fair Trade Certified.
These 3rd party certifications ensure things like less intensive on-farm practices, commitment to biodiversity, pesticide-free agriculture, and fair wages.
3. Look for high-quality cold-pressed or raw oils.
Smaller batch, hand processing, and traditional methods are typically more eco-friendly than refined processing (which uses industrial chemicals) and large scale equipment.
4. Opt for coconut powder.
Instead of coconut water, look for dehydrated coconut powder which packs in potassium and other electrolytes, while using less packaging and requires fewer fossil fuels to ship to market.
Ready to learn more? Check out my full article over at Clean Eating Magazine: Cracking the Coconut Craze.