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Coconut Milk is My Latest Discovery – Hire or Fire?

Coconut – love it or hate it?

My whole life I have LOVED coconut.  In chocolates, in ambrosia, toasted (I mixed it in my butterscotch pudding pie), in macaroons, in Asian food, even mixed into my favorite flavored decaf coffee.  I’m lucky to have married someone who also loves coconut as much as I do.

So when I discovered it to be thought of as a beneficial part of a paleo diet I decided all was right with the world.  Then I decided I’d better do some research to make sure that I wasn’t going to mess up a good thing by adding it to my (thus far) successful new way of eating.  I’d rather not overwhelm you or myself but swinging back and forth with all the pros and cons one finds on the web, and will share information from only three of the websites I’ve read this morning.

I’m sure the food industry in this country would rather we keep eating the food they have produced for decades, and have had my suspicions confirmed by the extremely limited research and tiny test group results reported in all the information I found on the web today.  One report says the research was conducted using partially hydrogenated coconut oil – what??  Unless you’ve been in a coma this century you know that partially hydrogenated oils are the worst, most unhealthy oils you can put in your mouth.  Talk about skewing your results on purpose.  Also, there isn’t much recent data available – the sites I share with you below were written within the past 4 years.

What I understand, at this point, is that the coconut milk, made from processing the meat of the coconut to extract the oils which are then mixed with water, has a significant amount of saturated fat, specifically medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) that help contribute to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in our blood.  HDL is considered the “good” cholesterol and helps to balance out the bad LDL (I find that saying the first L stands for Lousy helps me remember which is the good & bad).  Some research is also finding that MCFA can have a positive influence on our metabolism.  With obesity holding epidemic status in this country, it is a shame that there aren’t more deep pockets focused on getting the facts about how we could turn our health around with the foods we buy.

Another interesting bit of info I picked up today deals with medium-chain triglycerides connected with coconut milk.  This one relates to sugar and how your body processes it.  My triglyceride numbers have been unacceptable since my mid-20’s but not one of my doctors provided guidelines specific to this issue.  I would think by now there would be more light shed on this condition and I’ve just added it to my personal research list.

Meanwhile, here are links to the three sites I mentioned, and I share these FYI.  I hope you might have some enlightening sources you will share with me, as well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_milk

Excerpt:

One of the most prominent components of coconut milk is coconut oil, which the United States Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, and Dietitians of Canada recommend against consuming in significant amounts due to its high levels of saturated fat.

Coconut milk contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises blood cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol that is also found in significant amounts in breast milk and sebaceous gland secretions. This may create a more favorable blood cholesterol profile, though it is unclear if coconut oil may promote atherosclerosis through other pathways. Because much of the saturated fat of coconut oil is in the form of lauric acid, coconut oil may be a better alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil when solid fats are required. In addition, virgin coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides, which may not carry the same risks as other saturated fats.  Early studies on the health effects of coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which creates trans fats, and not virgin coconut oil, which has a different health risk profile.

Coconut milk is rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which the body processes differently than other saturated fats. MCFAs may help promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels.

This article from the Los Angeles Times tells us that the jury is still out about the benefits of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) but you should not buy coconut milk in cans and that MCFAs may boost our metabolic rate:

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/22/health/la-he-0322-nutrition-lab-20100322

This last link is to a site written by a doctor who deals with nutritional influence on health and illness and I may sign up for his newsletter:

http://chriskresser.com/3-reasons-why-coconut-milk-may-not-be-your-friend

I still plan to keep a half-gallon carton of coconut milk in my fridge for the variety is offers and I love the taste.  I will use it in moderation and also ask my doctor to recommend a nutritional expert he feels can address some of my questions with up-to-the minute research data.  I’ll get back to you on this one – promise!

Cheers!

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Paleo Diet First Week Survival Stats

Day 7 of eating Paleo and I’m delighted that there is no reference in the book to counting calories or measuring servings.  Common sense and feeling a bit too full will guide you well, every time.  Trust me, I love salads and sauteed cabbage but I learned on day one that’s no reason to oink out on them.  I haven’t eaten this much animal protein in a long time but it has been nice to eat a burger guilt-free!  Make that a grass-fed beef burger sans bun, pickle, mustard or cheese. I can still have the onion, grilled lightly in butter first, thank you.

Truth be told, I’ve been going bun-less for the past year or two – they’re so white and airy and tasteless most of the time anyway.  What I really like (wicked grin spreading cross my face) is a thick slice of sourdough bread toasted to a nice tan and spread moderately with butter that melts right in…sigh (eyes rolling).  Yeah, really missing my morning toasts and coffee this week.  Bread was one thing I researched this summer when a colleague talked to me about what she called “wheat belly” and now that I am working on understanding the benefits of Paleo I find the information about grain consumption to be similar, and it’s beginning to make sense to me, now.

The idea, as expressed in the book is to go for 30 days consuming animal protein – eggs, beef, pork, poultry, and fish, along with tree nuts, seeds, leafy and green veggies, and fruit.  Also for this first 30 days I am to not have any caffeine, grains, legumes, sugar, starches, and dairy.  The goal is to clear out the body’s systems of those dietary culprits that contribute to altering or harming the natural condition. 

You may say “where are your carbs, where’s your fiber?”  and that’s a very good question considering these two words have been used everywhere and whenever someone wants to tell us what we need to do to eat healthy and stay healthy.  Turns out these dietary components have been part of the problem when not consumed properly, like overeating.  I’m only now starting to understand why some folks prefer to be gluten-free.  So, for the 30 day start-up phase, we do our best to go without them to help put the body’s systems back to its natural state, to settle the inflammation and distress that an improper diet can cause internally.

Obviously, with this much protein running through the pipes regular low-impact exercise is another focus for the first 30 days.  My 13-year-old Pomeranian, Frankie is delighted to get out for a walk with me every day and he is a very good walking companion if I keep him headed down the middle of the road and not zigging to this lamp post and zagging to that tree.  He starts out at a happy little trot and I keep up which gives me a good brisk walk for about 20 minutes.  Neither of us have had this much walking up to now, so I wanted to start out easy – this coming week I’ll add 10 minutes to the walk and continue to do so the following week, as well.  I’d like to do a 40 minute walk each day until the weather is warmer.  I know I feel revitalized after our walk and Frankie has a big drink of water and a nap.  See adorable photo below.

What I love about using this new diet:  butter, bacon, burgers, greater focus on vegetable varieties, and discovering the friendly folks at the farmers market where I buy my meat and veggies.  I was delighted to find decent organic choices at a local big box store, too!  Who knew?

What I miss:  coffee, chocolate, toast, pasta, “bakie tatties” as I happily refer to them, pancakes, pumpkin corn chips, bananas, my fruit teas* and prepared salad dressings.  Okay, I’ll try not to whine again, I promise.

By the way, I know that I keep referring to “the book” and if you want to know what book I’m working with please contact me.  I don’t want to promote one book over all the others out there promoting this new lifeway since I haven’t had a chance to read them all.  The book I use was recommended to me by someone I trust and that’s good enough for me.

Well, I hope you had a good weekend and you’re ready to start the work week…unless you work for someone who observes MLK Day and if so, sleep in!  You be so Paleo!

*I read the ingredient lists on the boxes of my favorite fruit tea bags and found that they contain soy lecithin  Since soy is part of the legume family, it is off this menu for the time being, and maybe later on but I need to research this particular element and I’ll let you know what I learn in another blog.  Meanwhile, do let me know what you think while learning and working this diet.    Cheers!

NOTE – I don’t endorse any ads that may appear at the bottom of my pages – FYI

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