Posts Tagged ‘food’

NOTE: This is a repost of my latest article written for the Huffiness Institute at Texas A&M University, which you can find at this link.

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Recently, coconut oil has exploded in popularity: it is added to coffee, used in cooking, and even consumed by the spoonful. This begs the question of what exactly makes coconut such a “miracle food”? A number of organizations advise against the consumption of coconut oil because of its high saturated fat (SF) content, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and American Heart Association.  Indeed, coconut oil is approximately 90% SF (14), which has generally been shown to increase total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol. However, fatty acids vary in their number of carbons, yielding different categories of chain length that affect fat metabolism.  Coconut oil is mainly composed of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), which may give it unique properties that differentiate it from other SF.

Lauric acid is a 12-carbon MCFA that makes up 50% of coconut oil. Studies have shown that lauric acid may have a lesser effect on total and LDL cholesterol compared to other SF (4), and any increase in total cholesterol is attributed to increased HDL cholesterol (5, 9). Lauric acid is not degraded in the intestines, but is transported directly to the liver where it easily diffuses into mitochondria to be converted into acetyl-CoA and ketone bodies for energy (2, 5). Lauric acid is the most highly oxidized fatty acid, therefore contributing least to fat accumulation (5). Additionally, it has been shown to exhibit antibiotic and antiviral properties that may positively impact immune function (5, 11).

Animal studies have shown that virgin coconut oil supplementation in rats decreases total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, and abdominal fat while increasing HDL cholesterol (11, 15). Surveys of Pacific Islanders who obtain 50-80% of their energy from coconut sources have lower rates of cardiovascular disease (13), and such coconut-based diets show reduced markers of heart attack risks (9). During a weight-loss intervention in women, exercise with coconut oil supplementation increased HDL while decreasing both LDL:HDL and waist circumference (1); another study showed an increase in HDL with coconut oil supplementation in women but not in men (4).

Fewer studies have looked at the effect of coconut oil on exercise performance. An animal model showed that mice fed MCFAs significantly increased their swimming endurance, with increased markers of fat oxidation and ketone body utilization (6). A case study on elite endurance cyclists who were fed high SF diets containing coconut oil showed greater endurance capacity compared to a polyunsaturated diet (8).

While little research is available on the effects of coconut oil ingestion on exercise performance, the high concentrations of MCFAs (specifically lauric acid) exhibit potential for application to athletes. These fatty acids are available for “quick” energy while contributing least to fat accumulation, which could positively impact performance. Additionally, the general population may benefit from increased HDL cholesterol, lower LDL:HDL, and decreased abdominal obesity by consuming coconut oil in place of other SF. All of these properties together suggest that perhaps the “coconut craze” may have some truth to it after all.

coconut

References:

1. Assuncao M.L., H.S. Ferreira, A.F. dos Santos, C.R. Cabral Jr, T.M.M.T. Florencio. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. 44(7):593-601. 2009.

2. Bach and Babayan. Medium-chain triglycerides: an update. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 36:950-962. 1982.

3. Chempro: http://www.chempro.in/fattyacid.htm (accessed 7/1/2015)

4. Cox, C., J. Mann, A. Chisholm, M. Skeaff. Effects of coconut oil, butter, and safflower oil on lipids and lipoproteins in persons with moderately elevated cholesterol levels. Journal of Lipid Research. 36(8):1787-1795. 1995.

5. Dayrit, F.M. The properties of lauric acid and their significance in coconut oil. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society. 92(1):1-15. 2015.

6. Fushiki, T., K. Matsumoto, K. Inoue K, T. Kawada. Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by chronic consumption of medium-chain triglycerides. Journal of Nutrition. 125:531-539. 1995.

7. Lukaski, H.C., W.W. Bolonchuk, L.M. Klevay, J.R. Mahalko, D.B. Milne, H.H. Sandstead. Influence of type and amount of dietary lipid on  plasma concentrations in endurance athletes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 39:35-44. 1984.

8. Lukaski, H.C., W.W. Bolonchuk, L.M. Klevay, J.R. Mahalko, D.B. Milne, H.H. Sandstead. Interactions among dietary fat, mineral status, and performance of endurance athletes: a case study. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 11:186-198. 2001.

9. Mensink, R.P., P.L. Zock, A.D.M. Kester, M.B. Katan. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 77(5):1146-1155. 2003.

10. Muller, H., A.S. Lindman, A. Blomfeldt, I. Seljeflot, J.I. Pedersen. A diet rich in coconut oil reduces diurnal postprandial variations in circulating tissue plasminogen activator antigen and fasting liproprotein (a) compared with a diet rich in unsaturated fat in women. Journal of Nutrition. 133(11):3422-3427. 2003.

11. Nevin, K.G., T. Rajamohan. Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Clinical Biochemistry. 37(9):830-835. 2004.

12. Nevin, K.G., T. Rajamohan. Virgin coconut oil supplemented diet increases the antioxidant status in rats. Food Chemistry. 99(2):260-266. 2006.

13. Prior, I.A., F. Davidson, C.E. Salmond, Z. Czochanska. Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: the Pukapuka and Tokelau island studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 34(8):1552-1561. 1981.

14. USDA: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/636?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=Coconut+Oil (accessed 7/1/2015)

15. Zulet, M.A., A. Barber, H. Garcin, P. Higueret, J.A. Martinez. Alterations in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism induced by a diet rich in coconut oil and cholesterol in a rat model. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 18(1):36-42. 1999.

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Sometimes just looking at a meal plan just won’t cut it. You want to know exactly what should/should not be in your kitchen and you want to see examples. So, to continue on the inventory I have been taking of my foods, I bring you: my pantry!

 

  • Mom’s Best Naturals Oat and Honey cereal
  • Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes
  • Muesli
  • Cranberry Cashew Granola
  • Levant Falafel Chips
  • Whole Wheat Pita Chips
  • Silver Hills Big 16 bread
  • Xtreme Wellness spinach and herb tortillas
  • Whole wheat fig bars
  • ProBar Superfood slam
  • Earnest Eats cran-lemon zest food bar
  • Trail mix
  • Energy bites
  • Kind fruit and nut bars
  • Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats
  • Ronzoni 100% whole wheat pasta
  • Slivered almonds
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • RiceSelect Texmati rice
  • RiceSelect tri color orzo
  • Ronzoni Garden Delight veggie pasta
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Canned lima beans
  • Canned chili beans
  • Canned peaches
  • Canned mixed greens
  • Whole flax meal
  • Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour
  • Goya coconut milk
  • Goya black beans
  • Local honey
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Raw peanut butter
  • Raw peanut butter with dark chocolate
  • Garden of Life Raw Meal
  • Nuun electrolyte enhanced drink tablets
  • Vitamin C
  • Swanson Joint Care
  • Sundown Natural adult gummy multivitamin

So for all of those who ask me if they need to cut out carbs to eat clean, you can probably see my answer! Just be sure to go for complex carbs, like whole grains, not overly processed foods or simple sugars. Happy eating!

Per reader suggestion, here is your first Meal of the Week brought to you by my Sunday morning breakfast. Obviously, you may not have time to cook something up like this every day (and don’t worry, I’ll get around to some quicker morning meals here soon) but on the days you do, this is a great, high-protein start to your day.

Here’s what you see:

1. Orgain

2. Eggs (2)

3. Toast (1)

4. Low sodium, 1% milk fat Cottage Cheese (1 serving) with strawberries

5. Water (8 oz)

Here’s why you see it:

1. Orgain is an organic protein supplement with zero saturated fat, 10 servings of fruits and veggies, 24 vitamins and minerals, gluten-free, with no artificial sweeteners. Since I’ve been drinking this in the mornings, I haven’t even needed my daily coffee as a pick-me-up! The vitamins in this drink will fuel you all morning long while the protein/carb mix helps build lean muscle.

2. Eggs, of course, are high protein. I will eat mine fried or scrambled, but here is a good tip for cooking eggs: instead of using butter, try an olive oil pan spray.

3. Toast gives me some extra carbs to make sure I feel full, plus it’s a great source of whole grains. Look for low sugar fruit preserves or use honey as a topping.

4. Cottage cheese is another great source of protein, and opt for the full fat version if you’re regularly training/working out (I get 4% milk fat)! I mixed strawberries in with mine to get another serving of fruit for the day.

5. Water needs no explanation! Remember, anytime you drink some sort of protein shake,  you should drink at least as much water.

Be on the lookout for more meal ideas each week!