On a recent grocery store trip, I noticed many different coconut products. Coconut water comes in a variety of flavors including coconut crème, coconut bonbons and coconut oil. Although coconut milk and shredded coconut have been sitting on grocery store shelves for years, coconut products have recently taken off in the retail and grocery store market. Coconut water sales have jumped by more than $56 million, according to Kaplan University. What is causing this coconut craze?
Coconut water, taken from young, green coconuts, is potassium rich, containing as much potassium as a banana. Despite being a source of electrolytes, no studies have shown that coconut water hydrates better than plain old water. It is low in sugar and calories, so it can be healthy in moderation, but is not suggested as a substitute for water.
Coconut oil might also be increasing in popularity due to the rumored health benefits of its medium chain fatty acids, which are absorbed more efficiently than long chain fatty acids and require less processing in our body.
Some studies have shown that consuming MCFAs may help increase energy expenditure shortly after consumption. Additional studies have suggested that coconut oil may help fight tooth decay, help combat memory loss and has high levels of antioxidants. Coconut oil is a great butter-like alternative for vegans, vegetarians and those avoiding dairy. Extremely high in saturated fat, coconut oil should be used in moderation.
Coconut sweetener, the newest coconut product to be released, is made from the nectar of the coconut flower. Also called coconut sap sugar or coconut palm sugar, it looks like a granulated brown sugar and smells and tastes like molasses.
Unlike other sweeteners, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index, which indicates that it does not raise your blood sugar level as high as other sweeteners, such as agave syrup or white sugar. Coconut sugar has high levels of B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and zinc. It is suitable for baking and may be used in a one-to-one ratio for recipes. Try using it in your next batch of cookies.
It appears that this increase in coconut products and consumer demand for them may be caused by the widely advertised health benefits in addition to the increasing popularity of coconut-based products. More research is still needed to determine the effect of coconut on our health and food habits.
Coconut products were considered one of the top five trends at the
Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, indicating that coconut is definitely here to stay. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that consuming coconut and coconut products may be healthy as long as they are consumed in moderation. The market trend appears to indicate that more coconut products are just around the corner. What will come out next? My guess is coconut-based pudding.
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