In simple terms carbohydrate present in the foods we eat consists of two parts - digestible carbohydrate (this gives energy and is basically sugar / starch) and non-digestible carbohydrate (this is what we call dietary fibre).
Fresh coconut meat has one of the highest percentage (71%) of fiber as percentage of carbohydrate.
Other common foods we eat and their fiber percentages are - carrots (29%), cabbage (50%), spinach (57%), almonds (56%), potato (10%), tomato (33%), etc.
As you can see of the common foods we take, none even come closer to the fiber content of a coconut.
But why so much fuss about fiber?
What does this fiber actually do for us?
In fact in till mid 20th century fiber was considered to be a waste as it does not provide any nutrients to the body.
But with observation and experimentation today we know that fiber is very essential for proper functioning of the body and lack of it causes numerous disorders.
It is no wonder these disorders are related to our highly processed diets of 21st century and unhealthy lifestyle.
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Benefits of Coconut Fibre
While we are discussing the benefits of fiber, as coconut is rich in fiber, the benefits can be attributed to coconut. Here are the benefits:
1. Helps in constipation
Constipation is one of most prevalent digestive disorders today.
One interesting thing about this is many people even do not know they are constipated! Constipation in itself does not cause an issue but is the trigger of numerous others.
Hemorrhoids, anal fissures, varicose veins, heartburn, toxic accumulation, and many more caused due to constipation. One key reason is the lack of fiber, another being a lack of physical activity.
Most of the foods we eat today are processed or refined and thus lack fiber content. Our body requires 20-35 gms fiber a day while in most cases the input is not more than 10-15 gms per day.
Because of the lack of fiber, digested material (digestion happens in the small intestine) does not move properly and fast enough inside our large intestine.
In this case, large intestine absorbs more and more fluid out of the feces making it solid and hard making it tougher to move out.
This condition is what we call constipation.
Adding raw coconut meat to your diet can help with constipation. Of course one also needs to do physical activity to get the maximum benefit.
2. Promotes intestinal health
Intestine plays a very important part in our body.
This is where all the nutrients from the food we eat are absorbed. fiber plays an important part here too.
While it offers nothing in terms of nourishment it helps in providing conducting environment for good bacteria to flourish in our intestines.
These bacteria are essential for synthesizing important nutrients for body health such as vitamins etc.
These are not the only reason. Another very important factor is that fiber we eat acts as raw material for synthesis of short chained fatty acids or SCFAs (health-promoting bacteria develop them inside our gut).
These SCFAs have powerful anti-microbial action as medium chain fatty acids (present in coconut). This checks the development of harmful bacteria present in our guts (candida, yeast, etc.).
Coconut fiber is a great food for gut bacteria and helps in overall intestinal health. It helps in preventing various diseases such as colitis, candida, irritable bowel syndrome, crohn's disease, etc.
3. Helps in losing weight
When we eat food we gain energy. If we overeat that extra energy is stored as fat for future use by our body. How can fiber help? It helps in these ways:
- fiber has no nutrients and energy! Thus irrespective of how much you eat it there is no weight gain. So when one eats fiber-rich diet, he is actually reducing the number of fats and other energy providing foods which help gain weight
- Reduces diet: many people find it tough to diet, for them a fiber-rich diet is a great solution. fiber absorbs water and expands and thus our stomach feels full, thus we eat less! Eating less again helps in controlling calorie intake and weight loss.
Because of the above two factors, half a cup of coconut a day can help you reduce as much as 10% of calorie intake.
This is in spite of that fact that coconut oil present in coconut is saturated fat rich.
In my opinion, this happens because the fat is medium chain fatty acids which are easily absorbed and converted to energy rather than stored.
Diabetes takes the lives of thousands and thousands of people yearly. When we eat carbohydrates it is converted into glucose in our body and enter the bloodstream.
Glucose in blood is then transferred to cells using insulin. In case of diabetic patients, insulin quantity is not sufficient enough to do so, thus glucose level in the blood remains high which is dangerous.
As the conversion of carbohydrate (sugar and starch) into glucose happen rapidly a diabetic body is not able to cope up with it. But is the same happens at a slower pace it is easier to control.
This is how fiber helps. It helps regulate blood sugar naturally by slowing the process and rate of carbohydrate conversion into glucose.
Studies have found out that eating a fiber-rich diet reduces the requirement of external insulin doses.
Coconut not only provides much-needed fiber but also helps lower the glycemic index (Glycemic index defines how much a food can increase the blood sugar level, foods with high glycemic index are bad) of foods one eats.
Thus the potentially dangerous impact of high glycemic index foods is lowered.
5. Cancer benefits
As already mentioned above fiber promotes colon and intestinal health.
Dietary fiber is known to decrease the risk of colon cancer which is one cancer responsible for most fatalities. How fiber helps in reducing colon cancer risk? like this -
- Cleaning colon and getting rid of toxins and carcinogens substances (such as quinolines) from our body. Experiments on animals have proved that fiber-rich diet substantially decreases the impact of carcinogens substances on them.
- Reduces transit time of food inside digestive tract thus giving lesser opportunities to harmful and carcinogens substances to get absorbed in our body.
- Promote colon health thus avoid infections, irritations etc.
fiber such as coconut fiber can also help in other forms of cancer too, how? simple because when carcinogens substances are not absorbed it obviously decreases the probability of other types of cancers in the human body.
6. Helps in expelling parasitic worms
Parasite worms enter our body from the food we eat, especially in case of raw / improperly cooked non-vegetarian food. Coconut meat is found to be particularly beneficial in the case of tapeworm infestation.
7. Nutrient absorption
Some key sources of dietary fiber such as wheat and oats have phytic acid. It is known to bind with certain minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, etc. and pull them out of our body, thus decreasing the absorption rate of minerals.
While it is essential to take fiber but too much of fiber from these sources can lead to mineral deficiencies.
Coconut fiber does not have phytic acid and thus provides the necessary fiber without issues such as low mineral absorption.
8. Heart benefits
Last but not least, fiber also promotes heart health.
Coconut fiber does this by promoting healthy better HDL to LDL ratio. As already mentioned above, it helps in diabetes, whose patients, according to research are more prone to heart diseases.
How to include Coconut fiber in your diet
So now we are aware of some of the key benefits of coconut fibre, the next question is how to include it in your diet? Fortunately, there are several ways to do that:
- Eating raw coconut is one of the easiest ways to do so. In this case body not only gets fiber but health dosage of health-promoting medium chain fatty from coconut fat.
- Coconut flour is another great way of including coconut fiber. Coconut flour does not have any fat and thus ideal for people looking for low-fat fiber diet. It can be mixed with all popular flours to make virtually every dish.
If you use coconut flour, share your experience of using it and health and other benefits you have witnessed!