Whether you’re new to Keto or you’ve been on it for a while, there are going to be foods you’re interested in trying that make you ask, can I eat that? The coconut is a fruit that brings the feel of the tropics with its taste and its scent. It’s also a great source of healthy fats and some vital nutrition. The following article will explain the benefits of coconuts as well as why they make a great addition to your Keto diet.
Overview of the Keto diet
In the simplest terms possible, the Keto diet is an ultra-low carb diet that focuses on healthy fats. The average Keto diet will allow for roughly 5% of your calories to come from carbohydrates. This would be 50-100 calories on a 2000 calorie budget, or 20-25g of net carbs if it’s easier to think of it that way. The remaining calories are split between the other two macronutrients: fat and protein. Although the Keto diet is high in fat, there’s only a moderate amount of protein concluded. If you’re following a 2000 calorie diet roughly 400 calories would come from protein sources. This means that the reaming 75-80% of your calories would come from healthy fats.
Net carbs are very important to Keto. Net carbs are calculated by taking the total number of carbohydrates in an item of food and subtracting away any carbs that your body cannot digest and turn into glucose. This means that both sugar alcohols and fibre, despite being carbs, would be subtracted from the total carbs in order to reach your net carbs. This rule allows for a lot of high-fibre foods to be allowed on Keto.
Why does the Keto diet limit carbs?
The Keto diet doesn’t limit your carbohydrates in order to deprive you of bread, pasta and popcorn. There’s a scientific reason for lowering your carbs that has to do with how your body metabolizes food for energy.
Typical diets tend to be high in carbs which your body then turns into an energy source known as glucose. Glucose is your body’s preferred energy source. It’s quick to make, and quick to use up. This means that your energy after a high carb meal will probably follow a cycle. Shortly after eating the meal you’ll feel a rush of energy as your glucose increases. Then, a few short hours later, your body will run out of glucose and your energy levels will crash. Your body will then send out hunger signals which encourage you to eat and the cycle begins again.
The Keto diet looks to break this cycle of rising and falling energy levels by using a fuel known as ketones. Ketones are created from your stored body fat and although they take longer to create, they also last longer when it comes to fueling your body. This means that you get a long, slow burn of energy as opposed to the cycle of glucose.
In order to coax your body into making ketones by turning your fat into energy you first need to let it know that there won’t be a steady supply of glucose and it had better look elsewhere for its fuel. Reducing your net carbs to 20-25g will put your body in a state known as ketosis. This allows you to create a steady supply of ketones, burning through stored fat, enhancing your mental clarity and stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
Are coconuts Keto friendly?
So where does that leave coconuts in the eyes of the Keto diet? The good news is, both coconuts and foods made from coconut are Keto friendly and widely embraced on the Keto diet.
The meat of the coconut is what you’ll see most often. You can buy it pre-packaged where someone has done the hard work for you, or you can purchase a full coconut and have fun trying to crack that hairy shell in order to get to the juicy meat that’s inside.
Coconut meat has 6.8g of carbohydrates in a serving that’s roughly 2 inches in length. Despite this seemingly high number of carbs, the same serving size will also have a whopping 4g of fibre which means that the net carbs in a serving of coconut are only 2.8g!
In addition to being low in carbs, coconuts are also an excellent source of many important nutrients. In fact, if you were to eat the meat of a single coconut, you’d be getting almost all of your required daily nutrients in one go! Now you’re not likely to actually mow down on an entire coconut, but even adding a little 2 inch sliver to your diet can reap plenty of health benefits which we will get into a little later in the article.
You know that coconut meat is Keto friendly, but what about coconut milk? Coconut milk is an excellent substitute for regular milk when you’re following a Keto diet. Regular milk is okay as long as it’s whole milk which is loaded with healthy fats. However, it is relatively high in carbs coming in at 11.4g per 1 cup serving. That’s a lot of carbs!
Coconut milk allows you to cut these carbs down to around 8g of net carbs per 1 cup serving. This means that it’s still not something you’ll want to use as a regular beverage; however, it’s low enough that it makes cooking with coconut milk an option. It’s the fibre that’s in coconut milk that lowers its carb count with an impressive 5.3g in a single cup serving.
Be wary as to which brand you choose as some can have added sugars and others can be higher in carbs. Reading the nutrition label when switching to a brand you don’t know well is always a smart idea.
Coconut oil has been praised for years for it’s supposed health benefits. Everything from skin conditions to healthier teeth has been said to improve with the use of coconut oil. But is it Keto friendly? The short answer is yes! Coconut oil has no net carbs which makes it the perfect fat to add to your Keto. One of the types of fats in coconut oil is medium chain triglycerides (or MCT). The benefit to MCT oil is that it can be absorbed into your body directly when it reaches your stomach. This means that you get a very quick source of energy and it can help you feel full faster.
It can be hard on Keto to be without regular wheat flour for cooking and baking. However, a Keto-friendly flour option can be found in coconut flour. A serving of ¼ cup of coconut flour contains 21g of carbohydrates with a whopping 13g of fibre. This leaves you with 6g of net carbs in the serving.
While this may seem like a lot, you don’t need as much coconut flour in recipes as you would regular flour. It’s a denser flour so you may end up only needing ¼ cup for an entire recipe. When you break down how many servings of the food the recipe will make, you’ll probably end up with 1g of net carbs or fewer per serving of the recipe and that’s not bad at all.
Health benefits of coconuts
There are many health benefits to coconuts that make them a worthy addition to your Keto meal plan. The fat that’s in coconut meat is high in MCT as mentioned above. This type of fat has shown promise in raising your HDL cholesterol levels while lowering your LDL levels. Raising your good cholesterol while lowering your bad cholesterol can help with heart health and prevention of heart disease.
The fibre that’s in coconut meat can help you to feel full for longer as well as aiding in your digestion. Fibre is especially important on Keto because a lot of traditional high fibre foods such as cereal and bread are off limits.
You might also find your weight loss efforts improved with the addition of coconut because both the fibre and the MCT oil contribute to feelings of fullness which helps prevent snacking on excess calories. This is important with high fat foods since it can be difficult for your stomach to realize it’s full when you’re eaten the proper amount of fats due to their high calorie density.
In addition to heart and digestive health, MCT oil is a great source of fuel for your brain so it might help with your memory while aiding in cognition and mental clarity. The antioxidants in coconuts may also help your immune system and the high levels of manganese have been known to reduce inflammation.
There are many health benefits to eating coconuts and they provide a great source of healthy fats for your Keto diet. If you’re eating coconut meat or coconut flour, a little goes a long way. Coconut oil has no carbohydrates so it’s a great way to get all the health benefits of coconut without impacting your carb budget.