Coconut Dietary Fiber
Nutritionists recommend that we get 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day. Most Americans only get about 15 grams. Good sources of dietary fiber are whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Coconut is an ideal source of dietary fiber. Coconut has one of the highest percentages of fiber among all plant foods. Seventy-five percent of the total carbohydrate content is fiber. In comparison, the carbohydrate in green beans is only 30 percent fiber, in okra it is only 25 percent, and—corn it is 18 percent.
Although we do not get nourishment from fiber, it feeds friendly bacteria in our gut that are essential for good health. These bacteria produce vitamins and other substances that are beneficial in promoting health and wellness. When we eat adequate amounts of fiber, intestinal bacteria flourish. Harmful bacteria and yeast such as candida, which compete for space in the intestinal tract, are kept under control.
One of the most important reasons why friendly bacteria are important to our health is that they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Short-chain fatty acids are fats that are synthesized from dietary fiber by intestinal bacteria and are vital to our health and the health of the colon.
While these SCFAs are harmless to our tissues and friendly bacteria, they are deadly to many forms of disease-causing bacteria and yeasts that can infect the intestinal tract. SCFAs can kill these troublesome organisms. The benefits which intestinal bacteria provide us are dependent on the amount of fiber we feed them. The more fiber we eat, the more friendly bacteria will thrive and produce SCFAs, thus keeping our colon healthy and nasty microorganisms in check.
Another benefit is SCFAs ability to pass through cell membranes and into the mitochondria without the aid of special hormones (insulin) or enzymes (carnitine). Therefore, they can easily enter the cells in the colon where they are utilized as fuel to power metabolism. SCFAs are an important source of nutrition for the cells in the colon. In fact, SCFAs are the preferred food of colonic cells and are necessary for a healthy intestinal environment.
Researchers have discovered that an abnormally low level of SCFAs in the colon can lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can cause inflammation and bleeding. Researchers found that SCFAs administered rectally into the colon relieve these conditions.
The fiber in coconut acts as food for gut bacteria. Consequently, coconut helps increase SCFAs in the gut and helps prevent and relieve symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and other digestive disorders. Many people have reported that even eating as little as two coconut macaroon cookies a day relieves their symptoms.
An interesting benefit of coconut fiber, not found in other fibers, as far as I'm aware, is that it acts as a vermifuge (i.e., expels parasitic worms). Eating coconut to get rid of parasites is a traditional practice in India that was even recognized among the early medical profession. It was included in a handbook of tropical medicine published in India in 1936 and in an Indian Materia Medica with Ayurvedic medicine published in 1976.
In 1984 researchers in India published a study on the effectiveness of this traditional remedy. Fifty individuals infected with tapeworm participated in the study. Various coconut preparations followed by Epsom salt were administered to the volunteers. The researchers found that within 12 hours after eating dried coconut, 90 percent of the tapeworms were expelled. Some of those tapeworms were over six feet long. Continued use resulted in 100% expulsion.
At the time of the study, the researchers reported that except for Niclosomide, no drug was as effective in the treatment of tapeworm infestation as was coconut. Niclosomide, however, causes tapeworms to waste away or separate, releasing toxins that can cause undesirable side effects. The researchers concluded that since coconut is nontoxic, palatable, easily available, and fairly cheap, and because it is highly effective in expelling tapeworms without causing side effects, it is a safe and effective treatment for tapeworm infestation. They recommended the use of coconut dietary fiber as a good source of fiber to use for the purpose of removing intestinal parasites.
Many researchers believe that the fiber in our foods can influence mineral absorption. The foods with the highest fiber content are legumes and grains like soy, wheat, and oats. One drawback that has been reported by researchers with the bran or fiber from these sources is that they contain phytic acid, which binds with minerals in the digestive tract and pulls them out of the body. Consequently, mineral absorption is decreased. Some of the minerals that are bound to phytic acid include zinc, iron, and calcium. It has been suggested that eating too much phytic acid can lead to mineral deficiencies. Even dietary fiber levels of 10 to 20 percent are believed to interfere with absorption of minerals in the digestive tract. Yet, we are counseled to get between 20 and 35 percent dietary fiber in our diets. What are we to do? We need fiber for good digestive health, but too much may cause nutritional problems. The perfect solution to this problem is not to reduce fiber consumption, but to replace some of the fiber we get from grains and legumes with fiber that does not pull minerals out of the body. Coconut flour fits that description. Coconut does not contain phytic acid and does not remove minerals from the body. You can eat all the coconut you want without worrying about it negatively affecting your mineral status.
If anything, coconut fiber improves mineral status. Fiber slows down the emptying of the stomach, allowing foods to be bathed in gastric juices for a longer amount of time. This allows more minerals to be released from the food we eat; so more are available for absorption.
Excerpt from http://coconutresearchcenter.org/hwnl_2-1.htm
Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Blood sugar is an important issue for anyone who is concerned about heart disease, overweight, hypoglycaemia, and especially diabetes because it affects all of these conditions.
Carbohydrates in our foods are broken down in the digestive tract and converted into glucose (blood sugar). Meals that contain a high concentration of carbohydrates, particularly simple carbohydrates such as sugar and refined flours, cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Since elevated blood sugar can lead to a coma and death, insulin is frantically pumped into the blood stream to avoid this. If insulin is produced in adequate amounts, blood sugar is soon brought back down to normal. This is what happens in most individuals. However, if insulin is not produced quickly enough or if the cells become desensitized to the action of insulin, blood glucose can remain elevated for extended periods of time. This is what happens in diabetes.
Dietary fiber helps moderate swings in blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels under control. Coconut fiber has been shown to be very effective in moderating blood sugar and insulin levels. For this reason, coconut is good for diabetics.
Diabetics are encouraged to eat foods that have a relatively low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how foods affect blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index, the greater an effect a particular food has on raising blood sugar. So diabetics need to eat foods with a low glycemic index. When coconut is added to foods, including those high in starch and sugar, it lowers the glycemic index of these foods. This was clearly demonstrated by T. P. Trinidad and colleagues in a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2003. In their study, both normal and diabetic subjects were given a variety of foods to eat. Some of the types of food included cinnamon bread, granola bars, carrot cake, and brownies—all foods that a diabetic must ordinarily limit because of their high sugar and starch content. It was found that as the coconut content of the foods increased, the blood sugar response between the diabetic and non-diabetic subjects became nearly identical. In other words, coconut moderated the release of sugar into the bloodstream so that there was no spike in blood glucose levels. As the coconut content in the foods decreased, the diabetic subjects’ blood sugar levels became elevated, as would normally be expected from eating foods high in sugar and white flour. This study showed that adding coconut to foods lowers the glycemic index of the foods and keeps blood sugar levels under control. Sweet foods such as cookies and cakes made using coconut flour do not affect blood sugar levels like those made with wheat flour. This is good news for diabetics who want a treat now and then without adversely affecting their blood sugar.
Fiber acts like a broom, sweeping the intestinal contents through the digestive tract. Parasites, toxins, and carcinogens are swept along with the fiber, leading to their timely expulsion from the body. This cleansing action helps prevent toxins that irritate intestinal tissues and cause cancer from getting lodged in the intestinal tract. Colon cancer is second only to lung cancer as the world’s most deadly form of cancer. Many studies have shown a correlation between high-fiber diets and a low incidence of colon cancer. For example, in one of the most extensive studies to date, involving over 400,000 people from nine European countries, it was found that those who had the highest fiber intake were 40 percent less likely to develop colon cancer.
Fiber readily absorbs fluids. It also appears to absorb harmful carcinogens and other toxic substances. Researchers at the University of Lund, Sweden, found that fiber in the diet can absorb toxins that promote cancer. Various types of fiber were examined for their absorption capacity and found to absorb 20 to 50 percent of these carcinogenic compounds.
Dr. B. H. Ershoff of Loma Linda University summarized studies reported by the Committee on Nutrition in Medical Education. The studies compared groups of rats and mice, some given high-fiber diets and others given low-fiber diets. The animals were fed various drugs, chemicals, and food additives. These substances proved to be poisonous to the animals on the low-fiber diets, yet those given high-fiber diets showed no deleterious effects.
Logically you can see the relationship between dietary fiber and its protective effect in the colon, but studies also show it protects against breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers as well. One explanation for this is that toxins lingering in the colon are absorbed into the bloodstream, and the blood then carries these toxins to other parts of the body where they can cause cancer.
Another explanation involves estrogen. Estrogen is required for the early growth and development of breast and ovarian cancer. The liver collects estrogen and sends it into the intestines where it is reabsorbed into the bloodstream. A high-fiber diet interrupts this process. Less estrogen is allowed back into the bloodstream because the activities of bacterial enzymes in the intestine are reduced. Studies show that serum estrogen can be significantly reduced by a high-fiber diet. Progesterone, which is an antagonist to estrogen and helps protect against cancer, is not affected or reduced by fiber.
One of the primary reasons given to explain why dietary fiber protects against colon and other cancers is that it decreases intestinal transit time. If carcinogenic substances, hormones, and toxins are quickly moved through the digestive tract and out of the body, they don’t get a chance to irritate tissues and instigate cancer. Coconut fiber not only absorbs and sweeps carcinogenic toxins out of the intestinal tract, it also helps prevent the conditions that promote cancer. Evidence suggests that coconut fiber may also prevent the formation of tumors in the colon by moderating the harmful effects of tumor-promoting enzymes.
Additional Information: Canadian Flax Council
Excerpt from http://coconutresearchcenter.org/hwnl_2-4.htm
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