Common sense dictates that coconut meat will give us more fibre than coconut water. But why would we have this article if the answer were that trivial? Read on.
The right way is to check the nutrient profiles of coconut meat and coconut water from official sources. As per the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, the two contain 9 grams and 1.1 grams of fibre, respectively. So coconut flesh has eight times more dietary fibre than its water.
But look more closely. The official numbers are standardised for 100 grams of each. Should one consume 100 grams of each daily?
The experts advise eating 30 grams of coconut meat a day, which gives you 2.7 grams of fibre.
Similar guidelines for coconut water suggest 250 mL daily. A hundred grams of coconut water will be nearly 100 mL since it is mostly water, and so its full glass (250 mL) will give you 2.77 grams of fibre, edging its solid rival by a coir-hair’s breadth.
What if the experts had advised consuming 35 grams of coconut meat daily instead of 30 grams? In that case, coconut meat would be a better source of fibre than its water. Thus, someone with an agenda can easily twist the narrative to suit his claims.
If this daily average consumption part sounds too vague, consider the alternative: cinnamon would be the world’s best dietary fiber source because nearly half its weight is of fibre. But almost no one eats more than a gram of cinnamon a day, getting less than half a gram of dietary fibre. Since our daily fibre needs are 30–40 grams, it won’t make much difference to fibre intake but still be called the world’s best source.
Personalised Nutrition Advice
Nutrition decisions should always be based on you; it does not matter if the conclusions differ for someone else.
For example, coconut water is a good source of potassium. But if one’s kidneys are damaged, they cannot easily flush potassium out, causing heart problems. Such a person may be advised to drink only 150 mL—and not 250 mL—of coconut water daily. So for kidney disease patients, coconut meat is a better fibre source than coconut water.
Absorption In The Body
Admittedly, the body may not get a nutrient even after consuming a food item that is high in that nutrient. For example, Spinach has enough iron (7% of daily need) to be called a good iron source. But:
- Oxalates in spinach prevent ninety-five per cent of its iron from absorption;
- Iron in spinach is of a type called non-heme, which is poorly absorbed in the intestines compared to the heme variety that comes from animal sources;
- Consuming spinach with anything citrus (vitamin C) increases iron absorption;
- Acidity (heartburn) medicines reduce stomach acid lowering iron absorption;
- Milk products reduce spinach iron absorption (lovers of Palak Paneer—a dish made with spinach and Indian cottage cheese—be warned); and
- Cooking spinach reduces oxalates improving iron absorption. If that was not enough confusion, boiling spinach reduces oxalates far more than steaming or baking it.
Read on this Website: Is Spinach A Good Source Of Iron?
In other words, it is impossible to predict how much iron your body will absorb by eating the recommended 75 grams of spinach a day. So we have to restrict our calculations to the nutrient present in a food, and not to its part absorbed in the body.
- The nutrient contents of any food item should be evaluated based on its average daily amount suggested by experts, and not a hundred grams.
- ‘Experts’ with an agenda can tweak nutrition conclusions to suit their interests; always check the basis for their recommendations.
- The nutrient amount contained in a food item is easier to determine. The part that your body absorbs depends on many factors and is hard to estimate.
Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).
To Read More
- US Department of Agriculture: FoodData Central
- Villanova University: Reading Labels and the 5/20 Rule
- On this Website: Recommended dietary intakes of various nutrients
- On this Website: Is it Better to Cook Tomatoes or Eat Them Raw?
- On this Website: Nutrients that work together
- On this Website: How to understand the evidence from clinical trials of nutrients
First Published on: 20th May 2023
Image Credit: stockking on Freepik
Last Updated on: 9th June 2023