RD The coconut: a pregnancy superfood?

Pregnant women are being advised to go nuts for coconuts

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Researchers are looking into the claim that lauric acid, contained in coconuts, is good for mums-to-be and breastfeeding mums.

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Lauric acid is found in breast milk. It is a saturated fatty acid and has antibacterial benefits for your baby.

A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that by consuming foods containing it – like virgin coconut oil – pregnant and lactating women can increase the amount of lauric acid in their breast milk threefold.

According to the Western A Price Foundation, a nutrition research charity, pregnant and lactating women should consume 2 tablespoons of virgin (unprocessed) coconut oil per day, either in a smoothie or used as a replacement for traditional cooking oils.

Nutritionist Jackie Shank from the University of North Florida advocates the use of virgin coconut oil, but is cautious: “It’s true that coconut oil contains medium-length fatty acids that are processed in the body via a more direct route compared to the long-length fatty acids abundant in commonly used cooking oils.

“If used in small amounts, coconut oil is a wonderful addition to your kitchen. Because it contains so much saturated fat, it’s usually solid at room temperature; therefore, in recipes it can often be substituted for butter or shortening with good results,” but, she says, “because of its high fat content, regularly consuming either may increase blood cholesterol levels in susceptible people.”

The coconut has a long history associated with pregnancy. In India, it is used as a natural remedy for people trying to conceive and coconut meat is given to babies in Thailand as their first solid food. And its water is widely used by women in tropical countries as a good way to hydrate during pregnancy.

Coconut oil is also said to be good for morning sickness and – when rubbed on your belly – reducing stretchmarks!

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