Dr. Jo's super foods series: Coconut - FOX 13 News

Dr. Jo's super foods series: Coconut

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Look no further than the produce section for special products that give our bodies a boost. They're called "super foods."

We've talked about some of these before. They include broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts to fight cancer, berries to fight inflammation and aging, and cinnamon to control blood sugar.

But there's a super food that we were once taught to avoid. From pina coladas, to pies and candy bars, coconut tastes good and can be good for you. This tropical treat is known for something else. Demand is growing for it's virgin oil - cold pressed from the meat of the fruit.

"Coconuts in general are a super food. Mix it in your oatmeal like I did this morning," suggests Erin Meagher.

Meagher calls herself Chief Coconut of Kelapo Coconut. The former business teacher founded the Tampa based company in 2009. It's name, Kelapo, is loosely taken from the Malaysian words for coconut tree. Her fascination with the oil came after reading an article about a local couple who used it for its health benefits.

"I started looking into it more and found that it was also helping with immunity and metabolism, and I was convinced that we should be using coconut oil instead of butter or margarine or other processed oils in our diet," Meagher said.

Pure coconut oil contains high levels of lauric acid, which is thought to be helpful in fighting infection.

Meagher also believes it also boosts metabolism, builds lean muscle, staves off hunger, and fights the signs of aging. At home, she uses it as a hair conditioner, skin moisturizer and, and except for olive oil, uses coconut oil exclusively for cooking and baking.

But there could be another superpower tied to this super food.

"I'm extremely excited. We're going to do a full-blown clinical trial to see if coconut oil can help Alzheimer's patient," Jill Smith of the University of South Florida / Byrd Alzheimer's Institute says. Researchers are investigating whether coconut oil give s dementia patients a brain boost.

"They may be able to do something that they haven't done in a long time, they may recall information that they haven't been able to recall for quite some time. Essentially, it's an extra fuel source," Smith says.

It all stems from a fat called an MCT - or medium chain triglyceride. When dementia takes hold of the brain, it can't burn sugar as effectively. The MCT oils give the nerve cells a different energy source that is easier to burn.

Researcher believe patients get the greatest benefit when coconut oil is consumed uncooked. Their study could mean big business for companies like Kelapo.

Could a food we eat really drastically affect our health that much?

Meagher hopes the answer will be yes, helping boost the health of both body and mind.

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