Coconut is naturally revitalizing. For most people, they will feel a burst of energy within 5 min. of eating fresh coconut. Coconuts are not high in cholesterol. Coconut is a saturated fat made primarily from lauric acid, which is easily absorbed by the body and used instantly as energy rather than stored as fat. Coconut is a potent antibacterial and antifungal. So it cleans our gut and helps it heal. It can help fight off infection so it’s great to eat when you feel something “coming on”. Coconut can boost thyroid function by up to 20%, which helps increase metabolism and energy production. In fact in the 1940s, farmers tried using coconut oil to fatten their animals but discovered that it made them lean and active and increase their appetite. Coconut has been proven to have anticancer effects, especially for the colon and breast.
Usually you will find two types of coconuts in the grocery store – young coconuts that are white with a “conehead” and wrapped in plastic and mature brown “fuzzy” coconuts with three “eyes” like a bowling ball. The young coconut, sometimes referred to as Thai coconut, is perfect for cracking open drinking the water from the middle and using the soft meat for curries, soups, making milk, or smoothies. The mature coconut, when opened, will have a hard meat that is great for eating raw or grating into foods.
Coconut water is the liquid that is found inside young coconuts before they mature. It is naturally low in calories and fat free. A serving has about the same amount of potassium as a banana and it is low in sodium. It has a small amount of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Some brands are coconut water are marketed at sports drink’s claiming to be a low cal way to replace electrolytes lost in sweat. This may be true if you are working out for a couple hours. Although some sports nutritionists say this sodium in coconut water isn’t enough for serious athletes. For most people working out for an hour or so at the gym, plain water works just fine to rehydrate. Even outside of electrolyte replacement, coconut water is a tasty, slightly sweet water.
Interestingly, coconut water has been used in place of saline solution in hospitals because it’s naturally sterile and is identical to human blood plasma. I’ve been told that it’s also a great hangover prevention. So if you had one too many drinks have a little coconut water before bed – you might feel better in the morning.
Coconut water can certainly be a part of a healthy diet. And if you like the taste -enjoy it! It’s certainly better than sugary sodas.
Dried coconut meat is what most people think of as “coconut”. It is sold as desiccated or flaked coconut. Dried coconut, naturally, has all the health benefits of coconut. Check to make sure that you are using unsweetened dried coconut though – it’s plenty sweet without added sugar. Add coconut meat to soups, salads, baked goods, and trail mix.
Coconut sugar is the traditional sugar made from the sap of coconut flowers. It is boiled down to create either dry sugar blocks (which have to be grated), a soft paste, or granulated form. It has a light taste without excessive sweetness. It almost tastes like it has just a tad of maple syrup or caramel in it. It is low on the glycemic index, so it’s a good sugar for diabetics. It is also full of minerals. It is produced by a natural process of heat evaporation with no preservatives added. Many ethic markets carry the paste form which is easy to cook with. Many health food stores carry the granulated form as it’s rising in popularity. It can easily be substituted for sugar in recipes although depending on the amount of sweetness you are used to you may have to add 1/2 again as much coconut sugar. For example: if the recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of sugar, you may need up to 1 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut sugar. Personally, I find that most foods could use less sweetness and start with a 1:1 substitution.
These are just a few of the many ways to add the health benefits of coconut into your diet. Try to add a bit and I’ll cover baking with coconut items next!