Coconuts are magical! They are a nutrient dense fruit that has nourished people around the globe for centuries. Coconuts serve as a key component in terms of both a food source and the livelihood for up to 1/3 of the world’s population.
Coconuts provide many health benefits too. Coconuts have been used in many medical applications ranging from killing viruses and bacteria to improving the digestion and absorption of minerals. Coconuts can boost energy levels and endurance to impact athletic performance and can assist in the absorption of calcium and magnesium, to develop strong teeth and bones. They can also reduce inflammation and aid immune system function. Coconuts are high in naturally occurring saturated fat (this is a good thing!) and high in fiber, while being low on the glycemic index. Coconuts also improve the secretion of insulin and increases blood glucose absorption.
Coconut oil is also a wonderful skin care product, improving the appearance of your skin with anti-aging benefits. Now onto the details about coconut products …
Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside immature coconuts. There are many different varieties, brands and flavors. Look for coconut water that has no additives or artificial flavorings. Coconut water is a great way to hydrate yourself before or after a workout and using it in a fruit or protein smoothie is an excellent way to get some additional macronutrients too.
Coconut milk is the liquid that is pressed from coconut meat that has been simmered with water. Full fat canned coconut milk is a great product for paleo recipes, to thicken sauces, make curries and soups and in desserts. If you chill a can in the frig for 24 hours, you can scrap the creamy thick cream that separates from the liquid and whip it into whipping cream. Coconut milk’s rich and creamy flavor is a great substitution for heavy cream. Be careful to look for ingredients like carrageenan especially in coconut milk from the carton. It is used to thicken non-dairy milk products. Aroy-D coconut milk is my favorite brand and I buy it from amazon. Read more about carrageenan here http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-harmless-carrageenan
Coconut flour is dried coconut meat that is ground into flour. It is low in carbs and high in fiber. It is dense, more so than all-purpose flour which is why you can’t replace it one for one when trying to make a non-paleo recipe paleo. My favorite flour combination is coconut flour and tapioca flour together. It provides a similar texture to traditional baked goods as you can see in this recipe. https://contemporarycavegirl.wordpress.com/?s=get+well+muffins
Shredded coconut is finely shredded coconut meat that has been dried to extend its life. Make sure to buy a brand without added sulfites, sweeteners or flavorings. You can sprinkle it on or into baked goods or add them to starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, butternut squash or pumpkin. They are great on fruit salads, with hot cereal and as a binder in meatballs.
Similar to shredded coconut, coconut flakes are made from dried coconut meat. They are larger and great for toasting, like in this recipe https://contemporarycavegirl.wordpress.com/?s=cinnamon+coconut+flakes and also for adding into trail mixes.
Coconut oil is the liquid extracted from coconut meat. Look for virgin, unprocessed oil. Coconut oil (aside from the benefits listed above) is perfect for high temperature cooking like stir-frying and sautéing. Some people find it helps to satisfy cravings and ease digestion by eating it by the tablespoon. Others gargle with it (oil pulling) as a cleanser and a tooth whitener.
This could be my favorite coconut product ever. I swear, if you do not like coconut, this does NOT taste like coconut. It is a gluten free soy sauce substitute and it is absolutely amazing. It is not cheap and you can’t find it everywhere, but Whole Foods and amazon carry it. It is made from aged coconut sap and sea salt. You can use it in dressings, marinades and stir fries.
Coconut vinegar is fermented coconut sap. It contains a pro-biotic bacteria that is good for your gut. It can be used as a replacement for other mild vinegars such as white wine vinegar or if you do not have cooking wine or sherry on hand.
Coconut butter is a spread made from coconut meat, similar to how peanut butter is made from peanuts. You can eat it with fruit, combine it into a smoothie or just eat it straight off the spoon. It is more of a condiment than a cooking oil (like coconut oil). It is great for baking and even comes in different flavors http://www.nikkiscoconutbutter.com/collections/all
coconut cream concentrate
Coconut cream concentrate is a perfect option for dairy free/paleo baking. It can take the place of butter or other fats in a recipe and even as an egg substitute. It has a sweet taste, but is unsweetened and has the consistency of almond butter. It is made from dehydrated meat of a mature coconut that is ground into a creamy white paste. A close cousin is something called coconut manna. That comes in a jar and often needs to be heated to get the appropriate consistency. Whole Foods and amazon both carry these products. I have a few desserts on my blog that call for it, but my favorite is the macaroon recipe https://contemporarycavegirl.wordpress.com/?s=coconut+macaroons Using this product probably means you are making a paleo treat and quantities should be monitored accordingly.
Coconut nectar is made from coconut sap nectar, as the name suggests. It is used in baking as a substitute for sugar, honey or maple syrup. To date, I have only used it in one recipe for chocolate chip cookies. https://contemporarycavegirl.wordpress.com/?s=paleo+chocolate+chip+cookies Remember that just because it is made from coconut, doesn’t make it a fantastic nutritious food source. A sweet is still a treat …
coconut palm sugar
Coconut palm sugar is also made from coconut sap. It has the consistency of brown sugar so would be another suitable substitute for a sweetener in paleo baking. As with coconut nectar, this sugar is a treat and really should not be considered healthy in any way shape or form. The best options for paleo sweeteners include maple syrup and honey, both of which are unprocessed and have been around for thousands of years unlike these 2 new coconut sweeteners.
The bottom line is if you are eating coconut, using it on your skin or cooking with it, you are doing the best you can for your body. Eat up!