Friday, April 1, 2011

The AMAZING Coconut

One of the pleasant surprises I have discovered in my ongoing adventure of healthy cooking and baking for "clean" eating is the
coconut!!! This under-appreciated fruit turns out to be remarkably versatile. In fact, I have been amazed at the benefits and advantages that coconut products provide.

Coconut has been a staple food in Asian and island cultures for centuries. And while this super food has been gaining recognition in the health and nutrition communities, the general public in the western world has yet to realize that coconuts are one of the most nutritious of all fruits. There are so many good reasons to incorporate coconut into our diet.  And that is all good, but what about taste?

The good news is that the use of coconut in so many diverse dishes lends a delicate, creamy, slightly sweet, richness to all sorts of foods, from egg dishes and sauces to baked goods. In my new cookbook "Delightfully Free," I have taken advantage of coconut nutrition and scrumptiousness, using coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut flour and coconut meat. Here is a quick breakdown of some different coconut products and their benefits:

Coconut Milk:  Is not to be confused with the liquid found in the middle of the coconut when it is opened. That is the coconut water or juice. Coconut milk is the juice expressed from the meat of the coconut. One cup of coconut milk contains 38.4 mg of calcium, around 89 mg of magnesium (which helps maintain normal blood pressure, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease), is an excellent source of potassium (631 mg) and phosphorus (240 mg).  For this reason, it also helps increase energy levels and promotes bone and kidney health.  Additionally, Manganese, copper and zinc are other important minerals naturally found in coconut milk.

Coconut Oil:  Is the fatty oil that comes from coconut meat.  Quality organic coconut oil is said to be the healthiest oil to use. This is because coconut oil is heat stable, which makes it slow to oxidize and resistant to becoming rancid. It is also low in monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Bruce Fife, N.D., who has written about the benefits of coconut oil, believes that our bodies use the fat in coconut oil to make energy and not to store fat, which keeps us fit and lively (something that most of us would gladly opt for!). All of these things make coconut oil a safe and healthy alternative for heating, cooking, frying and baking.  

Coconut Flour:  Is something that really makes me happy! What a wonderful difference coconut flour has made in GF baking. It allows us to achieve moist, rich texture and has a delicious natural sweet flavor that enhances baked goods.  Whereas white flour has no fiber, coconut flour is very high in fiber, it is actually 58% fiber, a whopping 6 grams per 2 tablespoons (compare that to wheat bran which is only 27% fiber). It is also low in carbs and is a good source of protein, 2 grams per 2 tablespoons. White flour has zero iron, but 2 tablespoons of coconut flour meets 2% of your daily iron needs.

Coconut Meat:  Besides being a refreshing twist of flavor in soups, vegetables and desserts, 1 cup of coconut meat has 7.2 grams of fiber, more than 20% of the daily recommended amount for adults, not to mention, more than half the recommended daily amount of manganese, which helps your body metabolize both fat and proteins, supports the immune and nervous systems and promotes stable blood sugar levels.  Beyond all this, coconut meat contains significant amounts of potassium and copper.

Coconut Sugar: As I covered in another post here, coconut sugar allows us to achieve some of the textures and consistencies that were nearly impossible before in GF, DF and naturally sweetened baking. Produced and used in south east Asia for thousands of years, coconut sugar has a super low glycemic index of 35 compared to that of corn syrup at 75, refined, pasteurized honey at 75, table sugar at 80, high fructose corn syrup at 87 and glucose (or dextrose) at 100. Furthermore, coconut sugar boasts an extremely high nutrient content--higher in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron than agave nectar (which I am crazy about). Coconut sugar is also a natural source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. Still another great aspect of coconut sugar is that it contains only 148 grams of carbs per cup compared to agave nectar which has 256 grams per cup. Recent medical research suggests that a diet low in carbohydrates is beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes, in which case choosing coconut sugar can be a huge help.

As you turn the pages of my cookbook, you will notice that in many of my recipes, in almost every section, coconut is an important ingredient.

And that's because coconut is just plain amazing :)

See more of my recipes on my website:

Some links to check out:

Also check out Bruce Fife's book, Coconut Cures for more complete info:
Fife, Bruce (2005). Coconut Cures. Piccadilly Books. ISBN 978-0-941599-60-3
Available from Amazon here

You can buy Delightfully Free and Even More Delightfully Free on my website, or directly at this link:
Your signed books always come with free shipping. We do not sell on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any other internet sites.