Coconut is an excellent source of fat (medium chain fatty acids), which have been shown to offer protection from heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It has also been shown to improve immune function and fat metabolism, even protecting against liver damage from toxins such as alcohol and delivering anti-inflammatory properties.
Coconuts are a dietary centrepiece of around one third of the global population, in particular Polynesian cultures have a very heavy coconut intake within their diet and are for the most part, heart disease free.
Asia-Pacific cultures use coconut in traditional medicine for its healing properties, especially skin and digestive conditions as coconuts offer anti-microbial properties.
Coconut meat is high in healthy saturated fat, with decent amounts of protein and a low glycemic index. A cup of shredded, raw coconut meat contains 27 grams of fat, mostly saturated; 3 grams of protein; and 12 grams of carbohydrates, mostly fibre. It can also be dried and ground into coconut flour, which can effectively replace traditional flours for baking or sauce thickening (much like other popular nut flours).
Coconut oil is primarily saturated (over 90%), with the bulk of it coming from lauric acid, a medium chain saturated fatty acid; it’s incredibly heat-stable making it is especially resilient to oxidation and free radical formation. Use it for stir-frying and sautéing, or drop a spoonful in your coffee.
A tablespoon gets you 14 grams of fat, 12 of them saturated.
Coconut milk is made by mixing shredded, fresh coconut meat with water, then squeezing it through a sieve. The thick, creamy liquid that comes out is coconut milk and can be used for curries, or just by itself as a drink.
Use as a base for smoothies or for replacing dairy.
A quarter cup gets you 12 grams of fat, 10 of them saturated.
Enjoy them in smoothies, sprinkled on salads or mix with nuts for use as a snack. Coconut Water
Another delicious aspect of the coconut is the water. Coconut water (not to be confused with coconut milk) is that liquid you hear sloshing around inside. The younger coconuts will have sweeter water, so go for those. Coconut water has natural electrolytes (potassium and other minerals), making it an effective sports drink for during of after exercise.
A recipe to get you started…
Coconut Milk Whipped Cream with Mixed Berries
400g can of coconut milk
A handful of berries
Put the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for several hours (or overnight).
When you open the can after it’s chilled, scrap off the solid top layer of creamy coconut, careful not to include any of the liquid on the bottom of the can. (Don’t waste the liquid left in the can – drink it or add it to a smoothie.)
Whip the coconut cream with an electric mixer until it has the airy texture of whipped cream, about five minutes.
Layer the whipped cream in a glass with berries.
Chocolate Coconut Milk Mousse
400g can of coconut milk
4 ounces of melted dark chocolate (above 70%)
Start the same as above then gently mix the melted chocolate into the whipped cream. Chilling the chocolate mousse before serving will give it a thicker texture, if desired. Add your favourite berries on top as required.