By Melissa Fine, Nutritionist and GoodnessMe Box Health Editor.
I’m a big fan of coconut because it’s so versatile, and so nearly none of its components are wasted. Technically a fruit (it’s often mistaken for a member of the nut family), each part of the coconut has its own unique health benefit and function in the kitchen:
My favourite way to eat this is straight-up from a young coconut (the one with the firm, green-white shell): Simply slurp down its water and then scoop out the flesh with a spoon; To me this tastes like a cross between jelly and pudding (but without the nasties). High in filling, good-for-your-gut fibre and satiating fats, this makes an ideal snack too.
It also adds a thick, creamy consistency to smoothies and raw desserts like bliss balls. I also love stuffing a Medjool date with a tsp of coconut butter (extra creamy, blended coconut flesh packed in a jar – from health food stores) to satisfy my sweet tooth the healthy way.
Unlike most oils which lose their nutritional value under high temperatures, coconut oilhas a high smoke point, meaning its structure isn’t altered when heated; This makes it an ideal oil to add to whatever you’re cooking or baking, plus it adds a nice and nutty, slightly sweet flavour. I like to use coconut oil in my stir-fries and instead of butter or vegetable oil in healthy homemade banana bread.
So what can coconut oil do for you? For starters, it’s a medium-chain saturated fat, the good kind of saturated fat that encourages energy from our food to be burned, rather than stored as fat. Plus, one fat inherent to coconut oil (‘lauric acid’, also found in breast milk) has antiviral and antibacterial properties, so coconut oil can work as an immune booster.
The natural liquid from the young coconut, coconut water is electrolyte-rich and a good option to have on top of water when you need extra hydration, like on super hot days of after a bad bout of gastro; A much healthier alternative to fructose-loaded fruit juice and refined sugar-loaded soft drinks and sports drinks.
Made from the pressed and blended coconut flesh of older coconuts (the ones with the coarse brown outer layer), creamy coconut milk works well in curries and smoothies – I love it in a Green Smoothie: Just blend one frozen banana or ½ Cup frozen mango flesh with ½ Cup coconut milk and a handful of each baby spinach and ice until smooth.
Note that reduced fat coconut milk varieties are diluted with water, so they’re less concentrated in healthy fats; They also lack the well-rounded, satisfying flavour of full fat coconut milk, so you may end up using more anyway to compensate.
I say if you’re going to use sugar, you may as well use one that’s better for you . A healthier option than refined white sugar, coconut sugar (from the sustainable coconut sugar palm tree) tastes like raw or brown sugar and can be used 1:1, so is an easy substitute; I replace brown sugar with coconut sugar in whatever I bake and no one knows the difference.
Also better for your blood sugar, coconut sugar has a naturally low Glycemic Index that’s nearly half the GI of cane sugar and lower than high-fructose honey and agave syrup…Not to mention its comparatively high mineral content of potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and iron.
Time for a recipe!
Thanks to the team at Power Superfoods HQ for this one.
See the original recipe plus a pic here: http://www.powersuperfoods.com.au/paleo-brownies-with-cacao-crunch.html
Power Super Foods Organic Coconut Sugar:
To many indigenous island communities, the coconut sugar palm is known as the "Tree of Life" – this species (different than the Palm Oil tree) grows in diverse wild-life supportive agro-ecosystems, and can produce over 100 types of products from which farmers can earn a profitable, sustainable living. The coconut palm produces 50 – 75% more sugar per acre than cane sugar while using less than 1/5th the nutrient resources.
This sun-kissed sweetener is the crystallised nectar of the tropical coconut palm tree blossom, harvested high in the swaying canopy by traditional farmers, then evaporated and crushed into a unique, unbleached, not-too-sweet sugar alternative. So go ahead, indulge that sweet tooth!