Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm Cuckoo for Coconut!

This year has undoubtedly been coconut's coming out year.  That fruit can flavor, hydrate, cook, bake and shake like no other. Seriously, it went from a fatty, tropical, obscure D list ingredient, mainly bastardized as an artificial syrup in low brow Caribbean drinks to becoming the lean, healthy, everywhere A list of nutritionists and celebs.  So what's the deal, why are people going cuckoo for coconut?

Coconut has risen partially because of the current thinking in food, nutrition and fat loss that embraces healthy forms of fat that satiate and support body functions and looks for natural, lower glycemic liquids and foods that don't spike our blood sugar and store fat. While we are just catching the coconut wind the many health and healing benefits of coconut have been known in the tropics forever.  Here are a few key benefits:
  1. Coconut oil facilitates the absorption of key nutrients by the body. It helps the body absorb calcium and magnesium, necessary for the development of bones and teeth.
  2. Coconut fats are medium-chain fatty acids, unlike modern vegetable oils like soybean, corn, and safflower oils which are made of long-chain fatty acids. Medium-chain fatty acids are more suited for energy use rather than fat storage and may help those who are trying to lose weight. 
  3. In a study that looked at the effect of medium-chain fatty acids on metabolism, it was found that these fats could increase the metabolic rate by up to 48 percent and for up to 24 hours.
  4. Coconut oil can supply the body with energy similar to blood glucose, but without having a negative impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. When you include coconut oil in a meal with carbohydrates, the carbs are broken down into glucose more slowly, so blood sugar levels remain steady even after you eat.
  5. It has even been found to help prevent those addicted to nicotine.
In walks the coconut, know for the unique flavor of its meaty inner walls that we soak in sugar and then shred on top of cakes, but less known for all the other innately healthy products derived from inside its hard exterior.  It was the water inside the coconut that started it all.  By now most people have come across and tried coconut water only to be surprised that it actually has a lighter flavor that doesn't taste at all like the strong coconut we are accustomed to.  In Brazil and other such countries a coconut with a straw is common place as a thirst quenching beverage so some smart soul packaged it up and brought it to the masses in America to huge fanfare.  When it came to Fusion I was skeptical that it would pick up and sell given how many trendy drinks get created per year but this one grew on me and stuck because first and foremost it is a single, natural ingredient drink rather than an artificially flavored, roided up and over marketed super drink. 

So here is the low down on the other products you may have never tried but should look for:
  • Oil - with a light flavor and ability to sustain high heat this is ideal for cooking but don't expect a liquid at room temperature, it's a soft solid.
  • Butter - it looks like the oil, but with much more coconut flavor and cannot take the heat so butter is just used to flavor your greens, fish, vegetables, salads, smoothies, etc.
  • Milk (unsweetened) - this deliciously flavored liquid is like almond milk in that its calories are derived purely from fats unlike milk that is part sugar, but it has lower caloric density.  It is a great alternative to avoid lactose or have less environmental impact than cow milk just make sure coconut milk is free of sugar or preservatives
  • Crystals - the latest product to arrive on US shores is coconut crystals which are a lower glycemic alternative to sugar that can be used in baking, drinks, etc.
  • Shredded (unsweetened) - the shredded soft white fruit we know and love is such a great way to add healthy fats to smoothies, coat fish, sprinkle on fruit or yogurt, etc.
  • Flour - Many people are wheat intolerant or simply prefer alternatives to wheat flour and organic coconut flour is fiber from the coconut meat after the oil has been extracted. Coconut flour is high in protein and fiber and low in carbohydrates with a great texture and appealing sweetness from natural sugar making it great for baking.

1 comment:

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