When you picture a coconut, you may imagine the luscious white meat. However, when it comes to the health benefits of coconut, the meat is far from the only advantageous part. Coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flour and even coconut vinegar can offer many benefits and serve as substitutes for butter, canola oil, shortening and more.
What Are Coconuts?
Is a coconut is a fruit, seed or nut? According to the Library of Congress, it can be all three! It just depends on your perspective. Coconuts grow in tropical areas of the world, but thanks to the global economy, people all around the globe get to enjoy them. If there were any doubt about the health benefits of coconut, you need only look at the list of conditions, such as kidney stones, that people worldwide have helped to treat with coconuts.
Health Benefits of Coconuts
While coconut meat is high in fat, this fat serves useful purposes, such as replacing energy in the body and boosting ketone levels. A diet that consists of coconut meat and coconut products could help with brain health as well as heart disease and stroke. This is because coconut ingredients, such as vitamins A and E, as well as phytosterols and polyphenols combine to lower cholesterol in the body. Thus, the risk of heart disease and stroke tends to decrease. Coconut also boasts minerals such as calcium and iron.
How to Incorporate Coconut Into Your Diet
Coconut has three layers and a hard shell, but once you crack the shell, you can use coconuts in many ways. For example, coconut meat can make a handy snack, and people often shred it for use on foods such as cakes. Here are a few other ways to use coconut.
- Coconut milk (cream): Use fresh coconut milk as soon as possible, as it can go bad in just one day. (Canned coconut milk lasts much longer.) Try this delicious milk in curries, soups and with rice. It is also fun to use in desserts such as chocolate mousse with coconut whipped cream.
- Coconut milk (from cartons): This type of coconut milk is thinner and has a texture similar to almond milk. Use it as a vegan, nut free alternative to cows milk or nut milk. Put a splash in your coffee or enjoy it with some cereal and granola.
- Coconut oil: Cooking with coconut oil is not like cooking with regular oil. For one thing, coconut oil can liquefy, so check out this post for useful tips. You can even use coconut oil for deep frying or while baking by replacing ingredients such as butter, canola oil and shortening with coconut oil.
- Coconut flour: Coconut meat is ground and dried to make this low carb, gluten free and nut free "flour" alternative. It is high in fibre and ideal for paleo dieters. Due to its high absorbant nature, coconut flour is not a 1-to-1 substitute for regular flour. It is best to use it in recipes that specifically call for coconut flour or combine it with other flours to avoid a dry product.
- Coconut vinegar: Made from fermented coconut sap or coconut water, this slightly sweet vinegar can be used in salad dressings or marinades for a tangy kick.
- Coconut water: Replenish your electrolytes by sipping on some coconut water! It's a great natural alternative to sugary sports drinks. You can also add it to kombucha mocktails for a boost of potassium.
- Coconut flakes: Shredded coconut has uses beyond macaroon recipes. Combine it with coconut flour to use as breading in baking or frying. Use it as a topping on smoothie bowls, oatmeal or nice cream. You can also get those delicious coconut flakes in the following Nature's Path products:
- Coconut sugar: Use it as a vegan sweetener alternative to honey. Remember to consume this in moderation, as it is still sugar.
The health benefits of coconut extend beyond vitamins and minerals. To purchase non GMO coconuts, check this list of non GMO foods and your local Asian market. You can enjoy coconut in many forms due to its versality - so have fun experimenting with it!
Healthy Coconut Recipes to Try
- Tropical Coconut Sticky Rice Wraps
- Vegan Raspberry Eton Mess
- Tropical Coconut Chia Pudding
- Green Smoothie Popsicles