health

The superfood that everyone is talking about but nobody knows how to eat.

Five years ago, poor coconuts didn’t get much attention. You could break into their shells and drink coconut water on island resorts, but that was about it. Otherwise, they were largely banished to being a mere scent in cheap-o supermarket bodywashes. Or they were shredded and used for dusting lamingtons and creating coconut ice.

Nowadays? You can’t go anywhere without being confronted by the latest coconut superproduct to hit the shelves. Coconut oil, coconut water, coconut flour, shredded coconut, coconut butter, coconut milk – coconuts are taking over the supermarkets and the health food shops.

I already know that some of you are fully-fledged coconut converts. But I also know that a lot of you must be sitting at home, genuinely wondering what all the fuss is about, and wishing that a tastier item was all the rage right now. Like pineapples. Delish.

In summary, the jury is still out on a lot of coconut-related items. While some have practically taken on coconuts as their new religion, others seriously doubt the true benefits involved.

Here’s what you need to know about the supposedly ‘healthiest’ coconut products…

1. Coconut water

Coconut water

I’m just going to put it out there: coconut water is not tasty. At all. I personally cannot cope with it unless it’s combined with pineapple juice (see aforementioned point about pineapples being delicious).

But hey, who am I to talk, because coconut water is the drink of choice for celebrities such as Lara Bingle, Madonna and Matthew McConaughey, as well as what seems like most of the general population of Sydney.

So here’s the deal: coconut water contains carbohydrates, in the form of natural electrolytes. So, the same thing you find in sports drinks – however, coconut water has far fewer calories, as well as less sodium, plus potassium, zinc, selenium, iodine, sulfur, manganese… the list goes on.

Apparently it’s also good for your skin, and other claimed benefits such as improved blood circulation, blood pressure and digestive or urinary problems.

If you’re equally not keen on the taste, there are plenty of recipes out there for drinks and soups incorporating coconut water. It’s also a good option to add into green smoothies, if you’re a fan of them.

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Alas, the coconut oil in your supermarket might not be so beautifully packaged.

2. Coconut oil

Ah, coconut oil, the complicated oil to confuse everybody. Coconut oil contains a whole lot of saturated fat, which we all know is generally a bad fat that should be limited. HOWEVER – it’s the kind of saturated fat that’s made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which are the good kind, delivered to the liver to be used for energy purposes. Clever.

Said medium-chain fatty acids also have several potential health benefits, like raising good cholesterol and increasing calorie burning. But the superpower claims of coconut oil don’t end there – many believe that it also has the potential to reduce inflammation and provide as protection for immune function and certain diseases. That said, very few of these claims have any scientific basis, so I’m not sure who came up with these conclusions.

Anyway – coconut oil is used for everything from cooking to oil pulling. Many also use it as a make-up remover, a hair conditioner and some even reckon you should use it as lube. I’m not sure about that, but I do enjoy melting it and using it as a replacement for butter when baking.

3. Coconut flour

Generally used as a substitute for wheat/grain flour, coconut flour is ground from coconut meat (the white part of the coconut) and claims to be high in fibre while low in carbs. It’s good for those who need to be gluten free, and doesn’t taste too coconut-ty, but it’s generally recommended that you use recipes specifically designed for coconut flour – it requires certain amounts of liquid to make edible.

My favourite coconut recipes?

This one for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, from Teresa Cutter, The Healthy Chef.

This one for raw cacao and almond meal bliss balls, from Billabong Retreat.

This one for coconut flour flax bread.

– Last but not least – this one for coconut peach bars.

Are you a coconut fan? Do you use it in your cooking?

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