Coconuts and its part’s – oil and the flesh – are widely eaten in tropical areas; specifically Southeast Asia and have been used in cooking for centuries. However, here in the US of A, people believe coconut oil and its properties must be bad for you because it is a saturated fat and ‘saturated fats are bad’. Well, this information is true in part as coconut oil is a saturated fat; however, the USDA does not distinguish between different kinds of saturated fats and insist ALL saturated fats are harmful. This is just not so. As there is good cholesterol, there are also good saturated fats. Coconut oil is one of them.
There are many good reasons to eat coconut. The quick version is that coconut contains a substance called lauric acid, which in the body is anti-microbial – it protects against bacteria and viruses that cause illness. In Indonesia, young coconut juice is often given when someone has diarrhea. Coconut is also known to boost energy, improve digestion, support thyroid function, and improve bowel function.
Coconut juice / water is cooling and is full of electrolytes – think of it as the world’s only natural sports drink – a perfect beverage in a hot climate. Currently, it is becoming mainstream in local grocery stores. Some popular brands include: Zico, Vita Coco and One.
For one cup of shredded coconut there are 283 calories and 224 are from saturated fat. There are 12g of carbohydrates, 7g of fiber, 3g of protein and 5g (just about 1 tsp) which is low on the glycemic load.
There are several uses for coconuts. I recently made sweet potato / leek latkes and used coconut butter on the griddle mixed with canola oil. It gave it a richer taste and the sweet flavor was more pronounced. I love coconut water after a work- out or in the summer when it’s hot outside. Coconut water is also great o use as a base for smoothies as it will give your smoothie the perfect amount of natural sweetness. If you really want to treat yourself to something delicious, purchase a fresh young Thai coconut (the white ones) from your local health food or Asian market. The water from a fresh coconut is unlike anything you’ll ever taste, plus you get the added benefit of enjoying the soft coconut meat from the inside. Each coconut contains close to 8oz of water and tons of meat. Enjoy the coconut meat raw or add it to a smoothie. Coconut flakes are great to cook with as well. Toast them and mix in with bread crumbs to make a coconut encrusted fish dish. You can add raw coconut chips into trail mix to add a bit of sweetness.
All in all, coconuts and its parts, in moderation, are a wonderful addition to a healthy diet. Be creative and enjoy the healthy benefits!