Why Coconuts are a Superfood: The Best Uses and the BenefitsDr. Miranda Wiley, ND
September 13, 2016
Superfood or Fad?
Look around you in your local health food store, and it may seem as if a wide variety of coconut products are taking over. Coconut oil. Sugar. Milk. Water. Aminos. Cream. Shredded coconut. Coconut flour. Fiber. Chips. Coconut vinegar and now even coconut protein. But it’s not just a fad; there is merit behind the rise of the humble, fuzzy nut. Because of their versatility, and the wide range of benefits coconut products are here to stay.
Coconut oil is physically and chemically different than most other dietary fats and oils. It’s predominantly made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are absorbed more easily and with less digestive effort than the larger fats from both plant and animal sources. They also burn quickly for energy and help to boost metabolism, making them ideal for those with sluggish metabolism.
- Coconut oil is fantastic when used topically as a moisturizer, diaper cream, and even make-up remover because one of the MCTs in coconut oil, lauric acid, has anti-viral properties, while another, caprylic acid, is anti-fungal.
- Cooking and baking with coconut oil imparts a light sweetness to foods and is an excellent choice for roasted veggies, sautéing, and in place of butter in cookies and other baked goods.
- Coconut water comes from immature coconut fruit and while it does contain electrolytes and sugar, both are in very low amounts. Often touted as a sports drink, to enhance recovery after exercise, the ratio of electrolytes is debated, so it may just remain in the realm of “tasty beverage”.
- Coconut milk is derived from blending coconut meat with water. Coconut milk has a long history of use in curries, but is equally delicious in coffee or tea, on cereal, or used as a dairy milk alternative in recipes.
- Coconut cream is simply a richer, thicker version of coconut milk, and can be whipped into “whipped cream” for desserts.
- Coconut vinegar is made from fermented coconut water, while coconut aminos – which taste more like soy sauce – are created through the use of enzymes to break apart coconut protein.
- Coconut sugar doesn’t come from the coconut fruit itself, but from the sap that can be extracted from the coconut flower. The sap is boiled down to remove the water content making coconut sugar an unrefined sweetener.
Like most nuts, coconuts have a significant level of both protein and fibre. Once coconut oil has been extracted from the white coconut flesh the remaining pulp can be dried and ground and turned into coconut flour.
Coconut flesh can be treated with enzymes to separate the fiber and the protein. Dietary coconut fibre is being used in meal replacement bars, cereals, and as a stand alone fibre supplement.
- Coconut protein is an excellent protein supplement that mixes well in water. It is a wonderful plant based protein that is useful for everyone, particularly vegans and vegetarians who may have difficulty getting enough protein in their diets. Because of the global demand for coconut oil, there is an abundance of coconut pulp from which to extract coconut protein. Not only is it a good protein choice for you, but it is an excellent one for the planet as well.
There are so many ways to include coconut items into your diet. Coconut trees grow well in hot, humid, tropical environments, and once the tree reaches maturity it can produce up to 70 coconuts each year, making it a sustainable and useful crop. The humble coconut is a superfood for fuelling the body with clean fat, digestible protein, and filling fibre. As with any food, look for organic sources and ask your local healthfood store about coconut products, uses and benefits that may be suitable for your needs.