If you have read much of anything about Paleo eating, you have probably noticed that coconut is a top ingredient choice. And it comes in so many forms! Let’s take a look:
It is a great source of calcium, zinc, manganese, selenium, zinc, and iron. It is also a good source of fat (healthy fat!). When purchasing coconut milk, look for the kind in the can (usually in the International Foods aisle). Get the full-fat can, as the “lite” kind is just a watered down version. Choose a brand that that doesn’t have alot of extra ingredients. The only acceptable stabilizing ingredient is guar gum (unless you have an allergy to guar gum). I usually get Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk. This is the stuff that you will want to use in all your recipes calling for coconut milk. It is also a good substitute for milk, half-and-half, heavy cream, etc.
When I first started eating Paleo, I did not really like the taste of coconut milk. It is definitely thicker than regular milk, and it has an interesting “sweet” taste. Now I use it all the time, and even enjoy a big spoonful over some fresh fruit.
I drink coconut milk in my coffee, with a little cinnamon stirred in. It is creamy and delicious! I sometimes use it to thicken smoothes.
I *sometimes* use So Delicious Coconut Milk.
This version is much thinner than what you find in the can, but it does contain a few preservatives, so it is not permitted in a Whole30.
So Delicious is also yummy in smoothies. Be sure to get the UNSWEETENED version to avoid all the extra sweeteners.
Coconut Oil: This has become a favorite ingredient of mine. It is great for sautéing, baking, and frying. This oil is perfect for high-heat-cooking (did you know that olive oil is NOT?). It gives food a delicious flavor. It can be used as a substitute for shortening too! It also has some amazing health benefits!
According to this site, “There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for the heart. This is because it contains a large quantity of saturated fats. However, coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful as it happens in case of other vegetables oils. It does not lead to increase in LDL levels. It also reduces the incidence of injury in arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis.”
Coconut oil is also helpful in building strong immunity, good digestion, prevention of diabetes, increased bone strength, balanced metabolism, and a host of other health benefits. It has many gut-healing qualities as well, which is helpful for people coming off a diet heavy in grains.
According to this site, “It actually acts like a carbohydrate in that it is quickly broken down in the liver and used as quick energy. It is NOT stored like other fats. It boosts one’s energy and endurance. Many athletes use it blended into their drinks. It also supports thyroid function and increases your metabolism (great if you want to lose weight).”
I like using Wilderness Family Naturals Coconut Oil. I get it at Lizzie’s Herb Shop in Kernersville. It is organic, unrefined, and virgin.
Coconut Flakes: Coconut flakes are a great flavor-packed snack, and are used in many recipes. They can be added to smoothies or to trail mix. Since they are part of the coconut, they are a great source of good fat. Be sure to choose the unsweetened version.
Coconut Water: This is a tasty beverage that is great to drink after workout to replenish electrolytes. However, even if you get the unsweetened kind, it is a sugary beverage (similar to fruit juice). You are better off drinking regular water, but coconut water is great for an occasional treat.
Coconut Cream: Coconut cream is just like coconut milk, only thicker. It is more like a thick paste. The cream is the part of the milk that rises to the top of the can. This ingredient is often used in cooking.
Coconut Flour: According to Tropical Traditions, “Organic coconut flour is fiber from the coconut meat after most of the oil has been extracted to make Virgin Coconut Oil. It is unsweetened, and has not been treated with sulfites. It is high in dietary fiber and protein, and is gluten-free. It has more fiber than gluten-based grains.” Keep in mind, though, that coconut flour is VERY dense, and a little goes a LONG way.
Coconut Butter: Coconut butter is sometimes called “coconut creme concentrate.” It is a delicious snack, especially when combined with a little almond butter. For some health information and recipes, click here.
You may be asking: “since coconut oil is a saturated fat, why is it so good for me?” Here is the answer (from this site): “Coconut oil is 92% saturated. But unlike animal fats like beef tallow and lard, coconut oil is predominantly (two-thirds) Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). There are actually very few that are essentially MCTs. In fact, almost all other fats and oils (saturated or unsaturated, plant- or animal-based) are entirely Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT). The oil of the humble coconut is nature’s richest source of health-boosting MCTs!”
Now go out and explore what you can do with the amazing coconut!