Once written off as an artery clogging, cholesterol packed food that contributed to heart disease, coconuts have made a huge comeback in recent years. In fact, there are over 1,500 studies purporting coconut oil to be one of Mother Nature’s healthiest foods.
How exactly did the confusion come about? It all boils down to one healthy secret researchers finally discovered about this amazing superfood. The initial concern was that 92 percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat, which was associated with obesity and heart disease. However, it was then found to be rich in medium-chain-triglycerides (MCTs) and not the long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) that are typically linked to these diseases.
What are Medium Chain Triglycerides?
LCTs take a much longer time to digest. They are not efficiently burnt as fuel and more likely to oxidise and be repackaged as triglycerides and stored as fat. In contrast, MCTs are so quickly digested and converted into fuel that they are not stored as fat. Once absorbed in the digestive tract, MCTs travel directly to the liver where they’re rapidly metabolised and burnt for energy. They only go through a three-step process to be turned into fuel vs. other fats that have to go through a 26-step process!
In addition, these MCTs include lipids such as lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. All three are potent antimicrobials that fight viruses, fungi, parasites and bacteria. For this reason, coconut is often used as a treatment for Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.
Top Health Benefits of Coconuts
- Provides a natural source of quick energy and enhances athletic performance
- Improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
- Improves insulin secretion and symptoms associated with diabetes
- Reduces risk of heart disease by taming inflammation and raising protective HDL cholesterol
- Promotes weight loss by increasing metabolism
- Supports immune system health
- Restores and supports thyroid function
- Helps keep hair and skin healthy and youthful looking
Coconut in the Kitchen
Coconut is now available in more and more forms for a variety of uses. Here is a list of coconut products that have replaced some of our common, everyday ingredients for healthier, delicious recipes. Consider reaping coconut’s health benefits by adding some of them to your health regimen.
Coconut oil is one of the safest oils for cooking because it is stable at high temperatures, i.e. it does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperatures. It solidifies in cold temperature, making it a staple ingredient in raw, vegan desserts.
Coconut Milk & Cream
A healthy alternative to cow’s milk, coconut milk is made by mixing shredded fresh coconut meat with water, then squeezing it through a sieve. Coconut cream is basically coconut milk without the water. It is thicker and often used for curries and stews.
Shredded Coconut or Coconut Flakes
These are made by dehydrating coconut meat; unsweetened versions are a great addition to salads, yogurt, snacks or even a trail mix.
Coconut flour is dried, ground up coconut meat. It is gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, high in fibre and often used to substitute wheat flour in low-carb and Paleo baking.
Coconut sugar is the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. While it can’t be considered a nutritional superfood, it does contain more vitamins and minerals than white sugar and is ranked lower on the glycaemic index.
Coconut aminos are made by combining coconut tree sap and sea salt. Not only is it a flavourful substitute for soy sauce, it is gluten-free, non-GMO, MSG-free, kosher and vegan.
Did You Know?
The water in the young coconut is one of the highest sources of electrolytes. Electrolytes keep the body properly hydrated so muscles and nerves can function appropriately. After an intense workout, rather than a sugar and chemical-laden commercial sports drink, quench your thirst with beneficial young coconut water that both rehydrates and refuels.
Recipe – Paleo Strawberry Cake
Chang Yi Ning, the genius behind Bakening’s vegetarian and Paleo-inspired treats, shares with us a delightful gluten-free recipe which features coconut flour. Find out more about them at their website, facebook and instagram.
This cake is:
98g Palm Shortening + more to grease the pan
7 Medium-sized Eggs
98g Coconut Sugar
84g Coconut Flour
42g Arrowroot Powder
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Beans (optional)
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- Preheat your oven to 170C and grease your pan with additional palm shortening. (I use a dome/semi-spherical pan for the cake but you can use a normal circular pan.)
- Melt the Palm Shortening in a mixing bowl over low heat.
- Add water into the mixing bowl to cool the palm shortening, then add the eggs, coconut sugar, coconut flour, arrowroot powder, and vanilla beans.
- Combine the mixture well until there are no lumps, and let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken up. (Coconut flour absorbs water like crazy!)
- When your oven is fully preheated, add the baking soda into the mixture and stir well before pouring into your pan.
- Bake for 40 - 50 minutes. If the top is becoming burnt, cover it loosely with aluminium foil.
- When time is up, check for doneness by pricking the cake in the middle with a skewer or satay stick. The skewer or stick should look dry when pulled out.
2 Tablespoons Dehydrated Strawberry Powder
1/4 Teaspoon of Dehydrated Beet Powder (for colour; optional)
1 - 2 Teaspoons of Water
100g Palm Shortening
40g Raw Honey
- Mix the strawberry and beet powder in water. Ensure that there are no lumps.
- Whip palm shortening and raw honey on high speed for about 8 - 10 minutes. It should look almost white in colour with a very fluffy texture.
- Add the fruit powder mixture and whip until evenly distributed.
Assembling the Cake:
Optional addition: 150g Fresh Strawberries sliced thickly
- Slice the cake horizontally into 2 layers.
- On the bottom layer of cake, spread 1/2 of the frosting in the middle and lay fresh strawberries over the frosting.
- Put the top layer of cake over the bottom layer and frost the surface of the cake to your desire.
- Palm Shortening is non-hydrogenated and does not contain trans-fat. If you can eat dairy and like the taste of butter, feel free to use butter instead of palm shortening.
- The quality of your coconut flour matters! The coarser your flour, the coarser the texture of your cake will be. Consequently, the proportion of dry to wet ingredients will also change according to the fineness of your coconut flour.
- Stale coconut flours will make your cake taste stale too, so use a fresh bag and keep your leftover coconut flour in the freezer to maintain its taste.
- Raw honey is extremely thick and viscous (my raw honey has to be scooped out by spoon as it is not pourable). If your honey is watery, try mixing your fruit powders with the honey and leave out the water instead.