Ways that Coconuts Are Used for Healthy Eating
Coconut cream pie is probably one of the most popular desserts made from coconut in the west but in Asia where it is grown in vast quantities, buco (Filipino for young coconut) pie is more prevalent.
Comparing recipes side by side shows that the ingredients and procedures are actually very similar.
Both are basically simple custard filings in a baked pie crust. The Filipino version has a top crust and doesn’t have the whipped cream topping but the filling ingredients of cornstarch sugar, milk, eggs and coconut meat are present.
Americans with their penchant for whipped cream modified the recipe for a creamier, more calorie laden dessert. Modifications include combining it with other fruits like pineapple, banana and guava.
The name coconut cream pie is actually a mislabeling since there is usually no coconut cream in the recipe-only coconut meat in the pie and topped with whipped cream. Real coconut cream is another derivative from the mature fruit-basically a much thicker version of cocomilk with some of the water removed for a pastier product.
The soft coconut meat from young fruit can be scooped out with a spoon or cut into strings. This can be combined with other fruit, cream and/or condensed milk and frozen for a rich sherbet-like salad. Make it more special by adding cubed cheese or chopped nuts like cashew.
Cocowater can be mixed with gelatin and made into a refreshing tropical dessert. It goes well flavored with pandan leaves or extract which impart a green tinge. It can also be solidified through natural fermentation into nata de coco, another sweet derivative originating from the Philippines that is popular export product. Nata can be consumed by itself or combined with preserved and/or fresh fruit, candied beans, sweetened purple yam, evaporated or fresh milk and shaved ice for a refreshing summer cooler called halo-halo (Filipino for mix-mix). Halo-halo also uses macapuno or coconut sport, which is sweetened in syrup used in sweets and desserts. An Indian dessert called sarkarapuratty uses banana and coconut oil flavored with ginger, jiggery (a coarse dark sugar) and ghee (clarified butter )
Coconut Curries and Other Savory Dishes
The creamy nutty taste and texture of coconut milk make it a delicious addition to in savory dishes from soups to entrees.
Indian and other Asian curry dishes incorporate cocomilk as a medium to carry the sweet and hot profile of this spicy blend. Red, yellow, or green curry dishes with meat, seafood, chicken or vegetables all go well with the addition of cocomilk.
Cocomilk and meat have a distinct nutty, tropical creaminess that is used even in Western dishes. Fusion cuisine often makes use of cocomilk to impart the Asian feel to a dish. Spanish and Mexican cuisines make use of coconut in seafood recipes, especially stews and soups.
In some Indian provinces, vegetables are usually cooked with grated coconut, steam or fried with spices fried. Aside from mango, cocomeat is ground and combined with salt, chili pepper and spices and made into chutney.
Be adventurous and replace coconut water in recipes that call for water or broth. Though some of the nutrients will dissipate in the pan, there’s surely some left for the body to absorb. Bean with coconut milk can make use of this ingredient replacement as the cocomilk will go well if the beans are cooked in coconut milk instead of water.
Without realizing it, you could be benefiting from the health benefits of coconut without realizing it. If you’re from Asia, most likely the cooking oil you use in everyday cooking is coconut oil. Cooking oil is heat processed though unless you’re using virgin coconut oil. Popularly abbreviated as VCO, it has a lot more health benefits than most oils and is widely used by raw food chefs in their sweet and savory food preparations.
In its pure raw form, VCO has a smooth buttery flavor with a just a mild hint of a coconut aroma. Easily digested and metabolized it provides an excellent source of medium chain fatty acids. Though best consumed raw, it is likewise ideal for cooking, baking and frying. Coconut oil is highly heat resistant and free from cholesterol.
Not to be mistaken for coconut water which is more easily obtained by opening an immature fruit, coconut milk is extracted from the thick white meat of a fully mature coconut and takes a couple additional steps.
Though rice and soymilk remain to be popular nondairy beverages, coconut milk also ranks among top vegan lists due to its high nutrient, good fat content and extra creamy texture. It is available fresh from Asian markets or in cans and cartons in the Asian, health food stores. It is also sold online in countries which do not produce it. It is also powdered and sold as a non-dairy creamer for coffee, desserts and savory dishes. Reconstitute it simply by mixing it with water.
If you have access to fresh mature coconuts, it is wise to make your own cocomilk for assured sanitation. Mix shredded, fresh mature coconut meat with some water in a deep bowl then macerate it to release the milk gradually.
Strain out any remaining solids then enjoy. In the Philippines, one of the top coconut producers in the world, kakang gata or the first extraction is made by squeezing out the milk without any water. This milk whether pure or with water is used extensively in Asian cooking from savory curries to rich delicacies, desserts and refreshing drinks.
Pure cocomilk is used to make coconut oil by heating it until the oil separates. Cold processing yields virgin coconut oil regarded in health circles as a healthy oil ideal for raw food preparation as well as in cosmetics like massage oil, shampoo and conditioner.
Canned, powdered and boxed coconut milk are suitable alternatives but do not have the same quality as freshly extracted as processed sometimes incorporates thickening agents sweeteners and artificial preservatives.
Though a quarter cup has a hefty 12 grams of fat, ten of which are saturated, studies have shown that this type of fat is beneficial to the body and not harmful compared to certain animal fats.
One of the easiest but most delicious desserts you can make is rice with coconut milk in a pot or much or more easily in a rice cooker. Simply replace the water with sweetened cocomilk and cook carefully until the rice is tender. Top with fresh mangoes or other tropical fruit for added color and flavor.
Similar to cocowater, the milk boosts the body’s immune system. It contains significant amounts of vitamins, minerals including potassium and calcium. Among the fatty acids found in cocomilk is lauric acid which has anti-viral, bacterial, microbial and fungal properties.
Coconut sugar is the choice for those who just want a healthier and natural alternative to feed their sweet tooth cravings. It is a healthy, all-natural sweetener versatile in a variety sweet to savory recipes.
It is produced from the drippings or sweet toddy is collected from the unopened inflorescence (stem where the flowers sprout) of the coconut tree. It is converted into the delightful healthy brownish powder through a natural process of evaporation.
The sap is heated on slow fire to let the liquids evaporate until cocosugar granules are formed. Nothing else is added. Due to the limited supply, it is quite pricey and costs several times more than regular refined white sugar but the extra dollar spent on it is worth its weight in nutrients and the low-glycemic index (GI) making it a great sweetener suitable for diabetics.
Vegetarians and raw vegans rave about the amazing healthy characteristics of cocosugar (as well as all other edible parts of the coconut tree). It can be used for most beverages boosting the flavor more than just imparting an intense sweetness. This is even more evident when drinking a cup of coffee sweetened with cocosugar.
Replace coconut sugar in anything and everything you prepare that requires sweetness in place of refined sugars. You may have to adjust the amount as cocosugar is not as intensely sweet. However, those who consume it on a regular basis attest that it actually enhances the flavor of the food or drink allowing the palate to appreciate their more subtle flavor nuances. Use it in sauces, marinates and Asian dishes. It is likewise a great healthy sugar substitute in baked desserts, complementing fruits and chocolate.
If properly incorporated in an overall low GI diet plan, it can help in the proper management of diabetes, weight control, and prevention of heart disease and obesity. With proper processing, it can last several months and can be exported to different parts of the world.
Coconut water is fast becoming a popular beverage and has even taken Hollywood by storm with its refreshingly taste and amazing nutritional benefits in a high nutrient, low fat and calorie, virtually zero fat package.
For thousands of years, cocowater has been consumed for its hydrating and nourishing qualities. It has even been used as an IV fluid during World War II being the only natural liquid studied that can be introduced safely into the human blood stream.
One doesn’t need to be sick to enjoy the amazing effects of coconut water. It has long been consumed in countries across the Asia Pacific particularly in India, Africa, and the Caribbean. With advancements in packaging, sterilization, it is now available fresh, canned, or bottled even in temperate countries where the trees do not grow.
The best tasting cocowater comes from the immature fruit and contains important electrolytes that support the body. The sweet quality and nutritional content is diminished as the fruit reaches full maturity even though it remains perfectly drinkable.
In its freshest form, coconut water is enjoyed straight from the fruit with a small notch made into the thick husk and a straw inserted. After finishing the drink, the fruit can be broken open with a cleaver to access the soft gelatinous meat inside. Restaurants serve it that way if they have it or transfer the contents into a glass with the meat scooped out and served with the water. Cocowater makes a great base for refreshing beverages and a nutritious alternative to water in soups.
If the shell containing the water is undamaged, the contents are naturally sterile but it spoils rapidly upon contact to air. Processing facilities that package the water in cans, cartons or plastic bottles have strict monitoring and testing procedures to ensure the quality and freshness of the beverage especially if no preservatives are added.
A few of the many notable health benefits of coconut water include natural immune boosting qualities, enhancement of metabolism resulting in weight loss, detoxification agent, stress fighter and hangover busting properties.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Not all coconut oils are virgin coconut oils (VCO). And not all VCOs are organic. When purchasing this wonderful produce, consider going organic as this are certified to be extracted from organically grown mature coconuts. It is recommended that foods taken regularly for their health benefits are organically grown and manufacture.
In the case of virgin coconut oil as the process involved concentrates all the goodness of freshly extracted cocomilk, you’d certainly want to concentrate all it natural goodness rather than all the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional farming.
VCO is produced naturally without any direct heat or chemicals agents ensuring purity and optimum nutrients. Quality VCO follow stricter protocols in raw material selection with the final product having a delicious tropical buttery rich flavor, distinctly coconut. When ingested it is metabolized to energize, nourish and detoxify the body.
Ingestion can be done through food preparation or simply as a food supplement–one tablespoonful in the morning. Ayurvedic medicine also recommend oil pulling which involves gargling or swishing a tablespoon of pure oil (VCO is a good option) around the mouth for 15 minutes first thing in the morning before breakfast. This is believed to draw out toxins, improve oral health and treat systemic diseases like diabetes melitus and asthmas.
Imagine a type of oil that is flexible for cooking and raw food preparation and enhances the immune system; improves skin and hair health; boosts energy levels and much more. But another surprising benefit of consuming a reasonable amount of VCO regularly is it helps support natural and gradual weight loss.
Coconut oil is now a widely exported all over the world. It has a long shelf live with a high melting point of 76 degrees making is suitable for baking and various cooking methods from deep frying to sautéing. A drastic dip in its popularity was initiated by a negative campaign against overall saturated fats many years ago. Fortunately studies also came out indicating the good qualities of the fats found in coconut oil mainly from the presence of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This has now catapulted coconut oil as a great economical option in food preparation.