Column: Cuckoo for coconuts


Commentary by Dawn Parker

Behind cacao (a.k.a. chocolate), the coconut is one of my favorite superfoods. It is so incredibly versatile, comes in many different forms and is very nutritious. Plus I find it delicious.

Some people shy away from coconut products, especially the oil, thinking it has too many calories or because it is a saturated fat. We shouldn’t be afraid of fat. Fat is critical for so many bodily functions like brain health, hormone production, etc. In addition, coconut oil is preferentially used for energy over being stored as fat, so it is a great food to use for increased energy. Coconut products can also help speed metabolism due their high content of medium chain fatty acids. So if you’re trying to lose weight, don’t shy away from the coconut due to the calorie or fat content. And if you’re trying to eat healthier, there are many more reasons to eat more of it. Some additional benefits are blood sugar regulation, improved digestion and absorption of fat soluble vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It is also great for the immune system due to its anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Some of the ways you can utilize coconut in your food preparation are the whole young coconut (water and meat inside), coconut oil, coconut milk (carton or canned), shredded coconut, coconut butter or cream, and coconut flour.

I like to cook with coconut oil and it is the only oil I use in baking – not only for its nutrition, but also because it stands up better to high heat than most other oils. It can replace any oil or butter in baking recipes and I even use it for roasted potatoes, pancakes, and sautéed greens. I recommend buying organic, virgin, unrefined coconut oil. It can be pricey, but most high quality oils are. Cheap oils are usually cheap because they are made with genetically modified soybean, canola, corn or cottonseed oils. Those are best avoided, in my opinion.

Another way I use coconut is to add unsweetened, shredded coconut to my morning smoothie and many of the recipes I create for my clients, like granolas, cookies and candies. For those that are gluten free, coconut flour is a great option, providing a very high amount of fiber compared to grain flours. It cannot be substituted equally for other flours, so I recommend following a recipe when trying it out. The big difference is that a small amount goes a long way and requires a large amount of liquid due to its high fiber content. But it can be a great asset in making delicious, gluten free treats or meals.

As you can see, there are so many reasons to integrate coconut into our diets. I love it when a food that tastes great is also so great for you and this is one of the reasons it is one of my favorite superfoods.

Dawn Parker

Certified Health Coach