Coconut

Coconut

I take a drinking coconut with us when we go for trail runs. I love getting back to the car, hacking it open and drinking the coconut water. Sure, it gets a few laughs, but it’s so much better than any electrolyte sports drink I’ve ever had. I won’t drink packaged coconut water, it doesn’t even compare in taste and then you have the packaging to dispose of.

At the moment there’s almost nothing I cook that doesn’t use coconut in some form – water, flesh, milk, cream, yoghurt, oil, flour, desiccated or shredded.

Nutrition

Coconut water from fresh young coconuts is fat free and one of the richest natural sources of electrolytes. Electrolytes are salts that conduct electricity in our bodies, regulating the flow of nutrients into and waste out of our cells. The key minerals that are considered electrolytes are calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride. They assist with nerve and muscle function (including regulating the heartbeat), and influence fluid retention. These minerals are lost through sweat, and are therefore an important consideration for an athletes nutrition. The electrolytes in coconut water are isotonic, meaning they’re similar in sugar and salt balance to our bodies, which is why its regarded as such a fantastic sports recovery drink.

The milk, cream and oil come from the flesh of the coconut and are excellent sources of medium-chain triglycerides, or saturated fats. These fats are metabolised quickly in the liver and are essential for brain and muscle function. The lauric, caprylic and capric acids are also known to support the immune system as they have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

In its dry form coconut is high in soluble and insoluble fibre. Fibre is critical for digestive health and can help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss.

I recommend reading Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Foods and Thrive Fitness if you’re interested in finding out more about the role and function of different nutrients in our bodies. If you’re after info on the nutritional breakdown of coconuts in its various forms visit the USDA National Nutrition Database.

Preparation

Coconut water must be sourced from young coconuts – most fruit and veggie shops will sell these as drinking coconuts. Using a cleaver or large bluntish knife hack a square in the top of the coconut so that it cuts throughs the fibrous white coating and the harder shell inside. Pop off the top and drink the water straight from the centre (or you might want to use a straw).

Coconut milk and cream come from a combination of flesh and water. If you don’t have a fresh coconut to hack the flesh from you can still make your own by combining 1 cup dessicated coconut with 1 1/3 cup water and blending until combined. Just like with canned versions the fat and water will separate, so ensure you mix them together before using.

Coconut oil is also referred to as coconut butter in its solid form. The butter turns to oil at 24C (75F), so depending where you live it will probably be a soft solid when stored in the pantry. To convert it to oil just place the container in some hot water.

I haven’t made any coconut yoghurt myself yet, but I plan on doing it soon using Waking up Vegan’s directions as my guide. I’ll let you know how I go!

Storage

Coconut water should be drunk within a few hours of opening up the coconut – fresh is best! I like to store my coconuts in the fridge so that they’re nice and refreshing.

Flesh, milk, cream and yoghurt can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for a few days. Like all foods I recommend storing them in glass to reduce your exposure to plastics.

Coconut oil should be stored in the pantry. I recommend storing it in a glass fliptop container, because if a jar gets any oil it you’ll never get it open again!

The flour and desiccated coconut should be stored in an air tight glass container, to prevent weevils from enjoying it. If you don’t have an air tight container keeping it in the freezer will also work.

Use

The oil is perfect for frying, as it won’t convert to trans fat until far higher a temperature than other oils. It is also useful in chocolate due to the temperature at which it solidifies. I use it as the base for the Herbal healing balm and a small amount is also great to help smooth frizzy hair.

As the flour is quite dry and fiberous it absorbs more moisture in batters than traditional wheat flour, so you will probably need to mix it for a bit longer than you would with traditional flour to give it itime to absorb.

I use the yoghurt just as you would dairy yoghurt – it’s so addictive!

I have a heap of recipes using coconut that you’ll be seeing shortly – including pancakes, muffins, chocolate and mocha protein slice!

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