I just adore coconut – it’s up there with mangoes and chocolate as being food from the gods. But I have to say…I can see why a person might be tempted to buy a carton of coconut water or buy ready prepared coconut flesh, rather than buy a fresh coconut. Maybe I don’t have the right tools for the job, but there was something comical about me trying to get the water out (which was relatively easy compared to getting into the flesh), then chasing it round the garden with a hammer (every time I bashed it it just sprang off in a new direction – probably something to do with being slightly afraid of whacking anything with a hammer). Having said that, the cartons and ready prepared pots of coconut flesh pale in comparison to the taste of the fresh stuff (even though I believe the water is supposed to come from young green coconuts, and this was a brown hairy job – it still tasted amazing), so maybe I’ll just work at a new technique for getting into the things. And as I haven’t figured out how to make coconut oil from a coconut yet, I will continue to buy that one from the supermarket.
So as well as adoring the taste of coconut, I’m just so pleased with all of the benefits I get when I eat the stuff. I mean the list just goes on and on (but you’re only getting 5 here or you’ll zone out, won’t you?!):
1. Coconut water is a great source of electrolytes. Bit dehydrated? Going for a run and need a isotonic drink? Reaching for the a ‘sports’ drink (yuk!)? Think again my friend. These sports drinks are marketed on their ability to replace electrolytes, which are lost when you sweat (potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium). These minerals are responsible for managing the electrical currents needed for your cells to work (think of your heart pumping) and also maintain your water balance, so of course replacing lost electrolytes is a good thing. But the sports drinks you buy in the shop also usually contain lots of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners (and other yukky things that possibly don’t belong in your body) Coconut water does have natural sugar in it, of course, no getting away from that. But no artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours, nasties…so it gets my vote!
2. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (or MCFAs) (most other oils contains short or long chain fatty acids, so MCFAs are quite unusual). MCFAs are easy to digest and are transported straight to the liver for conversion into energy. So what you ask? Can’t I just eat a banana or a slice of bread for energy? Well MCFAs don’t involve ingesting glucose (which bananas and bread are converted to in your body), which in turn causes insulin release and potentially conversion of excess to fat…so I think I’ll take the MCFAs if I want quick energy (got enough of that stored fat already thanks!) MCFAs are also thought to help increase metabolism and be beneficial for brain health (well your brain does consist of nearly 60% fat after all)
3. Some of those MCFAs are lauric acid, which is believed to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It also contains capric acid, another one with the anti-microbial benefits. So I’m thinking if I eat this stuff regularly I am giving my immune system some help with fighting off the bugs!
4. Coconut oil is really stable at high temperatures…which means it won’t become damaged when used to cook things. That’s a real benefit, as the polyunsaturated fats we’ve been encouraged to cook with for years (e.g. vegetable oils) do change at high temperatures, losing their health benefits and in fact becoming very damaging to health. I won’t kid you, it does have a taste, so I wouldn’t fry eggs in it, but for most things I think the taste compliments the food.
5. Coconut oil makes a great moisturiser. One, it smells divine (I had to get that in!), but it can also help soften skin and is believed to give some protection against the sun (without all those added chemicals you get in shop bought sunscreen – although obviously its SPF isn’t particularly high – about 5 I think).
Bonus point: it tastes amazing in curries – I use coconut oil, add some coconut milk or cream after the spices and whatever I’m adding to the curry, then maybe some dessicated coconut too. OK, it may be coconut overload, but did I mention I love the stuff?
If you take anything away with you from this, get yourself a pot of coconut oil to cook with. You really will be reaping health benefits from introducing it into your life.