Coconut and I have a turbulent relationship.
My first experience was dry flakes sticking to my teeth, ruining whatever perfectly good dessert someone had inserted it in. I’ve since made my peace with coconut cookies and cakes, but as a child I considered it the dessert anathema equivalent to raisins in what should be chocolate chip cookies.
My first experience with coconut as a health food was when I learned it was as a gluten-free flour alternative. I bought a big bag and used about two cups of it in a batch of my chicken fingers.
My mouth has never been so dry. It was like parsley-salt-and-chicken flavored sand.
Coconut water made me gag when I tried it, and every time I watch a Hollywood stranded survivor hydrating themselves with it I know that, given the same scenario, I’d die.
But recently, I’ve made a tenuous peace with this hairy tropical fruit.
All it takes to win over a nutrition geek is a sexy list of health benefits, and coconut certainly fits that bill:
Coconut oil is a healthy fat and a long-burning source of energy. It provides the building blocks for hormones, healthy skin, and brain cells. Like all healthy fats, it improves our absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It’s a great skin moisturizer, as well, if you don’t mind a bit of greasiness until it soaks in. And if you weren’t sold already, coconut oil is also an effective anti-fungal.
Because coconut oil contains mostly saturated fatty acids, it’s a better option for cooking than many other fats and oils – SFAs, unlike other fats, aren’t easily damaged by light and heat.
Coconut flour (when used correctly, instead of en masse over chicken slivers) is a high-fiber, low-carb, gluten-free, and quite surprisingly yummy baking option. It’s a great option for the occasional treat that will satisfy instead of create cravings, and won’t spike your blood sugar.
Coconut milk is a great alternative to dairy and can be substituted in recipes, used as a base for smoothies, or even used as a whipped cream replacement.
Coconut water is a great source of potassium, and makes a natural electrolyte drink. It’s very hydrating and refreshing, and I hear that the nutrition even improves when a tiny paper umbrella is inserted in your cup.
My favorite way to eat coconut is a teaspoon or two of coconut oil on a warm sweet potato, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, salt, and pepper. The combo of healthy fat, vitamins, fiber, and carbohydrates makes the perfect side dish.
Plus it tastes like heaven done came down to earth.
Still, I have to warn you, coconut has a bit of an attitude.
I went to pull the jar of coconut oil out of the cabinet the other day only to realize it had been stowed without a lid. The summer heat had melted it, and pulling it off the shelf sent a shimmering waterfall down over my favorite pjs. As I stared at the grease spreading through my comfy sweats and moisturizing my skin, I felt as though the tropical nut was getting in its hits for my childhood complaints and gags.
Well played, coconut. Well played.
How about you? Any feelings on the fruit? Comment below and let me know your favorite ways to enjoy coconut!