Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Love Affair with Coconut

Settle in for a long post....

The coconut’s “real" name is Cocos nucifera. When the early Spanish explorers first experienced it they called it coco, which means "monkey face. The coconut has three indentations (eyes) on the outside of hairy nut, which makes it resemble the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means "nut-bearing."  Therefore, nut bearing monkey face is its real name. 

The coconut is an absolutely amazing complete package.  It provides a meat, a drink and an oil all in one neat sweet little food item.  The coconut also contains a full range of vitamins, minerals and is high in fiber.  Due to its health benefits and nutrients you will see people call it is a "functional" food.  I am sure you have seen recently how it has begun to climb in popularity because of its health, dietary and healing properties.  Some cultures go as far as calling this amazing nut "The Tree of Life."
If you study how people of various cultures use this monkey face nut, you will find they treat things like kidney stones, burns, colds, constipation, coughs, asthma, wounds, tumors, and so much more using coconut in some form.   The list which they use it for is staggering.  Also, in those countries, cancer and heart disease are at noticeably low and non-existent rates.
Modern medicine is now catching on and using coconut to treat illness, injury and disease.  Here are a few things some published studies have found.
·         Has potential to kill some viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and yeasts.  Caproyl Acid is one form that kills off Candida (I have first hand experience on its success with one of my sons.)
·         Is a great food for diabetics or those who can't tolerate carbs or grains due to coconut's ability to improve insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose, think sugars, flour, soy sauce alternative….
·         Great for the external body.  Helps with dandruff, great for skin conditions, protects the skin from the sun (think sun screen!!!), minimizes and reduces wrinkles, sunspots... and so much more!  I personally love it as a moisturizer for my face and skin.
·         For people with damaged guts or food allergies/sensitivities it improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including minerals, amino acids, and vitamins.  It can reduce the inflammation of the gut. 
·         Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be greatly helped when using coconut oil.  ***Just Google PCOS and coconut oil and many links like these will pop up. 
·         Can help to relieve stomach and intestine issues such as ulcers, colitis, Crohn’s disease. 
·         Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
·         May help people absorb vitamins such as magnesium and calcium.  Thus, strenthening bones which in turn can help fight osteoporosis.
·         It is heart healthy, helps protect teeth, can aid in cancer prevention...
The list goes on and on.....

Coconut Oil
While coconut possesses many health benefits due to its fiber and nutritional content, it's the oil that makes it a truly remarkable food and medicine.
People once thought that coconut oil was unhealthy due to high saturated fat content, it is now documented that coconut oil’s fat is different and totally unique in its properties and how it affects our human bodies.  I have seen it called “the healthiest oil on earth”.  In fact, in blogs and recipes it is the new go-to oil for cooking and baking.
So…WHY is it good for you and how is it different???
When you consume fats, you have a few choices as to their composition.  We can classify them two ways.  First are fatty acids, which you are probably familiar with, uses words like saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats…. Second is a system of classification on the molecular size or the length of carbon chains that are in the fatty acids.  This system uses words like, short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).
If you look at the standard American diet, our majority of fats and oils intake, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plants, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). It is estimated in our diets we are consuming about 95-100% LCFA..
We need to look at the second way of classifying fats.  The size of the fatty acid is extremely important. Human bodies metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size (LCFA, MCFA etc).  While coconut is saturated fatty acids, it is important to note coconut oils are predominately medium-chain fatty acids. (MCFA)
Let’s take a brief look at MCFA verses LCFA.  MCFA do not have a negative effect such as increasing cholesterol and can actually help to protect against heart disease. MCFA help to lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is primarily due to the MCFA in coconut oil that makes it so special and so beneficial.  There are only a very few good dietary sources of MCFA. By far the best sources are from coconut and palm kernel oils.
Type of products
Coconut milk (full fat in a can)
Coconut Flakes
Coconut Crème

Important notes about cooking with coconut flour and products:
Coconut is naturally very low on the glycemic index.  This makes it ideal for people who struggle with sugar/diabetes.  Coconut is also grain-free, which is a very healthy choice for many people with food allergies and sensitivities.

When cooking with coconut flour, it is important to sift it before incorporating it into wet ingredients.  It has a tendency to clump.  Coconut flour and eggs go hand in hand.  I personally have not tried any recipes using coconut flour with egg replacer, nor have I seen coconut flour and egg replacer used together in any recipe.  Coconut flour and almond flour are used often together in recipes.

Coconut baked products have a tendency to get VERY brown on the bottom.  It isn’t an error in cooking; it is just the result of how they turn out.
For detailed information on coconut research here is a great link.

Look for recipes to come!

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