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Coconuts

I used to buy fresh coconuts, drill and hammer them into submission, save the milk, dig out the coconut meat with a 7 inch oyster knife and blend up my own coconut cream. Since I’m not an oyster fan, I bought the knife specifically for coconut excavation. I’ve only tried oysters a couple of times and it wasn’t a particularly good experience. Not that I would know, but they give me the sensation that I’m participating in a immunity challenge on Survivor Java and I’m trying to force down rhinocerus boogers or something. Ewww.

Back to the point of this post, which is to highlight the beneficial properties of coconut oil. By the way, I no longer bother with starting from scratch with the coconuts as I quickly realized there were better ways for me to spend my time. Plus, with all those potentially dangerous tools I was fussing with, I was afraid I was going to injure myself in an attempt to stay healthy. Luckily there are some good coconut products available.

First off, you need a jar of organic, cold pressed, centrifuge extracted, extra virgin coconut oil. Next, take a glob of it and work it into your hair, pile it on top of your head and hope no one rings your doorbell. Let it sit for a couple of hours, wash and rinse thoroughly, swing your head back and forth and admire the shine.

coconuthair

I’ve been using coconut oil, milk, water, flakes, cream, powder and flour for quite some time now and I’m sold on its goodness. I’m not sure it’s the all-out miracle cure some claim it to be, but I do like it for a variety of reasons. I use coconut oil for all my sautéing and frying, regardless of what I’m making and surprisingly, it doesn’t impart a coconut taste to the food. I also use it in baking for its delicate taste and the “oily” moisture it provides to gluten-free baked goods.

The type I use is made from fresh coconuts that are cold pressed into a milky emulsion, then chilled and placed in a centrifuge where the oil and water are separated. The finished product is unrefined, stable, pure and it tastes wonderful.

I won’t bore you with too many details, but coconut oil is a concentrated source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which do not require bile acids for breakdown. Instead of a process of emulsification and enzymatic activity in the small intestine, MCFAs are sent directly to the liver for processing.

This is where sports nutrition, one of my interests, comes into play. MCFAs give your engine better gas mileage because they’re converted to energy more efficiently (and not stored as fat). I make little energy bars from coconut oil and several other ingredients that I take along on hikes. Like most of my food preparation, I make them differently each time, so I don’t have a reliable recipe. I’ll figure it out and do a post on it one of these days as I know from personal experience that they provide balanced energy for difficult endurance activities. Coconut water is also filled with electrolytes, making it a good addition to homemade energy drinks and smoothies. Although there is lots of information suggesting coconut oil speeds metabolism by impacting overall thyroid function, I’d like to see more reliable scientific evidence supporting the link between the two.

On to digestive health. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but it’s a good one and plays a structural role in cell membrane integrity and works as a precursor to various substances that regulate intestinal motility. Blah, blah, blah — these fats are good ones and provide all kinds of benefits to the GI tract, boosting overall intestinal health and immunity. Remember, a large part of your immune system is located in your gut. Research also indicates coconut oil to have anti-viral and anti-microbial properties, so it’s a wonderful addition to a healthy diet.

Coconut flour: naturally gluten-free, high in fiber, low in carbohydrate, good source of protein, high in good fat, adds rich texture and lends natural sweetness to baked goods. Replace up to 20% coconut flour in your recipe, you must also add additional liquid or it will be too dry.

For a detailed post I did on fats and oils, please see do you need an oil change.

Peace, love and coconuts!
Melissa

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22 Responses to “coconut love”

  1. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    Another fabulous post on a product I now use since you first mentioned it. Fortunately for me, my local health food store stocks it but the man behind the counter tried to sell me the liquid version which wasn’t organic and no doubt dubiously extracted. I told him my friend and expert on the subject, recommended the other kind, which as you say is so versatile and not expensive.

    There’s so much I now know about the humble coconut so thanks Melissa… I will spread the word and spread the oil upon my unruly locks :)

    Cid

  2. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    Thanks so much for your comments. I do love coconut and have discovered all kinds of interesting uses for it.

    :-)

    Unruly locks? GDave maybe, but not you. What about your Japanese hair ornaments? The geisha girl sticks with the dangly luminescent beads that go so well with your vintage kimono? Slather on some coconut oil and create yourself an elegant updo! You of all people can pull that off.

  3. CoconutGal says:

    I love this post! Perfect :-)
    I was just working on a post about coconut water but now I think I should just skip it and link back to you as you covered all the bases!
    I use the exact same coconut oil from Wilderness Family!!! Glad to know I’m on the same page with all this good coconut stuff. I’m going to send some people to this post as some refuse to understand the saturated fats in coconuts are ok. Perhaps it will stick better coming from someone else… ah yes, passive aggressive nutrition counseling :-)
    Anyway- I just checked your linked post on oils to see if you answered my question, but I did not see anything about the heating of oils. I know you say here that you use coconut for all cooking. This is something I am still trying to understand as I have heard so many different things.
    I used to cook exclusively with EVOO, grilling, sautéing, everything. Then read it should never be heated and stopped. After seeking my dieticians advice, she told me to use sunflower, safflower, grapeseed for high heat cooking/baking. But the more I research this, the more this seems wrong too. Lately I have been using mostly coconut and wondering if I should toss my grapeseed, safflower, etc.
    The best thing about the centrifuged coconut oil is it’s light flavor, so I have found (just like you said) you don’t really taste it.
    Sorry for the long-winded comment. Any tips on the heating of oils would be much appreciated.
    Thanks Melissa! This CoconutGal always likes to hear about her beloved coconuts.

  4. I think I have an unnatural obsession with coconut and all it’s various forms – oil, milk, flakes, etc. I’ve noticed I sometimes eat coconut in some form or another 3x a day! Is there such thing as too much?
    By the way, I noticed in one of your other posts you drink coconut milk in your coffee – something I used to do last summer and I forgot how good it was!

  5. greedydave says:

    Melissa,

    To join you off-task for a moment, an English stand-up comic called Frank Skinner described eating oysters as, “Like licking phlegm off a tortoise,” which still makes me chuckle.

    Coconut oil, hey? Another new one on me. I mean, I knew there was oil in there – we’re told to let the oil separate from coconut cream before we add our Thai curry paste – but I had no idea it was available in its own right, nor that it was such a powerhouse. I’m particularly drawn to the small intestine fact. As you know I’ve been pilfering your old posts for energy advice.

    A quick search of the UK market brings up 2 organic brands; Biona & Tiana, both of which attest to being cold-pressed but mention nothing of centrifugally separated on their websites. In fact, Tiana’s website not only cites the benefits in your post but also goes on to claim aid for a further 100 ailments, diseases and conditions, stopping just short of claiming to save the whale and to bring peace to the Middle East. :)

    Thanks for another great post, Melissa. Btw, the unruly locks aren’t being helped by driving Scottish winds and hail storms. Here comes the Summer! :)

    GDave

  6. Melissa says:

    Coco-Emily,

    Wow, I should have dedicated this post to you since you’re the coconut girl! It slipped my mind (I’m doing too many things at once).

    You know Wilderness Family is having a sale right now — free shipping. I just ordered more coconut oil, coconut spread and some coconut mayonnaise. I want to try that yummy looking cocoa hazelnut butter, but it all gets too expensive.

    Saturated fats (the good kind, not trans fats and junk like that) are healthy fats. That whole marketing thing against fat has caused all kinds of unwarranted paranoia. Coconut, avocados, nuts — things like that are good. Eggs are good. People get caught up in the saturated fats and cholesterol thing and think all this stuff is bad. (Cholesterol comes from animal products.) We need healthy fats and cholesterol to maintain cells, hormones, all kinds of things. I don’t eat dairy products for other reasons, but butter is a good fat. It’s much better for you than that fake stuff (margarines).

    Here’s my take on this for what it’s worth. Remember, I’m a nutritionist, not a doctor. :-)

    I use coconut oil for sauteing and frying, I just don’t heat to high temps. It’s saturated so it’s more stable. Try to sauté at medium temps. I like to use a little coconut oil for sautéing onions and garlic because I like the way they taste sauteed in oil. Then if I’m adding other veggies, I often add some broth and sauté everything in that. Broth works well for sautéing and you don’t need much. If you get too much, just let it steam off.

    Actually, if I lived on a farm and had access to really healthy animal fats (pork lard or beef tallow), I’d probably use some of that. I’m not a big meat eater though, so coconut oil is my current favorite.

    As for grapeseed oil, I used to use it on occasion, but only the organic version. I don’t use it anymore as it has a high ratio of omega 6s and much of what I’ve read also indicates it may contain some traces of carcinogenic solvents. It seems a bit too “industrial” to me.

    I’ve decided the best thing for me is to avoid all hydrogenated oils and trans-fats, safflower, soy, corn, cottonseed and canola and stick with coconut and olive oil. And to not heat my oils to high temperatures.

    Does that answer your questions?

    Melissa
    xo

  7. Melissa says:

    Lauren,

    Yes, I use full-fat coconut milk in my coffee and it is one of my all-time favorite treats. I only have one cup per morning, but I make it a good one!

    I know what you mean about eating “too much” coconut. I suppose you could overdo it — it goes back to that thing about finding balance and moderation. Hard to do when something tastes sooo good!

    :-)

    It isn’t low calorie so that’s something to think about as well.

  8. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    Between you and Cid, I’m always smiling. Or laughing out loud, like I was early this morning over on the other channel.

    Cold pressed is fine. It looks like lard, but a little less dense. It’s a saturated fat, meaning it’s solid at room temp. That makes it more stable, which is good unless it’s been hydrogenated, which is bad. No trans-fats — that’s bad stuff.

    I know what you mean about claims of coconut oil solving all the world’s problems. I’m a bit of a skeptic to begin with, so I do a lot of eye-rolling when I read those over-the-top health claims. It’s definitely good stuff though.

    As for Scottish winds, I remember walking around a corner in Glasgow one time and I got blown over and my umbrella literally blew up. I got yanked half-way back up the block and when I finally gathered myself together, I was missing a mitten, my scarf was choking me and my umbrella was in shreds.

    You Glaswegians are a hardy bunch. It’s definitely “survival of the fittest” country.

  9. lo says:

    This is a great post, Melissa. Coconut oil is a fine thing — and, like organic palm oil — doesn’t deserve the bad rap its gotten for its saturated fat content.

    We’ve not yet used coconut milk in our coffee — but it sounds like a totally decadent (and healthful) alternative. We’re totally on board!

  10. CoconutGal says:

    Thanks Melissa, I appreciate “your take” on the whole oil thing!
    I’m still a bit confused so let me try and explain. When you say you saute and fry with coconut oil and leave it at a medium temp, does that mean I shouldn’t use it for baking? What would you use for say– butternut squash fries at 425 F?
    Does it make any difference that the sunflower oil I have are organic and cold pressed? The grapeseed is the same brand as my sunflower but it’s not organic, I searched the whole shelf at Whole Foods and could not find any. I think I’ll toss it, carcinogens are never good. What do you think about cooking with olive oil? Is it safe for baking?
    Lately I have started sauteing food in broth like your mentioned and find that works well but I do like the taste of oily sauteed veggies too.

    Ok hopefully that makes sense! I appreciate your feedback, have a lovely weekend!

  11. Anne says:

    Melissa,
    A most interesting post. You certainly managed to inspire me. I shall be in search of enlightenment and see what I can find in my area.
    I love the photo.

    Cid could impress Ray Mears with this hair do when he calls :)
    Anne

  12. Anne says:

    Melissa,
    “Research has shown” is a phrase very randomly used by all sorts of firms. We have just watched the last of a programme called “Professor Reagan’s Health Spa” where she tracked down the claims of various product firms about their research. Unless their was actual evidence of clinical trials that were also published in professional journals, she was very sceptical. Some of her findings were astonishing, especially relating to the taking of vitamins and detoxing.
    Anne

  13. Melissa says:

    Lo — When I do my periodic cleanses, the thing I miss the most is my one cup of organic coffee with coconut milk each morning. That is my version of “macaroni and cheese.” It’s my comfort food, but I am very careful not to drink more than one cup. I find (or have convinced myself) that it’s okay in very small doses.

    :-)

  14. Melissa says:

    Coco,

    I know what you mean and maybe my vagueness is because there’s no “perfect” answer. I wouldn’t toss your oils away (they’re expensive) — use them up and then you might want to stick with olive oil for salad dressings or light sauteing and the coconut oil for sauteing and baking. Even butter for baking. Don’t worry about the baking. And for what it’s worth, I use a small amount of olive oil when I make my potato fries as well. I like how they taste.

    You know, the idea is to just do the best you can, figure out what works for you and not get too neurotic about it. There’s a fine line between being concerned about what and how you eat and being a nutcase over it. I say this with the utmost respect as I step back and forth over that line all the time. But you know, stressing out about it can be as unhealthy as frying the heck out of your oil.

    :-)

    Oh, and next year, there may be new research suggesting something else!

  15. Melissa says:

    Anne,

    Excellent comment. I’ll have to look up Professor Reagan. She sounds very interesting. Yes, I know — as I mentioned to Coco, it’s about finding balance in all this as the “research” can be interpreted in different ways depending on who is funding it, evaluating the data, and so on. I’m skeptical about some of these incredible product claims. I figure eating fresh, wholesome foods is the best way to stay healthy. Add in some exercise and enjoyment of life and you’ve got it made.

    :-)

  16. CoconutGal says:

    Again, thanks Melissa!!
    I too go back and forth with being a little too, concerned about my health. It’s hard because I’m sick so I want to treat my body the best I possibly can to help with my illness. But then I need to remember to let go because like you said, stressing isn’t any better!
    Except no matter what I do/don’t eat, my husband always thinks I’m a nutcase ;-)
    “You’ve gone all granola-y on me, haven’t you?!”

  17. Melissa says:

    Coco,

    Although you have some challenges with the EG stuff, you really seem on top of it all. Good for you. I’ll be at a conference in June and will keep my ears open for news on all that.

    In the meantime, we must have some things in common because I go “all granola-y” all the time. I’m a product of the 60s, a hippie girl at heart. I can relate!

    :-)

  18. Laurel says:

    Hi Melissa:

    I’d love to use more coconut flour in my baking but I’m not much of an egg fan. I have a copy of that coconut flour cookbook by Doctor whatshisname but since I don’t do butter and wouldn’t eat 6 eggs in a year I’m kind of lost. Any ideas? Like if you use 1/2 cup coconut flour you could add this much hemp milk or something? I’d appreciate it.

  19. Laurel says:

    And you know what? I wouldn’t add 6 eggs either. I probably wouldn’t even EAT 6 eggs in a year. LOL

  20. Melissa says:

    Laurel,

    Dr. Fife? I think that’s his name, although I’ve never used his cookbook. First off, I wouldn’t substitute a lot of coconut flour in a recipe, just 15 or 20%. Like you said, if you add 1/2 cup of coconut flour, add that much more liquid (water or a milk — brown rice milk, hemp milk, whatever). As for the eggs, does he suggest 6 eggs in one recipe? Yikes, that is a lot. Have you tried ground flax as an egg replacer?

    1 Tbls ground flax seed

    2-3 Tbls water

    Simmer mixture in small saucepan on low for about 5 minutes until it becomes “egg-like” in texture. That makes about 1 egg.

    And try coconut oil for the butter.

    My favorite eggs are duck eggs for GF baking. I love them, but if you don’t eat eggs, give the flax eggs a try.

    Good luck!

  21. Laurel says:

    Melissa:

    Yes, Dr. Fife. Let me see Spice Cake: 12 eggs, 1 C coconut flour. All the cookie recipes call for 4 eggs per half cup of flour; cupcakes 3 eggs per quarter cup; brownies 6 egg for 1/2 cup flour. I’ve got an upset stomach just thinking about it! Thanks for the tip about the coconut oil, I do use it rather than butter. As for the flax eggs, they don’t seem to work so well when you are replacing more than two eggs in any one recipe. If I’m doing cupcakes I’ll sometimes do flax eggs plus extra baking powder or egg replacer. Anyway, my question was really whether you just have to add some type of liquid or if it had to be eggs. And, finally, I will try some duck eggs if given the chance. I don’t know if it’s just the chicken eggs that don’t agree or eggs in general. It’s an interesting point.

    I sincerely appreciate your willingness to help.

  22. Melissa says:

    Whoa, that’s a lot of eggs and I’m sure he must use them because the flour is so “dense.” There’s a lot of fiber and fat in coconut flour and it soaks up the liquid. I wish I had a better answer for you. Cut back on the coconut flour and just use a little bit. You could also try adding some coconut water for the liquid, it might give a more delicate coconut taste.

    Good luck and let me know if you find the magic formula!

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