We love us some coconut at I Quit Sugar HQ. We throw coconut flakes in our Coco-nutty Granola, we use coconut milk in our Avocado, Coconut + Skyr Mousse and don’t even get us started on our obsession with Coconut Oil.
The reason they call it the “tree of life”
Coconuts boast a bevy of health benefits, most of which are attributed to it’s high levels of saturated fat (the good stuff). Almost 50 percent of the coconut’s fatty acid profile can be attributed to lauric acid, an anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti- protozoa “miracle” ingredient, which in a coconut shell (yeah we did) means they’re great for our immunity. They’re also a balanced protein, high in dietary fibre, rich in vitamins and minerals and a brilliant source of energy.
But perhaps the most endearing quality of the coconut is that it’s been used among Island populations for nourishment and medicinal purposes for generations, while the rate of cardiovascular disease in those communities remains low (just saying).
There are a bazillion (slight exaggeration) different forms of coconut on the supermarket shelves and it can get confusing about which products are used for what purpose.
To avoid getting tripped up, follow our comprehensive coconut breakdown.
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. There is a plethora of uses for this stuff in both cooking and skin care, largely due to its versatility at different heats. At room temperature this oil becomes liquid and when cooled it hardens to a solid state. When choosing a brand always opt for organic, cold pressed, virgin coconut oil.
Coconut butter is the flesh of the coconut which as been ground into a butter. It is creamier than the oil, and makes a great dairy-free spread.
Coconut flakes are the dried, flaked meat of the coconut. They can be enjoyed raw or lightly toasted and make a great textural addition to recipes. When possible opt for organic.
Dessicated coconut is coconut meat that has been shredded or flaked and then dried to remove as much moisture as possible. Of all the forms of dried coconut this is generally the finest. Most commonly used as the coating on Lamingtons.
Shredded coconut is similar to desiccated coconut but has a coarser texture.
Fresh coconut water is the tasty, clear liquid inside young coconuts. It is full of 5-key electrolytes making it great for hydration and transports you to an island holiday with every sip. Coconut water also comes bottled or packaged for convenience. Beware of flavoured or sweetened products. They should contain 100% coconut water and nothing else.
Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a coconut. The rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high saturated fat and oil content. Always choose the full fat version. Coconut milk is great added to curries but also makes a delicious dairy-free milk alternative. Drizzle it on your porridge or use it as a base for smoothies.
Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water giving it a thicker, paste-like texture. Use it much like you would coconut milk in all types of sweet and savoury dishes.
Coconut flour is made by dehydrating coconut meat, and then grinding it into a flour. It’s a great gluten-free alternative with fewer carbohydrates than many other flours and a significantly higher fibre and protein content. Coconut flour is versatile enough to be used as a substitute to wheat flour in baking and savoury dishes, but be mindful that coconut flour soaks up liquid like a sponge. You may have to up your liquid ingredients to accommodate.
WARNING: The following coconut products are not endorsed by the I Quit Sugar Team, but do still belong in this coconut break down.
Coconut sugar is made by making several slits into the bud of a coconut tree and collecting the sap. The sap is then boiled until it thickens and solidifies. Coconut sugar is nearly 50% fructose making it a no-go if you are avoiding or quitting sugar.
Coconut nectar is much the same as coconut sugar but in a syrup form similar to agave or honey. As mentioned above, avoid this ingredient if you are quitting sugar.
A note on preservatives – If you are particularly sensitive to preservatives avoid any dried or tinned forms of coconut that aren’t preservative free and organic. There are some troublesome preservatives such as sulphites 220-228 that are found in most packaged foods. Sulphites are known to cause inflammation and allergic reactions when ingested.
What is your favourite way to use coconut?