With the growing recognition in Western culture of coconut oil as a healthy fat and the general health benefits of coconut we are seeing a lot about it, especially in health and well-being blogs. Of course all things coconut are very popular in the paleo / primal world. There are so many ways that we can use the amazing coconut and thus many coconut products are coming on the market…..with some confusion as to what is what. Miss-labeling doesn’t help. Recently we saw a product labeled `Coconut butter (coconut oil)’. Hmmm….which one is it, because they are not the same thing.
We’re going to have a look at most of the categories of coconut food products we could find in the stores (& online)…
Fresh, whole coconut. Most of us think of the brown shell and the firm, crunchy white meat (& a small amount of juice) inside. YUM. This is the basis for most of the other products. By the time the coconut gets to this mature stage the water (or juice) inside is not at its best for drinking, but the rest of the coconut is delicious to eat just as it is. Full of all the good fats, minerals, etc.
Coconut water/juice. (The names here are interchangeable.) This refers to the juice inside of a fresh coconut. Known as `dew from the heavens’ in Hawaii, just slice the top off a fresh, green (ie. young) coconut and drink the juice. It’s a good source of nutrients and especially the major minerals like magnesium, calcium, & potassium. Coconut juice has been dubbed `Nature’s Gatorade’ because of it’s effectiveness as a re-hydration / electrolyte replacement fluid. It’s a great recovery fluid for during and after an exercise session. There are many brands on the market. Be careful that what you buy is 100% coconut juice as many have added sugar and/or flavourings.
Coconut milk & cream – this is the liquid that comes from the grated meat/flesh of the coconut. It’s usually done by grating the flesh and soaking it in water. It is then squeezed to release the `milk’. Most people probably buy their coconut milk in cans, though you can make your own quite easily.
Coconut cream is really just coconut milk with some more of the water removed. If you put it in the fridge the thicker cream will rise to the top and can be skimmed off. It’s a bit like skimming cream from the top of regular cow’s milk.
Coconut flakes / chips – dried coconut pieces. Use as a yummy snack straight from the bag; sprinkle on yogurt or fruit…or where ever your imagination takes you.
Shredded coconut – dried coconut which has been shredded – smaller than flakes. Often used in muffins or cakes for texture.
Desiccated coconut – the most common form of coconut with multiple uses. We use desiccated coconut to make our coconut butter.
Note: when buying coconut flakes, shredded or desiccated coconut, look for brands that don’t contain sulphites or other additives. We’ve found that Woolworths Macro brand has no additives, though it costs twice as much as the more common brands. All Niulife coconut products are free of additives.
Coconut sugar – this is a mineral rich sugar produced form the flower of the coconut and has a lovely malty flavor. Farmers climb the coconut palms and collect the sugar blossom nectar by gently slicing the flower. Once harvested the nectar is transferred into kettles where the evaporation process lowers the moisture content of the nectar before it is allowed to set into a solid nectar “brick”. Once the nectar has cooled and solidified it is then ground into granules. This can be used anywhere you would use regular white sugar.
Coconut flour – Coconut flour has a similar consistency to wheat flour, but it does not work as a straight substitute in conventional recipes. For those still wanting baked goods it bakes up beautifully in 100% coconut flour recipes for breads, muffins, cakes and biscuits.
Coconut butter (creamed coconut) – this is dried coconut that is ground to a paste or `butter’. It has a smooth creamy consistency because of the high fat content. This has lots of uses….a natural non-dairy creamer for coffee or cocoa, a thickener for curries, in smoothies, a spread, or just eat it plain from the jar. We use it to make our Coconut Energisers. (add link) Coconut butter has a mild sweetness. We make our own coconut butter in the Thermomix (takes about three minutes). You will find it in supermarkets and health food shops though take care as many have added sugar.
Coconut oil – This is the fat content of the coconut. Coconut oil is primarily saturated (over 90%), with the bulk of it coming from lauric acid, a medium chain saturated fatty acid; it’s incredibly heat-stable. It will be solid at temperatures below 23-24 degrees C, soft and creamy at around 23 – 25 degrees C, and a clear liquid above 25. Don’t keep it in the fridge or it will set like concrete!! There are dozens of uses for coconut oil so that will have to be a separate post.
Coconut aminos – This is a healthy alternative to soy sauce and can be used in salads, soups dressings, stir fries etc. It is made from nectar tapped from the coconut blossom and is naturally sweet, low glycaemic, nutrient rich, containing 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral PH.
Coconut vinegar – also made from the nectar from the coconut blossom. It is richer in minerals than apple cider vinegar.
I think that we have covered most of the common coconut food products used as part of the pale / primal lifestyle. If you find others please let us know. And if you have creative ways of using these, leave a comment to share it with others.