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How to Cook with Coconut

I used to be terrified of coconut. True story. As a child, if I was handed an Almond Joy at Halloween, I’d chuck it out immediately like it was diseased. If a cake was covered in the snow-like flakes, I’d turn and sprint the other direction. Putting coconut on something was the fastest way to make me hate it.

But as with almonds, I grew to like it along with the many other foods my juvenile palette didn’t appreciate.

What is coconut? Coconut is simply the fruit of palm trees that grow in tropical climates. Shredded coconut is the broken down kernel of the coconut fruit, known as the copra. Despite what some may think, dried coconut still contains all of the fiber and nutrients found in its raw and fresh form, and is typically much easier to cook with.

Health benefits: Coconut is rich with fiber, protein and lots of hydrating water. It also contains many vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, vitamin C, iron, selenium, manganese and potassium.

Coconut oil has long-been touted as having many health benefits. Coconut oil is somewhat controversial because it contains saturated fat, though some believe that may aid in weight management and keep our immune systems well and fighting off disease. The fats in coconut oil, which have been identified as medium chain fatty acids, are used as energy in our bodies instead of stored as fat, which can actually aid in weight loss. Coconut oil has also been thought to help lower cholesterol.

And last but not least, coconut is actually some people’s secret beauty weapon! Coconut milk can be applied to the hair and skin for moisturizing and to get that radiant luster everyone longs for. Coconut oil can be applied to dry hair, irritated skin or flaky scalp for a soothing effect.

Nutritional statistics: One cup of raw coconut meat contains approximately 283 calories, 27 grams of fat, 24 grams of saturated fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of protein and 5 grams of sugar.

Cooking methods: Coconut flakes can be used in a variety of ways, including being added to baked goods, candies and seafood coatings – especially for shrimp. Raw coconut meat can be added to almost any dish or eaten as is. Coconut oil is viewed as a healthier cooking alternative and can be used in place of butter or olive oil in most recipes. And coconut milk is perhaps the most versatile form as it can be enjoyed as a beverage, poured over cereal, turned into ice cream and dessert sauces, added to curries and rice dishes – the list goes on. There are seemingly endless ways to utilize this versatile fruit.

Recipes:

Almond Coconut Granola

Gluten-Free Coconut Waffles with Maple Cream

Baked Coconut Shrimp

Coconut Rice

Simple Coconut Cream Pie with Coconut Crust

Coconut Chocolate Pudding

If you didn’t love coconut before, you ought to now! Get your hands on this tropical fruit and start exploring the flavorful possibilities.

June 16th, 2012

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