Natural Health and Wellness for the Whole Family

The Health Benefits of Coconut

By Sarah Axtell, ND July 16, 2014

Coconut is a super-food. It is not only delicious, but it also has many health promoting properties. Here are 5 reasons to indulge in the tropical fruit.

1. In the past, coconut has gotten a bad rap due to its saturated fat intake. Saturated fat is most commonly found in animal products. But not all saturated fats are alike. While saturated fatty acids in animal products are long, coconut contains medium chain fatty acids. The size of the fatty acid is important because our bodies respond to them differently. Medium-chain fatty acids are generally considered a good source of energy that the human body finds relatively easy to metabolize.Some studies have shown that medium chain fatty acids can help in the process of excess calorie burning, and thus weight loss. A tablespoon of coconut oil in warm water 15-30 minutes before meals can promote satiety and increase metabolism, thus aiding in weight loss. Coconut adds satiety to your meal, keeping your belly feeling full and happy longer.

2. The oil is also anti-viral. Coconut contains lauric acid, which is then converted to monolaurin in the human body. Monolaurin has the ability to destroy lipid-coated viruses, such as herpes and the flu virus.

3. Coconut is a hypoallergenic food. Rarely do I see sensitivities or allergies to coconut. It is an ideal food for babies and kids, for it is rich in fat which supports brain development. It is a great substitute for those with milk allergies, adding creaminess and satisfaction to meals.

4. Coconut water is full of electrolytes- perfect for quenching your thirst and preventing dehydration. It has more potassium than a banana and 15 times the potassium than sports drinks. It is your natural sport drinks without all that added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

5. Coconut tastes good! Eating healthy should taste good because otherwise it would not be sustainable. I am always trying to create recipes that both your body and taste buds appreciate. Here are some ways to incorporate it into your diet:

Cook with coconut oil. You can bake with it or saute your veggies with it.

Add coconut milk to smoothies. Simmer rice in it instead of water. Add it to your morning oatmeal.

Creamed Kale
Ingredients:
-1 bunch of kale, chopped (can also use spinach or collards)
-1/2 can of coconut milk
-1 tbsp dijon mustard
-1-2 tbsps rice vinegar
-1 leek
-1/2 onion
-2 cloves garlic
-oil
-salt and pepper

1. Saute garlic, onion, oil and leek in a large saucepan/stew pot. About 5-7 mins.
2. Add coconut milk, mustard, and rice vinegar.
3. Simmer on med heat, covered, about 12 mins. (Kale should be very tender and wilty).
4. Season with salt and pepper.

Add garbanzo beans and serve over a bed of brown rice for a complete meal.

Coconut Balls- These make a delicious protein-packed, sweet snack or desert.
Ingredients:
-1/2 cup dried fruit (I like dried cranberries, raisins, and dates)
-1/2 cup nut butter (I like sunflower seed butter or almond butter)
-1/4 cup sesame seeds
-1/4 cup almonds
-1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
-1/4 cup dried coconut flakes (set aside for later)

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the coconut until it has formed a paste-like consistency. Form into tbsp-size balls and roll in coconut to coat. Store in tupper-ware or freeze.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Dahl
Ingredients:
-1 lb. sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I leave the skins on for added fiber)
-1 cup dry lentils
-1 14 oz. can coconut milk
-2 cups water
-1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1 tsp. tumeric
-salt and pepper

1. Put the sweet potatoes into a saucepan with the lentils, coconut milk, and water. Bring to a boil, then leave to cook gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender and the mixture looks thick.
2. Stir in the ginger, cinnamon, tumeric, and salt and pepper. Then cook gently for a few more minutes to blend in the flavors. Can serve by itself or over rice.

*Note that the spices are added after the lentils are tender- if you add them at the beginning, they can prevent the lentils from becoming tender!

Coconut Whipped Cream
This is to die for! A great dairy-free addition to pumpkin pie.
Ingredients:
-1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled in fridge
-1 tbsp maple syrup
-2 tsps vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, blend on high for several minutes until the consistency is whipped cream-like. (Took me approximately 10 minutes).

Sweet n’ Savory Forbidden Rice
Ingredients:
-1 cup forbidden (aka black) rice
-1 can coconut milk
-1 cup veggie broth
-1/2 cup raisins
-1 tbsp ground turmeric
-1 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp red chili flakes
-1 tsp coriander
-2 tsps fresh grated ginger
-1/2 cup raw cashews
-salt, pepper
-cilantro (optional) as garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring coconut milk and broth to a boil. Add rice and seasonings and turn heat to low. Cover. Cook for 20 minutes and then add raisins. Cook for another 20 minutes (until rice is soft). Add cashews and garnish with cilantro.

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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