Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I've gone coo coo for coconuts! Literally.
I don't know how it happened or where it all began, but suddenly I am obsessed with all things coconut! I realized this the other day as I was checking out at Whole Foods, and I noticed every item in my basket was a coconut product - no joke. I couldn't resist taking a "glamour shot" of my basket just in case you think I'm kidding.
It must have started a few years back when coconut water started popping up on the store shelves. I did a bit of research, and soon learned that it is known as "nature's Gatorade". I would like to say my first thought was "this will be great after a workout", sadly, it was more along the lines of "I bet this will be a great hangover remedy"! Being the type of person that enjoys a cocktail (or three) from time to time, I had to give it a try. Long story short, I can't live without this stuff, it's that simple. I've tried a few different brands, but my favorite is O.N.E.
(from their website)
O.N.E.™ Coconut Water is 100% natural, and has five essential electrolytes (calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and sodium), more potassium than a banana (15 times the amount of potassium as most sports drinks, without the artificial chemicals found in sports drinks.), no added sugars, no fat, no cholesterol, and no preservatives.
Along with trying to avoid a hangover, I now have another reason to celebrate the coconut - it's great for digestive issues. Some key points:
• Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
• Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
• Improves digestion and bowel function.
• Reduces inflammation.
• Supports tissue healing and repair.
• Functions as a protective antioxidant.
• Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
That is just the tip of the coconut iceberg! To check out the mile long list of it's other benefits, go here.
As you may have noticed, there is now a bevy of other coconut products available. A few that I love are made by So Delicious:
Coconut Milk and Coconut Creamer for coffee!
Coconut Milk Yogurt and Coconut Kefir!
• the yogurt contains Pre- and Probiotics for Enhanced Intestinal Health
• the kefir contains 10 Active and Live Cultures
and the ultimate...
So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream!
I recommend the Mint Chocolate Chip, so yummy it's ridiculous!
oh yeah, all of these are:
• Dairy Free / Lactose Free
• Soy Free
• Gluten Free
• Rich in Medium Chain Fatty Acids
• Excellent Source of Vitamin B12 (vegetarian friendly)
• Formulated for Maximum Calcium Absorption
• Cholesterol Free
• No Trans Fats
• Certified Vegan
I am also a big fan of coconut oil, not just for cooking and baking, but also used topically! Widely used in Ayurveda to nourish the skin and hair - coconut oil is a cooling oil that is great for pitta types like myself that need to cool and soothe inflammation - or as my Mom used to tell me, "cool your jets". Ayurvedic skin care begins with abhyanga, a therapeutic self-applied oil massage that is traditionally done before bathing. Here is a great article that explains the benefits of abhyanga and how to do it.
On vacation a few years ago, I quickly learned the benefits of coconut oil on hair after the ocean turned mine into straw and someone mistook me for Cousin Itt. I simply used it as a leave-in conditioner, and the love affair began. I've gotten a little more fancy since then and now make a Hair Lustre Oil from one of my fav books, Simply Ayurveda by Bharti Byas.
Hair Lustre Oil - Pour two teaspoonfuls of coconut oil into a saucepan, heat gently and add rosewater or a handful of real rose-petals. Then add a little massala spice powder, cover with a lid and simmer for three minutes. When cool, coat your hair in this beautifully fragrant concoction for an hour. Then shampoo and wash in the usual way. Your hair will have a wonderful lustre and scent!
And don't fear the fat, people... coconut fat is your friend! My Twitter peeps already know I am a huge fan of BabyCakes (a vegan, gluten-free and mostly sugar-free bakery in New York and now L.A.!) and I think the creator/proprietress, Erin McKenna, is a gluten-free genius - but I especially love that she uses coconut oil. Taken from the BabyCakes website:
Toddler's Health - Toddlers need enough fat in their diets to grow. They, however, don't need the highly processed oils found in the average baked good. Dr Mary Enig ("Know Your Fats") assembled a scientific study that shows virgin (unrefined and non-hydrogenated) coconut oil to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-protozoal properties, which leads to many identified health benefits. Dr Enig has also hypothesized that lactating women who use coconut oil may further increase their monolauric milk content, which benefits nursing babies.
Health Conscious - Virgin cold pressed coconut oil, a medium chain fatty acid, is often used by athletes because it promotes healthy thyroid and metabolic function and is used as storage for quick energy sources.
A recent article in Women's World highlighted the propensity of these fatty acids to stimulate the thyroid gland and, thus, engage the metabolic rate. (Most other oils block this rate). When substituted for other oils, test subjects achieved substantial weight loss.
Heart Patients - Patients recovering from heart attacks who were fed coconut oil as 7% of their energy experienced greater recovery rates than controls. No difference was documented between these patients and those treated with corn or safflower oils. Further, populations who consume coconut oil report lower rates of heart disease. Coconut oil may also be one of the most useful oils to prevent heart disease because of its antiviral and antimicrobial characteristics. (JAMA 1967 202:1119-1123; Am J Clin Nutr 1981 34:1552)
I'm always on the hunt for new and creative ways to use my beloved coconut - please share your favorites!
Until next time... may the gluten-free force be with you!