Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Clearing up the Confusion About Coconut Products…

By Jamie Koonce @charcuterielove

Clearing up the confusion about coconut products…

Some health gurus tell you to eat them daily, and others tell you to stay away.  What’s the real truth on coconuts?

If you’ve been into a healthy lifestyle for a while or are just embarking on a healthier way of eating, you’ve probably heard or read the buzz about coconut and how it’s actually good for you.  Indeed, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you are aware that it’s not saturated fat that’s bad — it’s artificially hydrogenated vegetable oil (AKA trans fat) that you should never, ever eat unless you want heart disease.

But with the growing popularity of coconut as part of a healthy diet, there’s also been a growing number of coconut products marketed as “healthy” for consumers.  This has lead to some confusion among intelligent people who are trying to make healthy choices with their nutrition.  I would like to clear up some of the confusion about different coconut products so you can start the year out right in regards to coconut.

1.  Coconut milk

This is the thick, high-fat, high-calorie liquid found inside mature, brown coconuts.  It is often used for cooking soups and stir-fries.  One cup of coconut milk has 552 calories and 57 grams of fat, as opposed to 120 calories and 5 grams of fat in one cup of 2% fat cow’s milk.  I wouldn’t recommend drinking coconut nut milk in place of cow’s milk unless you specifically like the taste and are needing to gain weight rapidly.  The best way of using coconut milk is as a cooking ingredient; you may want to add a few tablespoons of it to a stir-fry, curry, soup, smoothie, or even use as a creamer for your coffee.

Clearing up the confusion about coconut products…
Because mature brown coconuts are usually not available year-round, depending on where you live, it is most often found as canned coconut milk in the ethnic foods/Asian foods section of your grocery store.  I do not recommend eating canned foods on a regular basis unless you have absolutely no access to fresh foods or you are on a limited budget and are not willing to pay for enzyme-rich, raw, unprocessed foods.  Also, if you do purchase canned coconut milk, be sure to read the ingredients to check for added sugar, gluten, or other weird things, and look for companies that use BPA-free cans.

Clearing up the confusion about coconut products…

2. Coconut “milk”

The brand So Delicious has developed a line of coconut beverages, frozen desserts, and yogurts made from a mixture of coconut cream (pulverized mature coconut meat), water, sugar, seaweed, and synthetic vitamins.  They refer to their beverages as coconut milk even though none of them even actually contain coconut milk.  The unsweetened original and plain varieties of coconut milk are low in calories (50 calories per cup) and contain a moderate amount of fat derived from coconut cream.  So Delicious also makes a “cultured coconut milk” beverage and a “coconut yogurt,” but again these are not actually real cultured coconut foods.  (As an analogy, this is similar to if I were to make some chocolate chip cookies for you and instead of calling them chocolate chip cookies I decided to call them speckled apples.  This might be confusing to you if you had never seen or eaten a real apple before.)  If you are allergic to dairy or have been drinking soymilk or rice milk and are seeking a healthier alternative, the unsugared versions of the So Delicious coconut products might help you get off of thyroid-destroying soymilk and high-carb/high-sugar rice milk out of your diet.  But if you aren’t currently seeking a milk alternative or weaning yourself off the faux milks, I wouldn’t advise adding a new processed food to your diet.  It would be better to get your vitamins from fresh, whole foods on a daily basis. The So Delicious products are probably also okay if you are just seeking a novelty beverage to use for cooking treats for special occasions.

3. Coconut water

This is a sweet, whitish-clear liquid found inside immature coconuts.  In the grocery store, immature coconuts may be green or white — not brown!  Coconut water has about 50 calories per 8 oz. cup, from mostly simple carbohydrates (sugars).  It is rich in electrolytes and therefore a healthy natural beverage to drink after intense exercise, dry saunas, or after losing fluids due to diarrhea or vomiting.  Many Asian grocery stores sell canned coconut water with added sugar.  It would be best to avoid any canned coconut water with added sugars; instead go for plain coconut water straight from a fresh immature coconut or the many new varieties of coconut water that do not contain added sugars.  Always read the ingredients label of any commercial coconut water that you buy, and avoid any coconut water containing added agave nectar, glucose, sucrose, cane juice, or artificial sweeteners.  Coconut water already contains its own natural sugars and does not need to be sweetened with extra sweeteners.

Note: I have seen people trying to open young coconuts by beating them on a hard surface and trying to bust them open.  This is the wrong way of opening a young coconut if you intend to drink the water inside it!  The best way of opening it is to simply cut a whole in the top with a large, sturdy knife.  This way you can drink the water out of it and then eat the soft, custard-like immature coconut meat with a spoon — no mess involved.  If you try to crack or bust the coconut open, you’ll end up with a big mess and nothing to eat or drink from your coconut.

4. Coconut kefir

Real coconut kefir is actually made from coconut water and a bacterial and yeast culture known as kefir or kefir grains.  It is a slightly fizzy, fermented beverage that is lower in sugar than plain unfermented coconut water, but equally hydrating, thirst-quenching, and rick in electrolytes.  Because of its probiotic content, coconut kefir can cleanse the bowels of excessive mucus, candida yeast overgrowth, and unhealthy bacteria.  I recommend making your own coconut water kefir at home and drinking  4 – 8 oz. on a regular basis in the mornings upon getting out of bed.  If you are suffering from digestive problems, brain fog, chronic pain, or cognitive issues, I recommend also drinking at least 4 oz. of coconut water kefir before bed each night.  You can order your own kefir culture (plus instructions) for making kefir at home by clicking on this link.


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