Coconuts… Lower Cholesterol?

Cholesterol Lowering Coconuts

Coconuts… Lower Cholesterol?

OK so I was digging around and had a craving… several in fact and it prompted me to do some digging on something very specific… coconuts!

… and this is what I found.  Pretty interesting read if you ask me.  Parts of this have been pulled from various sites and documents and I interject my own comments and usage ideas throughout.  Enjoy this post as I go add the other parts for tomorrow and the next day… yeah I went off the deep end of a coconut milk oasis with this one.  It’s way too long and way too good to chop it up to fit into one little post, so I am going to make a micro series on COCONUTS… I am COOCOO for Coconuts!

Who can resist a coconut, with its creamy, tropical flavor? For too long, many Americans have done just that.

empowered nutrition coconuts 3 for fat lossThankfully, that misguided coconut era is over. The coconut is receiving long-overdue accolades as a highly nutritious food. In fact, research has shown that it’s the saturated fat in coconuts that not only helps our bodies absorb nutrients and fight viruses, but also reduce cholesterol levels. Traditional American uses of coconut are sugar-laden affairs — think baked goods like pies, cakes and macaroons — that mask its health-promoting properties. But now cooks everywhere are incorporating coconut into a wide range of flavorful recipes that support good health. And many people are going even further, using coconut milk as a wholesale replacement for dairy.

When coconut is fresh, it has a sweet, rich aroma. Before it reaches the grocery store, the coconut’s smooth outer shell has usually been removed, revealing a rough husk with three indented “eyes” at one end. Inside is the seed; it consists of a layer of creamy, white meat surrounding a center filled with refreshing, mildly flavored coconut water.

Whatever form of coconut you choose — shredded coconut; or coconut milk, cream and oil — it is sure to add an exotic twist of flavor to an otherwise ordinary meal.

Quick and Easy

Intimidated by coconuts? Don’t be. Here are easy ways to integrate coconut meat, milk and water into everyday snacks and meals.

Mix shaved or shredded coconut with nuts, seeds and berries in a bowl as a healthy alternative to breakfast cereal (just add your choice of yogurt or milk and a spoon). Thanks to the healthy fats and fiber, you’ll feel satisfied longer.

Make coconut mango salsa by combining chopped mango, chopped red chili, coconut chunks, fresh mint and lime juice in a bowl. Use it to top grilled fish, chicken or tempeh. Or simply serve it with some whole-grain chips.

When cooking rice, substitute half of the water with coconut milk. When rice is cooked, sprinkle in some sliced green onions, sesame seeds or toasted nuts, if desired. Coconut milk can also be used in place of milk in many recipes.

Use coconut water in place of water in your favorite smoothie recipe. You’ll get a hint of tropical flavor and a boost of extra electrolytes. Coconut water also makes a nice beverage or midworkout refresher all on its own.

Nutrition Know-How

Nearly 90 percent of the fats in coconut oil are saturated — and they are healthy! In the 1970s and ’80s, manufacturers of processed foods replaced coconut oil with partially hydrogenated oils. We now know that those oils contain very unhealthy trans fatty acids. The saturated fat found in coconut is, by contrast, very good for us — particularly when part of a diverse, mostly plant-based diet.

Fifty-five to 65 percent of the saturated fats in coconut oil are medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which have been used as dietary supplements to improve nutrient absorption and sports performance.

Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid. Preliminary studies have shown that lauric acid may help the body fight viruses.

As the result of eating coconut oil, the human body steps up its production of ketone bodies — beneficial compounds produced when fatty acids are broken down for energy. Because these compounds are used to advantage by the brain, researchers are currently studying coconut oil as a possible treatment for people with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Lou Gehrig’s and multiple sclerosis, as well as type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Coconut meat is rich in phytosterols, cholesterol-like compounds found primarily in nuts and legumes. Phytosterols have been shown to naturally reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

Fresh coconut meat is an excellent source of fiber. A 1-cup serving provides about 29 percent of the daily recommended amount of dietary fiber. Note that nutrient levels drop slightly when coconut is dried.

Both raw coconut water and freshly squeezed coconut milk are rich in a host of minerals, including potassium, manganese and magnesium.

For classic movie-theater flavor (without the mystery ingredients), try kettle-popped popcorn in a few tablespoons of coconut oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan). Or top air-popped popcorn with equal parts melted coconut oil, olive oil and butter.

Kitchen Tricks

Do not boil coconut milk when cooking, because it can curdle, separating the oil from the liquid. Instead, stir constantly on low heat. When making curries, for example, you might add coconut milk at the end of the cooking process, and heat just to a simmer.

To make your own naturally sweetened dried coconut, place about 3 cups unsweetened shredded or grated coconut on a baking sheet and toss with ¼ cup maple syrup. Bake at 150 degrees F for about 11 hours to dry out the coconut.

For toasted coconut, place freshly grated coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F for about five minutes — stirring every minute to prevent burning — until golden brown.

Shopping and Storage Tips

Look for whole, unopened coconuts that are firm, heavy for their size and free of dampness around the “eyes.” Small black spots can be an early sign of mold. When you shake the coconut you should hear lots of water slosh around inside.

Use within a few weeks to ensure freshness and reduce the risk of spoilage. If a coconut smells “off,” don’t eat it.

Once opened, store fresh coconut meat in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for up to six months.

Most prebagged shredded coconut is sweetened. Look for unsweetened shaved or shredded coconut in the bulk section at natural markets.

How to Open a Coconut

You’ll need a hammer and screwdriver (optional: heavy gloves to protect your hands). Carefully puncture the eyes of the coconut by using hammer to drive the screwdriver into the coconut shell. Turn the coconut over and drain the coconut water into a clean dish.

Next hammer firmly around the coconut in circles until the shell cracks slightly. Wedge the screwdriver into the crack and tap sharply with the hammer; the coconut should break apart into two halves

Use a sharp-edge utensil to pry or scrape the meat away from the shell. Trim the brown skin off the white meat with a paring knife.

Enjoy!

Tomorrow we get the goods on making some delicious coconut concoctions and recipes.

 

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