In my previous post, we established that saturated fat is not, in fact, killing us. And that it is probably protective against heart disease and cancer, when compared to vegetable oil. Coconut fat, which is mostly saturated, also brings medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which boost energy, help with weight loss, and give the immune system a hand with fighting infections. And the best bit? Coconut tastes delicious. I’m talking about the white, meaty stuff of the coconut. Where all the lovely fat is stored. 80% of the calories in coconut come from fat (and 80% of those from saturated fat), with only 7% from sugar. This makes coconut, and its products, beautifully creamy and sweet, while being low in sugar and high in fibre. It’s the only viable dairy replacement, and a great addition to a lower carbohydrate diet. So, we should all eat more coconut. Here’s how.
A quick note before we get knee-deep in coconut. For more information on the saturated fat topic, take a look at this excellent (and objective) research paper by Christopher Ramsden and team. The researchers hunted down previously unpublished data, which, when added to the published studies, showed – you know where this is going – that saturated fat is better for us than vegetable oil. Or, for a less intense, more entertaining experience, allow Malcolm Gladwell to take you through the story in his excellent podcast, Revisionist History. In another episode, Gladwell highlights that removing saturated fat from our diets is not only a health risk, but has also made our food taste bad.
A Quick Guide to Coconut Products
Coconut meat: The nutrient-dense white flesh inside a brown (mature) coconut, from which all beneficial coconut products are made. You can buy chunks of fresh coconut meat in the supermarkets now (in the chiller, next to the tubs of fruit)
Coconut oil: Pure coconut fat, mostly saturated. Look for raw virgin coconut oil, preferably organic. The stuff from the Philippines has the nicest coconut flavour by far (I think). I’m currently enjoying this one from Sevenhills
Coconut milk: Shredded coconut meat blended with water and then pressed to produce a creamy liquid. Mostly comes in cans with stabilisers, emulsifiers, and preservatives. I like this one from Grace. It’s additive-free, super creamy (it has the texture of double cream) and comes in a cardboard carton (BPA-free). It’s also cheap at £1.99 per litre
Coconut cream: Coconut milk with less water. Put your carton or can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. The cream should separate from the water and rise to the top. You can then simply scoop it out and pour away the liquid
Creamed coconut/coconut butter: Dried coconut meat ground into a paste. It can be turned into coconut milk or coconut cream by adding hot water. Again, choose a brand without additives. I usually buy this one, from my excellent local health store
Coconut chips: Dried shavings of coconut meat. You can buy them raw (dried) or toasted. Avoid added sugar and preservatives, and buy organic if possible. I buy bags of this stuff whenever I visit my local health store
Desiccated coconut: Like coconut chips, desiccated coconut is dried coconut meat. But it comes shredded and has a lower moisture content. As with coconut chips, choose organic to ensure high quality. Another regular purchase from my local health store
Coconut yoghurt: Coconut milk which has been cultured with probiotic bacteria. There’s loads of it out there, but most is terrible and loaded with additives. CoYo is the only one to get it right – good quality coconut milk, no nasty ingredients, beautifully sweet and sour yoghurt taste. Your local health store may have it. Mine does. But you can also buy it from Tesco, so you have no excuse. Apart from the price – it’s not cheap.
Coconut ice-cream: As with coconut yoghurt, there is loads of rubbish on the market. Luckily, CoYo now do ice-cream. It’s a bit harder to come by, this one. But try your local health store. Even more expensive than the yoghurt.
You will notice that I haven’t listed coconut water or coconut sugar here. There’s a reason for that. Neither are from the beneficial part of the coconut. Neither contains any of the wonderful coconut fat. Coconut sugar is just sugar. It’s less refined than table sugar, and does retain some other nutrients, but consumption should still be limited. Coconut water is the liquid from inside a young, green coconut. It’s a great sports drink, owing to the sugar and minerals, but don’t overdo it in everyday life.
11 Ways to Eat More Coconut
Coconut Oil Roasted Vegetables
Pretty much every savoury food we eat is cooked with coconut oil. From curry, to fish, to steaks. It works well. But where it really excels is roasted vegetables. Our favourite is sweet potato wedges, closely followed by parsnip chips.
– 4-5 sweet potatoes
– 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
– Large pinch of Maldon salt
Pre-heat oven to 180-200 degrees C. Chop the sweet potatoes into wedges and place in a large roasting dish. Add the coconut oil and salt and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn each wedge (I do it with 2 forks) to coat in the melted oil, and return the dish to the oven. Roast for 45 minutes, turning the wedges every 15 minutes.
Works well with any root vegetable, particularly parsnips, butternut squash, carrots and celeriac.
Coconut Chips (handfuls of)
This is my snack of choice if hunger takes hold between meals. Great energy boost, with lots of filling fat and fibre, and just enough sweetness to satisfy
– 1 large handful of toasted organic coconut flakes
Shove the entire handful into your mouth and enjoy.
The more refined among you may like to take it a few flakes at a time
A better, more rounded snack than coconut chips alone. It fills a large mason jar and will last for…well…not long in our house. Great for at home, on the move, or on race day.
– 500g of raw organic coconut chips
– 250g macadamia nuts
– 250g almonds
– 250g chopped dried apricots (get the dark brown ones – no sulphites)
– 250g chopped dates
– Large pinch of Maldon salt
Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C. Place nuts and coconut chips in a roasting dish or baking tray. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the coconut chips start to brown, stirring half way through. Allow to cool completely. Mix in the dried fruit and salt. Store in a mason jar
Substitute in the nuts and dried fruit of your choice. If you can’t be bothered with all this, just mix some toasted coconut chips in a bowl with some nuts and dried fruit. And Hoover it up before anybody steals it.
Frozen Berries With Coconut Oil “Icing”
We have this most days after dinner. Simple, quick and nutritious. If I’m feeling really bold, I may even have it after breakfast and lunch.
– 1 bowl of frozen berries
– 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil
– Handful of organic toasted coconut chips
Heat the coconut oil gently in pan until melted but not hot. Drizzle over the frozen berries. Leave for a few minutes to set into a crispy icing. Sprinkle the coconut chips over the top.
Mix a teaspoon of cacao powder, cinnamon and/or hazelnut butter into the coconut oil during heating.
Cherries and Coconut Cream
This is about as simple and delicious as it gets. Great for a snack, or as a dessert (particularly for sharing).
– Bowl of coconut cream
– Fresh cherries
Spoon the coconut cream into a bowl and mix with a fork until creamy and smooth. Take a cherry, dip it deep into the coconut cream. Eat. Smile. Repeat
Use Coyo yoghurt in place of the coconut cream.
Coconut, Berry and Chocolate Sundae
I did this for the first time a few weeks ago. Henceforth it will be our Friday night ‘special’ dessert. The layers of flavour and texture make it appear way more complex that it is. Like all my cooking, it’s embarrassingly easy. Serves 2.
– 1/2 litre of coconut cream
– 200g fresh or frozen blueberries
– 200g fresh or frozen raspberries
– 50g of raw cacao nibs
– 50g macadamia nuts
– 50g hazelnuts
– Seeds from 2 vanilla pods
– 1 teaspoon of ground coffee
Split the coconut cream evenly between 2 bowls. Using a fork, mix the vanilla seeds into one, and the coffee into the other, until smooth. Place the cacao nibs and nuts into a zip lock bag and smash with a rolling pin until nicely crushed. Share the blueberries between two pint glasses. Layer the coffee cream on top of the blueberries. Sprinkle half the crushed nuts and nibs on top of the coffee cream. Repeat with the raspberries, vanilla cream, and the remaining nuts and nibs. Eat as quickly as you possibly can.
Instead of coffee and vanilla, you can spike the coconut cream with cacao powder, cinnamon, or lime juice and zest. Or just leave it plain. Or replace the coconut cream with Coyo yoghurt or ice-cream. To make it really quick and easy, just stick the berries in a bowl, dollop on the coconut cream, and sprinkle on some whole nuts and nibs. It’s almost as good.
Cinnamon “Doughnuts” and Coconut Cream
OK, so this isn’t really doughnuts. It’s sweet potato. But it tastes a bit like doughnuts. And is way more nutritious. Lovely as a dessert if you’re hungry, and works really well as a nutrient-dense, sweet breakfast (if you’re into that kind of thing). Serves 2.
– 2 sweet potatoes
– 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
– 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
– 250ml of coconut cream
Pre-heat oven to 180-200 degrees C. Peel the sweet potatoes, chop into 2cm cubes and place in a roasting dish. Add the coconut oil and sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the sweet potato cubes. Roast for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes, until browned and slightly caramelised. Serve with the coconut cream. Wonder why you’ve never done this before.
Replace the sweet potato with sliced apple (our kids love this for breakfast). Or use Coyo yoghurt instead of the coconut cream.
Coconut Buttered Apple
Another quick and easy snack, with a good balance of carbohydrate and fat.
– 1 apple
– 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or coconut butter
Slice the apple. Smear each side with coconut oil/butter. Eat.
Any fruit will do. And if you can’t be bothered with the fruit, just eat the spoonful of coconut oil/butter. I do. Regularly.
Choconut Ice-Cream Lollies
Criminally easy to make and a real points winner (or guilt-free bribing tool) with the kids.
– 1 litre of coconut milk
– 4 tablespoons of cacao powder
– 2 tablespoons of sweetener (xylitol, stevia or maple syrup)
Put everything in a blender and blend on higher for 30 seconds. Poor into ice lolly molds, or ice cube trays, or mini bowls. Freeze overnight. Thaw for 20 minutes before serving.
Coconut and Mango Ice-Cream
When I first tasted this, I couldn’t believe how good it was. Better than any mango ice-cream or sorbet I’d ever had. And with only 2 ingredients. I can’t stress enough how easy this is to make. Please go and make some. Right now. You will thank me.
– 1/2 litre of coconut milk
– 400g pack of frozen mango
Shove the coconut milk and mango into a food processor. Turn up to max until you have an amazing pot of yellow, creamy goodness. Spoon into bowls and eat it. All of it.
Coconut and Blueberry Panna Cotta
This is the most involved (although still frighteningly simple) and decedent of all the coconut desserts outlined here. Reserved for special occasions. Not because it’s unhealthy (far from it), but because it takes more than 5 minutes to make. I would, genuinely, eat this everyday if I could be bothered making it. It’s an adaption of a recipe from the team at Bulletproof, which was introduced to me by my friend Dave Jackson. Serves 8.
– 1 litre of coconut milk
– Seeds from 3 vanilla pods
– 5 tablespoons of grass-fed ghee (we use Hook and Son)
– 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
– 2 tablespoons of gelatin powder (a proper one, like this)
– 3 tablespoons of sweetener (xylitol, stevia or maple syrup)
– 400g pack of frozen blueberries
Heat the frozen blueberries and 1 tablespoon of sweetener in a pan over a medium heat. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. While the blueberries are simmering, heat 2/3 of the coconut milk in a large pan over a medium heat until warm (not bubbling). Add the rest of the sweetener and the gelatine and whisk until the gelatin is totally dissolved (may take a few minutes – be patient). Blend the remainder of the coconut milk with the ghee, coconut oil and vanilla seeds for 30 seconds in a high speed blender. Add the blended mixture to the pan and stir through. Poor the panna cotta mixture into a large bowl or 8 small bowls, cover and cool in the fridge for a few hours until set. Poor the reduced blueberries into a bowel, cover and cool alongside the panna cotta mixture. To serve, spoon the blueberry reduction over the panna cotta. Finish yours quickly and attempt to steal your neighbour’s.
Turn into an amazing cheesecake by adding a base. We use the base from this recipe by Deliciously Ella. It’s incredible.
What are your favourite ways to eat coconut? Let me know.
Own your health.