I never thought I would hear myself saying this but – I love coconut… For years I was haunted by the memory of those multi-coloured dessicated coconut fudge sweety things that I was forced to eat at parties as a child – and which brought me very close to disgracing myself by throwing up all over my party dress… I still cannot face dessicated (is the name not enough to put you off?) coconut with equanimity, but fresh coconut – now that is a very different matter.
And there is no doubt that coconut is the new wonder food. This year’s FreeFrom Food Awards were awash in new coconut products – coconut milk, yogurt, ice cream, coconut water, cold pressed coconut oils – and very good they all were too. Not that it is entirely surprising as, of course, all of the above make excellent substitutes for dairy milk, yogurt, ice cream and butter, especially as fresh, cold pressed coconut products are far more delicate in flavour than the coconut of one’s childhood memories. (To see just a few of them see this year’s winners and shortlisted products in the ‘Plant’ category of the awards.)
My especial favourite is cold pressed coconut oil. You can use this as a butter or spread substitute, although not everyone can immediately get their heads (or taste buds) around its very white colour, slightly ‘lardy’ texture and more definite coconut flavour. It did take me a little while but I am now a convert. However, far less work was needed to convince me of coconut oil’s virtue as a cooking oil.
Because coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is, unlike the polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as sunflower or corn oil, stable enough to withstand cooking heat. (Polyunsaturated fats and oils break down when subject to heat, which causes the oils to oxidise which is not a good idea.) Coconut oil is also very high in ‘virtuous’ lauric and capric acid. Both good health reasons for cooking with it. However, the added appeal is that it adds the most delicious flavour and silky texture to whatever you cook in it – be it just some sautéed vegetables or a slow cook casserole. Give it a whirl… If you want inspiration, nearly all of the more recent articles on our FreeFromRecipesMatters site use coconut oil.
However, while I am now convinced of the coconut’s virtue as a food, I had completely forgotten, until a post arrived from Dr Mercola this morning, that it is also used very widely in the Far East both as a skin and a hair treatment. Because it is so temperature sensitive, the oil reacts to the heat of your hands and is fantastic as a massage oil – for skin, for muscles – and for hair. According to the study quote by Dr Mercola, ‘coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid, has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft’ – unlike mineral oils and polyunsaturated oils which, because of their bulky structure due to the presence of double bonds, just sit on top of your hair! And, even better, while the coconut oil is nourishing your hair shafts, it will also dispose of any lice or nits who happen to be lurking there more effectively than any of those nasty chemical treatments…
And, if you need more…. A doctor in Florida has written at length about the success that she had in treating her husband’s advanced Alzheimer’s with coconut oil – or, more specifically, the ketones in coconut oil. Check here for a report from CBN News, here for Dr Newport’s original article or here to buy her book.