It seems as though coconut (and the many products it yields) exploded with mass popularity in the blink of an eye. Today, you can find coconut not only in shredded form, but as milk, water, flour, and oil as well.
The coconut, interestingly enough, isn’t even a nut! It’s a drupe. A “drupe” (or stone fruit) refers to any fruit that has a fleshy outer part surrounding a shell (or hardened endocarp) with a seed inside. Other types of drupes include coffee, mangoes, cherries, and most palms.
Once thought to be a leading cause of heart disease, coconut oil was actually found to be extremely beneficial for heart health. Coconut oil has been proven to help boost thyroid function, metabolism, energy and endurance, as well as improving insulin regulation in the body. Coconut oil is also known to help keep weight balanced and reduce cholesterol, and can easily be substituted for any butter or oil used in a recipe. You will even find many people who use coconut oil for health and beauty, as it is a great moisturizer for both skin and hair and has been shown to help reduce the absorption of toxins and pesticides through the skin.
The next form of coconut that is growing in popularity is coconut water. (We have celebrities to thank for getting this one off the ground.) Now a billion dollar industry, coconut water can be found in nearly every convenience store, deli and supermarket. Aside from being an alternative to water (for those who don’t fancy the taste of regular H20), coconut water has actually been found to be more hydrating, is low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, and has more potassium than four bananas. This makes coconut water great to drink either during or after a workout, great to add to smoothies, or even to sip on after a late night of partying.
If you are gluten-free or trying to stay away from grains, you probably already know about coconut flour. Easily made from soaking, blending, straining and drying coconut flakes, coconut flour makes a great high-fiber, low-fat, gluten-free substitute for flour or other grains. Many foodies and cookbook writers have already produced thousands of dishes and desserts utilizing the light, airy flour substitute in a variety of recipes. Be aware that it takes a bit to get used to cooking with coconut flour and it cannot be substituted for regular flour (since its chemical makeup is different), but is definitely a healthy alternative to consider the next time you to bake something.
The next (but definitely not last) form of coconut you will find is coconut milk. Coconut milk has actually been used for a very long time in Indian, Middle Eastern and other Southeast Asian cuisine. Its thick, creamy texture and delicious coconut flavor make it a great addition to curries and soups, and can also serve as a juice or milk substitute in smoothies. Nowadays, coconut milk can be found in the dairy aisle as well as in canned form at your local supermarket, but watch out! Coconut milk can go bad very quickly if not used soon after opening.
Now, this definitely isn’t the only time we will see coconut on center stage in the kitchen. More alternative uses for coconut are bound to be discovered, and when they are, they will most likely revolutionize your kitchen or your diet – just as the four other forms listed above already have.
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