I’ve been cooking up a storm this week to prepare some really awesome blog posts for you guys on the 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. I’ve been so excited to blog about this particular food for a while, not only because it tastes delicious, but because this superfood has been given a bad rep for such a long time and it has finally been recognized for its’ outstanding health benefits. I mean how can you go wrong with a food with both cocoa and nut in the name?
Yes, I’m talking about coconut.
Coconut and coconut oil are both superfoods. Studies on coconut, dating as far back as the 60s and 70s, found that those with diets high in coconut were virtually free of atherosclerosis, heart disease and colon cancer. And even though their diets were “high-fat” (35-60% of their total calories from fat, mostly consisting of saturated fat from coconut) they were lean and healthy. Even more astonishing, when this same group of people stopped eating their traditional diet and started to eat “healthier” diets with no coconut and less fat, their incidence of heart disease increased dramatically!
A ½ cup coconut has 4 grams of fiber, 142 mg of potassium, 13 mg of magnesium, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 13 grams of heart healthy fat.
Now, I know that many of you are surprised to find that coconut has made the list, especially given the high saturated fat content. But more and more studies have found that saturated fat is not as bad for you as trans fat. We shouldn’t ban foods like coconut or eggs that are high in naturally occurring fat, instead we should focus on banning processed foods that are high in trans fat, like chips, French fries and McDonalds burgers.
It took me a long time to come around to the basic fact that our bodies need fat. Fat is an energy source, protects our organs and provides critical vitamins. I dieted in the ‘90s when fat was feared and it became ingrained in my mind to only look at the fat grams on the nutrition label, even ignoring the total calories. I ate fat-free Snackwell’s cookies and reduced fat club crackers and wondered why the weight was not coming off.
OK, so the fat isn’t so bad for us, but is coconut actually good for us? The short answer is yes. 50% of the fat in coconut is lauric acid. Lauric acid is a antiviral, antibacterial bug killer. Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D,, has conducted extensive research on lipid biology, and found that the lauric acid in coconut has outstanding immune-enhancing effects. Her research has also debunked the theory that saturated fat in coconut has any adverse effects on the heart, or health in general.
Still not convinced? Another 6-7% of the fatty acids in coconut are a MCT called capric acid. MCTs also have antiviral effects, protect against many STDs and even are helpful in weight control and athletic performance.
I try to follow the Eat Clean diet pioneered by Tosca Reno. In her latest cookbook, The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook, several of her recipes call for “coconut butter.” I looked EVERYWHERE for this allusive coconut butter to no avail. I tried Earth Fare, Trader Joes, The Peach Stand and even the natural food store here in Fort Mill. No one had even heard of it. So, I logged on to trusty Amazon and found exactly what I was looking for. I bought Artisana Raw Organic Coconut Butter for a hefty price of $23.95 for a 16 ounce jar. When it arrived in the mail I felt like it was Christmas! I made a delicious recipe, “Upside Down Banana Cream Pie,” and it was delicious. I got a double whammy of coconut health benefits because it called for both coconut and coconut butter. Try out the recipe and let me know what you think.
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut
- 2 cups oats
- 2 Tbsp Artisana Raw Organic Coconut Butter
- 2 Tbsp raw honey
- 2 Tbsp water
- 8 bananas, peeled, divided
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted, raw macadamia nuts, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes to 1 hour
- 6 unsweetened dried pitted dates
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon, ground
- Pinch nutmeg, ground
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- Prepared crust: in a food processor, combine all crust ingredients. Pulse until combined and crumbly. Scrape into a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Prepare filling: Place 5 bananas, lemon juice and vanilla in food processor and pulse until pureed and smooth. Scrape banana purée into medium bowl and set aside. Add macadamia nuts and dates into the food processor until a sticky paste forms. Add the banana puree back into the food processor with the macadamia nut/date mixture and pulse until smooth. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and yogurt, pulse until combined.
- Slice the remaining three bananas and place into the bottom of a baking pan. Pour banana mixture over the sliced bananas and smooth top with spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. After pie has set, crumble the crust mixture over top. Makes 18 servings.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 193, Fat: 10.5 g, Carbs: 26 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugars: 13 g, Protein: 4 g, Sodium: 5 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg.
Do you like coconut? Do you eat it or have you banned it because of the saturated fat?