Cream of the crop

Coconut sales are booming, with 60 million metric tons of coconuts grown globally every year, and coconut oil production came in at 3.44 million metric tons in 2017.

This humble island crop forms part of the staple diet of many people in tropical locations such as Zanzibar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and, Indonesia.

Many consider it an indispensable crop due to its versatility – you can drink the water, eat the flesh, and use the outer fibres and shell for crafting a variety of items such as ropes, doormats, cups, sponges, and musical instruments. The tree trunks are also used in construction and furniture manufacturing.

In recent years, science has discovered that far from being just a useful island crop, coconuts are actually nutritional powerhouses. Gluten-free, fibre-rich, and high in beneficial medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s), coconuts boast an impressive nutritional profile. Here are five good reasons why the world is going nuts for coconuts:

Weight loss. Coconut oil is packed with MCTs, which can increase the amount of energy our bodies expend after consuming it.

This means that incorporating coconut oil into your diet may boost your metabolism, which causes you to burn more energy in a day. Additionally, MCT’s can play a role in reducing appetite and hunger levels. Researchers also found that daily coconut oil supplementation specifically can reduce abdominal fat in both men and women, measured by noting reductions in participants’ waist circumference.

Antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. Coconut oil can be used in a number of medical treatments. It acts as a safe alternative to antibacterial mouthwashes to help prevent bacterial build up in the mouth, and to heal mouth sores and infections. It also shows promising results as a natural anti-fungal agent in the treatment of various Candida species.

Brain power. MCTs are good for brain health. Research published in the journal Neurology of Aging even revealed that MCT supplementation can lead to cognitive improvement in Alzheimer’s patients.

Heart health. Coconut oil has a positive effect on HDL cholesterol levels (the ‘good’ cholesterol) that assists in transporting LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver to be metabolised. This means less chance of clogged arteries and resultantly, a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Hydration. For exercise-induced dehydration, coconut water can serve as a wonderful potassium-rich alternative to commercial sports drinks. For light exercise, coconut water on its own is fine, but for more strenuous exercise that results in greater sodium loss through sweat, sodium-enriched coconut water is best. This can be achieved by simply adding a bit of natural salt to the water.

There are numerous other benefits linked to coconut consumption, including potential reductions in blood pressure, anti-inflammatory properties, and improved bone health. Additionally, coconut oil can also be used as a treatment for wounds.

Here are some tasty ideas for incorporating more coconut products into your diet:

Smoothies and hot drinks: Simply add 1 tbsp of extra virgin coconut oil to your regular smoothie or morning coffee for an added health boost. Or treat yourself with an extra-creamy pina colada smoothie: blend 1 frozen banana, 1 cup of pineapple (frozen or fresh), 1/8 tsp of Himalayan salt, 1 cup of coconut milk, and 3 to 4 dried dates or 2 tsp of honey.

Curries and soups: Coconut cream and milk make a wonderful addition to spicy dishes. When a recipe calls for cream or milk, simply substitute with coconut milk or cream instead. Remember to check your ingredient labels carefully, and purchase coconut milk without any added preservatives.

Chocolate: For a quick and easy homemade chocolate, simply melt ½ cup extra virgin coconut oil, and combine with ½ cup cacao powder, ¼ cup honey or maple syrup, and ¼ tsp fine Himalayan salt. Mix in any other ingredients of your choice such as nuts, dates, coconut flakes or raisins. Pour into small cupcake moulds, or on a flat tray lined with baking paper, and let it set in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes.

Spreads: Coconut oil makes a wonderful butter substitute. Spread straight onto warm bread with a pinch of salt, or make your own coconut butter spread by combining equal parts of extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil with 1 tsp sea salt and any herbs or spices of your choice. Melt the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, mixing until the oils are combined and the salt is melted.

Let the mixture cool until it begins to set, then whip using a stand mixer until the mixture is double its original volume. Transfer into a container of your choice and store in the fridge.

Give your health a tropical island boost today, and enjoy the benefits for years to come.