The coconut is probably the most versatile of all the Phase 1 foods. It’s a potent antifungal and a goddess in the food world – a true superfood! Coconut is high in fiber (which helps bind mycotoxins and flush out of the body), protein, potassium, magnesium and super low in sugar…not to mention one of the best sources of saturated fat. Did you know that our heart and brain need saturated fat to function? When we eat this unadulterated form of saturated fat, our body quickly utilizes it for key functions throughout the body – not to store on our thighs! Don’t be afraid of the saturated fat that is in coconut because there are many studies that have shown coconut promotes weight loss.
Don’t like coconut? Give it another try because some of these products don’t even taste like coconut! Here are the many variations of this fruit you can use to substitute in your traditional recipes.
Young Thai Coconuts / Green Coconuts
I fell in love with young Thai coconuts on a mission trip to Thailand years ago. These are not the brown “hairy” coconuts; they are white with a pointed dome top. Drink the coconut water, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon (it’s soft) and eat it. Add it to smoothies or make into some amazing recipes – think whipped cream or key lime pie! The flesh has a very mild and sweet flavor, surprisingly not very “coconutty.” This of course is the ideal way to eat coconuts, but not always the most practical. It takes some strength to get these coconuts open and a sharp cleaver is a must, but the rewards are worth the trouble. Check out my video below to see how to open a young Thai coconut properly. You can find them at a health food store like Whole Foods Market or at an Asian or Thai market.
Unsweetened Unsulfured Shredded Coconut or Coconut Flakes
This is the most common way people in America eat coconut. It is the dried flesh of the coconut with a strong coconut flavor. Make sure it does not have added sugar. Use this to sprinkle into baked goods, yogurt, trail mix or over fresh berries. Almond Joy and Mounds bars do not count!
Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil
Using an unrefined virgin coconut oil is key to being able to benefit from its health properties. Unrefined coconut oil has a deep coconut flavor that I love in some recipes, but there are others I don’t. For example, this high temperature oil is a great option to use for sautéing. I love coconut oil paired with carrots, such as in my baked carrot fries, but when I sauté broccoli or squash I like the flavor of butter more. It is just a preference, so experiment with it. Coconut oil is the only oil I use in baking and it adds a subtle flavor that everyone raves about! They usually can’t put their finger on the taste; it just adds an amazing sweet delicate flavor. I like cooking my pancakes with Tropical Traditions® coconut oil (and sometimes even my eggs).
This is the clear liquid inside the young Thai coconut. It is a refreshing and slightly sweet tasting water that is full of essential electrolytes and potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and heart function. It is fat free, low calorie and delicious with a squeeze of limejuice! Many pro-athletes use this instead of high sugar sports drinks because it quickly hydrates the body. Of course the best way to drink coconut water is straight from the young Thai coconut. Unfortunately all the major brands of store bought coconut water now add sugar even if it is not on the label! I’ll need to write a post on this in the future, but just beware if your trying to avoid sugar.
Unsweetened Coconut Milk
This is derived from the flesh of a mature coconut. It is a sweet, creamy milk consistency that is rich in flavor. Use it in baking as a dairy milk replacement. If you want a more subtle taste, use “light” coconut milk, which just has added water in it. Therefore, it is more cost effective to buy regular coconut milk and add water yourself, making your own light coconut milk… why pay for added water? Be careful to make sure the can is BPA free…I now use Native Forest® organic coconut milk for this reason alone. Amazing in smoothies!
This is the king of fiber with 6 grams per tablespoon! Use it to bake with, add into smoothies, mix into yogurt or use to thicken sauces or dips. Note: you CANNOT substitute 100% regular flour for coconut flour in recipes. It takes some research and experimentation, but it is wonderful and nutritious. Tropical Traditions® coconut flour is excellent to use.
Coconut Cream Concentrate / Coconut Butter
This stuff is fabulous! It is the coconut flesh, not just the oil. It’s another great option if you don’t have access to the young Thai coconuts. Use to bake with (think flourless Phase 1 brownies), add to smoothies, homemade energy bars, nut brittle, sauces or salad dressings…both tasty and versatile! The Artisana® brand is easy to find in most health food stores and Tropical Traditions® sells everything “coconut” at a great price online.
This wonderful product is made from the nutrient-rich coconut tree sap. Coconut aminos by Coconut Secret® is a Phase 1 friendly soy sauce that is full of 17 amino acids, vitamins and minerals…and it does not taste like coconut! It is not as salty or tangy as soy sauce, but it has a great taste. You can use it in salad dressings, sauces, stir-fry or any recipe that calls for soy sauce.
Also derived from the coconut tree sap, the coconut vinegar is an abundant source of 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C and B vitamins…and does not taste like coconut at all. Like the Aminos mentioned above, you can use the Coconut Secret® coconut vinegar in salad dressings, sauces, stir-fry or any recipe that calls for vinegar.
Coconut Crystals / Coconut Nectar
When the coconut tree is tapped, it produces a naturally sweet, nutrient-rich “sap” that exudes from the coconut blossoms. This sap is very low glycemic and contains 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH. These sugar crystals are made from this natural sap and it is a raw, enzymatically alive product, low temperature evaporated (to remove excess moisture and allow for crystallization). A great alternative for your baking recipes; however, you need to test the ratios even though the company states that the crystals can be used in a 1:1 ratio to replace cane sugar. The Coconut Secret® coconut crystals are what I use… and if you want a Phase 2 liquid alternative, they also make a raw coconut nectar to replace agave! Just remember that the crystals and nectar are sugar and are not Phase 1… sugar is sugar and it is never healthy, but when you do need sugar this is a decent option.
So those are the ten variations of coconut that can easily help you transform your traditional family recipes or expand your diet with new foods you might have never tried – and let them become your new family favorites. They are so delicious… you will forget you’re eating healthy – that is the true test and the key to sticking with it! One food, ten different variations and hundreds of possibilities! Go ahead…add a little coconut into your diet!