Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Skinny on Coconuts: Water, Milk, Oil, and Flour

There's a lot of buzz these days about the health benefits of coconut products.  If you are like me, you might have trouble keeping up with the terms and advice.  Here is a summary of what I have found--

1. Coconut Water
Coconut water is the liquid inside a coconut and is harvested from young green coconuts 5-7 months of age.  The water is fairly clear and health benefits include electrolytes, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients.  Coconut water is a good thing to drink if a person is battling stomach flu or diarrhea, because the presence of electrolytes and minerals help replenish the system more than pure water.  It is also a good thing to drink if you are working outside gardening or mowing the lawn because of its hydration and restorative properties.  Some sources report that coconut water may help if you're prone to bladder or kidney infections; the water seems to lend detoxifying properties to the urinary system.   Coconut water contains the same lauric acid as mother's milk, and therefore adds a boost to your immune system (lauric acid has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties). 

Some sources I found point out that any coconut product is best if purchased organic and raw.  The product is not raw if it has been pasturized; if pasturized (common in packaged coconut water), the amount of beneficial ingredients such as enzymes are much lower than in the raw product.

Personally, I find coconut water difficult to drink because of the texture.  I do, however, like it in smoothies with fruit.  You might want to check out this smoothie recipe on +Food Network's website.

Coconut Water Smoothie

2. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is produced when water and coconut "meat" are mixed together and then pressed so the milk is harvested.  Some sources I read said the water used is coconut water and others just said "water." Coconut milk contains medium chain fatty acids, the fatty acid type most easily recognized and used by your body.  Because coconut milk is not a cow's milk product, it is free of lactose and the large milk proteins that can be associated with intolerances and allergies.  It is also vegan.  It is versatile and can be used in smoothies, rice dishes, soups,and curries.  Coconut milk is found in cans, sometimes in the international food section of your grocery store.  

3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is extracted from the mature coconut meat.  Coconut oil is now recognized as one of the healthiest oils and includes medium chain fatty acids.  Coconut oil, like coconut water and milk, contains lauric acid, with its protective immune properties.  The oil helps you absorb minerals more effectively from food.  Many use it as a beauty product for their skin or hair.  Extra Virgin coconut oil is unrefined and has a flash point of 350 degrees F.  

4. Coconut flour
Coconut flour is grain free (and therefore often used in grain free and paleo cooking) and made from the coconut meat.  It is high in fiber; sources report it has as much protein as wheat flour but without the gluten (gluten is a large protein in wheat that causes health problems for many people with sensitivities or Celiac disease).  Coconut flour has only 3g of net carbs, and coconut has a low glycemic index (45).  Therefore, the flour is appropriate for low carb and low glycemic diets such as South Beach, Atkins, and the Zone.  This is in contrast to wheat/white flour which has a high glycemic index (I typically found numbers of about 74-75).  

Check out the recipes at

Maybe you want to try out the Mexican Hot Cocoa Squares?  They look yummy.