Have you ever caught a whiff of coconut and it immediately triggers an image of a tropical paradise with warm sandy beaches, waves lapping ashore, a chilled umbrella drink in hand, and steel drums playing in the distance? Or does that just work for me? Coconut is obviously one of my favorite scents and flavors of summer. Unfortunately, coconut is considered a forbidden fat-laden food found in rich, decadent cookies, pies and cakes. Let’s bust through coconuts crusty shell to reveal some amazing health and fat-loss benefits.
Did You Know?
Beyond their tropical appeal, the coconut enjoys a rich history as a vital food source and an economic powerhouse. According to the Coconut Research Center (there actually is one), almost a third of the world’s population relies on coconuts in some form or fashion. For many islanders, coconut is a daily diet staple as nearly every component of the coconut can be consumed. Here are some of coconut’s benefits:
- Rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and amino acids
- Helps kills viruses, bacteria and fungi
- Boosts energy and endurance
- Improves digestion and helps maintain blood glucose levels
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps increase metabolic rate
- Topical applications help soften skin and provide natural protection from UV rays
Not Just for Parties
If you only pull out the coconut flakes for Christmas cookies or add a can of coconut cream to your favorite piña colada cocktail, you’re missing some of coconut’s best benefits that should be enjoyed throughout the year. Check on the many ways you can use coconut today:
- Cook with it — coconut oil is considered one of the healthiest oils due to its medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). MCFA’s (also known as MTC’s) are unique in the saturated fat category as they don’t affect cholesterol. Studies have actually shown a reduction in heart disease risk with its use.
- Nourish with it — the coconut meat is remarkably versatile and a great addition to salads, stir-fries, smoothies and snacks. Be sure to choose unsweetened, organic coconut either flakes or shredded. You can even purchase whole coconuts and cut up the meat in one ounce chunks for a fiber-rich quick energy snack. Try replacing cows milk with coconut milk on your cereal or in your next protein smoothie.
- Moisturize with it - I use straight coconut oil as a makeup remover. It can also be used to soothe and protect skin. Guys, if you don’t like girly moisturizers, coconut oil absorbs well and has no perfumes or sticky residue. Take advantage of its UV protective benefits when out in the sun by smoothing it on your face, lips and throat.
- Lose belly fat with it — research has shown that coconut’s ability to boost metabolism and regulate blood sugar may be responsible for its fat burning benefits. Keep in mind that it is also very calorie rich so use it as a substitute for other fats in your diet not an addition.
Additionally, like most natural foods, avoid processed coconut. Coconut oil should be labeled as “virgin” in order to obtain its benefits.
Let’s Get Crackin’
I’m always on the lookout for healthy snacks especially when I’m on the go. Unfortunately, most protein bars I’ve found are still full of sweeteners, preservatives and other ingredients I try to avoid. Recently, I found a couple of favorite recipes on Mark’s Daily Apple blog. They’ve become my new go-to snacks and, not surprisingly, they use coconut flakes and coconut oil. Here’s my favorite adaptation of the original recipe courtesy of Marksdailyapple.com:
Combine 1/2 cup of each: almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and pumpkin seeds. Blend in a food processor until they are ground down to a fine powder, set aside. Blend six pitted dates along with 1/2 cup of organic coconut flakes and combine with the nut/seed mixture. Using a fork, cut in 3–4 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil into the mixture. Take a tablespoon and press the mix to form a semi-circle. Refrigerate and enjoy. You can also add natural, unsweetened cocoa powder for your chocolate fix.
No matter how you slice it, dice it, drink it or smooth it on, the coconut is a great addition to your healthy eating and fit lifestyle. Oh, and, I prefer a blue umbrella in my piña colada — Cheers!
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“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk.” Dustin Hoffman
Copyright © 2013 by Christine A.Toriello, all rights reserved.