Who can resist a coconut, with its creamy, tropical flavor? For too long, many Americans have done just that.
Thankfully, that misguided coconut era is over. The coconut is receiving long-overdue accolades as a highly nutritious food. In fact, research has shown that it’s the saturated fat in coconuts that not only helps our bodies absorb nutrients and fight viruses, but also reduce cholesterol levels. Traditional American uses of coconut are sugar-laden affairs — think baked goods like pies, cakes and macaroons — that mask its health-promoting properties. But now cooks everywhere are incorporating coconut into a wide range of flavorful recipes that support good health. (For more on why saturated fat is good for you, search for “A Big Fat Mistake.”) And many people are going even further, using coconut milk as a wholesale replacement for dairy.
When coconut is fresh, it has a sweet, rich aroma. Before it reaches the grocery store, the coconut’s smooth outer shell has usually been removed, revealing a rough husk with three indented “eyes” at one end. Inside is the seed; it consists of a layer of creamy, white meat surrounding a center filled with refreshing, mildly flavored coconut water.
Whatever form of coconut you choose — shredded coconut; or coconut milk, cream and oil — it is sure to add an exotic twist of flavor to an otherwise ordinary meal.
Intimidated by coconuts? Don’t be. Here are easy ways to integrate coconut meat, milk and water into everyday snacks and meals.
• Mix shaved or shredded coconut with nuts, seeds and berries in a bowl as a healthy alternative to breakfast cereal (just add your choice of yogurt or milk and a spoon). Thanks to the healthy fats and fiber, you’ll feel satisfied longer.
• Make coconut mango salsa by combining chopped mango, chopped red chili, coconut chunks, fresh mint and lime juice in a bowl. Use it to top grilled fish, chicken or tempeh. Or simply serve it with some whole-grain chips.
• When cooking rice, substitute half of the water with coconut milk. When rice is cooked, sprinkle in some sliced green onions, sesame seeds or toasted nuts, if desired. Coconut milk can also be used in place of milk in many recipes.
• Use coconut water in place of water in your favorite smoothie recipe. You’ll get a hint of tropical flavor and a boost of extra electrolytes. Coconut water also makes a nice beverage or midworkout refresher all on its own.
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