JBK Nutrition Notes: Ingredient Highlight: Coconut

Some foods just deserve some extra attention, right? One of our absolute favorites at JBK is the highlight of this post: COCONUT!  Why do we love it so much?

BEcause it’s got serious health BEnefits 

BEcause it’s multi-functional – we love ALL things coconut!

BEcause it tastes AMAZING!

Craving more coconut knowledge? Thought so. Read on!

Why is it so healthy?

Coconut is loaded with beneficial fatty acids, B vitamins, the antioxidant vitamins C and E, minerals, and dietary fiber. This combination gives coconut a long list of impressive characteristics:

It has potent antimicrobial and antioxidant properties – the lauric acid and monolaurin have been shown to help inhibit the growth of C. difficile, Streptococcus, Candida, and to help kill H.Pylori!

It helps to control blood sugar – fat in general reduces the glycemic response (the spike of blood sugar following a meal or snack) but coconut oil has been found to be particularly effective at managing blood sugar fluctuations which can contribute to cravings, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

It supports oral health – the antimicrobial fatty acids in coconut oil inhibit the growth of oral microorganisms responsible for dental cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Try swishing it on its own in your mouth and spitting – this is called “pulling” and it can help remove unwanted excess bacteria from your mouth!

It supports heart health – the individual fatty acids in coconut are loaded with heart-healthy benefits. Studies have shown that consistent coconut consumption can reduce LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol and improve other cardiometabolic risk factors like lowering serum triglycerides and blood pressure and inhibiting LDL oxidation (resulting in lowered levels of “bad” cholesterol)

It supports brain health – virgin coconut oil has been shown to improve memory by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and by enhancing antioxidant status and reducing oxidative stress in the brain

Let’s crack it open

The health benefits of coconut are extensive, so now let’s get into what each part is and how to use it.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is made by blending the meat of a coconut with water. You’ll see coconut versions with different levels of fat out there. The difference is simply how much water has blended with the meat. More fat = more creamy! (yes please!)

Coconut milk can be used anywhere you’d use cow’s milk – coffee, sauces, smoothies, yogurt, etc. If you’re buying, look for brands without added sugar or gums. Yes, it’ll separate. Just give it a shake or throw it in a blender to mix it up. You can also throw a can of full fat coconut milk into the refrigerator so that the fat and water separate. Open the can, drink the water, and then whip that cream into a delicious frosting!

Coconut water

Coconut water is the clear, thin liquid inside a young green coconut. As the coconut ripens and turns dark brown on the outside, this liquid mostly solidifies into the flesh and only a bit remains.

Coconut water is an amazing source of electrolytes. Think of it like nature’s gatorade – super hydrating but with only one natural ingredient! Try it for your next workout, when you’re feeling blah, or get creative and mix it into a smoothie or cocktail for an extra hydrating tropical treat.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is pressed from the flesh of the coconut meat. While critics have steered away from coconut oil due to its saturated fat content, plenty of more recent and well-designed studies have disproved claims that coconut oil is inherently unhealthy. In short: we know more now than we did then, so let’s move on.

About 63% of the total fat in coconut oil is a type of shorter-chain fatty acid called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are especially unique and beneficial in that they don’t require bile salts to be absorbed into the small intestine, so they can be passively absorbed by the body and quickly converted by the liver into ketones which can be used as energy (if glucose is unavailable). MCTs have also been shown to help reduce inflammation, increase activity of the enzyme diamine oxidase (which aids in histamine intolerance and allergies), and support gut health (by increasing mucus production in the gut, restoring tight junction proteins to reduce intestinal permeability, and increasing cell-turnover rate. MCTs are also known to promote weight loss through thermogenesis and impacts on the “hunger hormone” ghrelin.

Saturated fats like coconut oil are also able to withstand higher heat when cooking and do not oxidize as easily as less stable unsaturated fats (even the healthy ones like olive oil). Read more on oxidation and why you don’t want that here.

Coconut oil can be used to replace any other oil in cooking or baking, just be aware that it solidifies around 74 degrees, so when used in baking, you’ll need to heat it slightly to melt it into a liquid.  And cooking aside, coconut is also a great eye makeup remover!

Coconut flour

Coconut flour is made from the coconut pulp that is leftover from making coconut milk. The pulp is dried and ground into a flour that is high in protein and fiber and low in carbs. It’s a satisfying and nutritious substitute for grain-based flours.

You can use coconut flour in baking and as a binder in cooking. Just know that it is super dry and absorbent, so don’t blindly substitute coconut flour in your recipes. Follow a recipe that intends to use coconut flour, you’ll notice it has a higher proportion of wet ingredients. Keep coconut flour fresh by keeping it in the fridge.

Coconut aminos

Coconut aminos is made from the nutrient-rich sap that exudes from the blossoms on the coconut tree before they mature into coconuts. It has a rich and tangy umami-type flavor that is similar to soy sauce. It’s slightly sweeter and lower in sodium than soy sauce, and it also avoids any of the weird fillers that often show up in soy sauce like wheat and MSG. Coconut aminos tastes amazing in dressings, marinades, and sauces.

So there you have it: a nutritious and delicious favorite that you’ll find throughout the menu at JBK! In fact, we only cook in coconut and olive oils!