Coconut. We can’t get enough of it. Brightly flavored and pleasantly aromatic, this tropical superfood is making a splash in the health community with its impressive list of health benefits. Blended into "enhanced" sports drinks or sprinkled atop sugary cakes, coconut is finding its way into all sorts of products these days, although this doesn't necessarily make them good. When it comes to this recently popular superfood, it can be downright confusing to figure out what is what. So, before we get carried away buying coconutty-this and cocolicious-flavored-that, let's take a step back to appreciate the traditional value of real coconut. And what better way to savor it than by making your own totally delicious coconut treats using whole food unsweetened organic coconut.
Coco-What? A look at the different parts of a coconut
Did you know that coconuts are actually botanically classified as a fibrous one-seeded drupe? A drupe is a fruit with a hard stoney covering enclosing the seed (think of a peach or an olive). The brown furry coconuts that you see at the store are actually that inner seed with the fleshier outer layers removed. Let's take a look at the different parts of a coconut, what they are used for, and the nutritional and medicinal value they hold.
- Coconut Oil is is extracted from the white inner flesh of the coconut which is naturally composed of about 33% oil content. The oil is high in healthy, stable saturated fatty acids and medium chain triglycerides, which are readily used as a source of fuel for the body. Also rich in anti-microbial lauric acid, coconut oil has many health benefits including strengthening the immune system, improving digestion, promote healthy long-term weight loss, protecting from degenerative disease, strengthening hair, and healing skin among others. Use as a cooking oil, on the skin as a lotion, for oral cleansing, as a deodorant and much more!
- Coconut Milk is made by pressing the soft white flesh of freshly opened coconuts. The result of this process is a thick cream, composed of mostly coconut oil and complex carbohydrates. This mash is then diluted with purified water to gain the desirable liquid consistency we are accustomed to. You can make your own coconut milk with a young fresh coconut, or by simply using coconut flakes.
- Coconut Water is the translucent liquid found sloshing around within the center of a coconut fruit. In Hawaiian this sweet substance is called noelani (no-way lah-nee), meaning “dew from the heavens.” Used in many tropical cultures as a traditional food and a medicine, coconut water is known for its unique capacity to hydrate completely and offer restoration from the harsh sun. It offers a broad collection of nutrients that revitalize the human body on a cellular level, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, growth factors and other phytonutrients. Avoid the store bought versions- instead make your own fresh coconut water and turn it into tasty coconut kefir!
- Coconut Sugar is one of the latest coconut products to hit the health foodie scene. Made from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm, it has a relatively low glycemic index and also abounds with vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Coconut sugar offers the warm, natural sweetness of light brown sugar with all of the nutritional benefit of coconut water. Many people use it as a replacement for refined, white sugar in baking.
- Coconut Flakes & Chips are made from the dehydrated white meat of mature coconuts. Traditional lore has it that eating the fruit of the coconut tree is the secret to robust health and a long life. Serving dualistically as a highly functional food with medicinal capacity, coconut meat has been implicated in improving digestion, enhancing nutrient bioavailability, protecting against cancer and heart disease, aiding with weight loss, and improving immunity by actively killing disease-causing microorganisms and parasites. Because dried coconut is 64% fat by composition, it reflects many of the health benefits of coconut oil with the added advantage of quality indigestible fiber. Coconut Chips are large slivers of dehydrated coconut that are great for snack recipes, while flakes are more finely shredded and are fantastic as a topping or for use in baking goodies like coconut macaroons. Remember: quality counts! Not all dehydrated coconut is created equal.
- Coconut Spread is created from coconut meat that has been dried and pulverized into a paste, resembling a nut butter. Pleasantly aromatic and delightfully balanced, it has a slightly sweet coconut taste and a texture that melts on your tongue. High in fiber, trace minerals and medium chain fatty acids, this spread is both delicious tasting and nutrient-dense. Enjoy it mixed with other nut butters, on apples or celery, whipped into a frosting, blended into a smoothie or spread over chocolate or carob to make decadent Coconut Almond Delights.
- Coconut Flour is an incomparably unique and tasty alternative to wheat and other grain flours. The fine white meal is produced from grinding the dried white internal meat of the coconut. Easily used for delicious baked goods, tasty snacks or hearty main dishes, coconut flour has a distinctive nutrient and fiber composition that sets it apart from more commonly seen rice, soy, nut, potato and corn based flours. It can be used to make grain-free versions of "feel good" favorites: blueberry or carrot nut muffins, banana bread and more.
Heavenly No-Bake Organic Coconut Balls
By Kayla- Radiant Life
There is really no other way to say it: these dainty snack balls are simply divine, the kind of treat that is almost too good to be true. Perfectly sweet with a balanced all-natural flavor, they are buttery and melt-in-your-mouth delicious while bolstering all the health benefits of coconut. Blended with your choice of mineral rich natural sweetener and using organic, low temperature dehydrated coconut this recipe takes no more than 10 minutes to make and can easily be doubled...or tripled...or quadrupled....
makes 9-10 balls
1-1.5 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp unrefined salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended. Place mixture in parchment lined container and refrigerate for about one hour to set. Once mixture is firm, remove and roll into small snack balls. These can be easily stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks or in the freezer for the long-term. For storage, it is helpful to separate stacked layers of balls with parchment paper to prevent sticking. They will melt if left out for too long, so keep cool if you are on the go.
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