Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream - Cooking, Baking, Health and Slimming Benefits and Nutrients

A Lovely Bunch Of!

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Hands up, who wants to know all about coconuts? This delicious gift to the nut-loving population is a culinary marvel that can be turned to many and varied sweet or savoury uses, whether coconut ice cream or chicken coconut curry – and not only that, but in some quarters it is hailed as a bit of a nutritional whizzkid too!

The coconut is grown on palm trees belonging to the one-member genus Cocus, that occupy usually coastal or tropical areas, thereby supplying sufficient oxygenated water to keep the plant’s roots healthy and happy. In appearance the fruits are large and green, the familiar hairy brown shell being the inner part of the nut’s protective covering (except it's not really a nut, it's a seed!) As you will already know, the white meat inside is the jewel of the fruit, providing a tender, sweetish morsel when fresh, and a massively useful baking ingredient when dried. The water inside the coconut is highly valued (and sold at pricey premiums in health food stores). The milk, cream, fat and oil produced from the flesh are versatile and often yummy in themselves. (I have been known to put watered down coconut milk on my cornflakes!)

Some amazing health claims have been made for coconuts and in particular their constituent, caprylic acid, in recent years. In relation to thrush and candida they have been claimed to be usefully anti-fungal and a powerful aid to the restoration of health (unless you have a coconut allergy, I guess). Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil also has its adherents: a study by Intahphuak et al in 2010 observed that they had found substantiation of claims for the ability of VCO to reduce pain, inflammation and fever (in rats!).[3] (Plus coconut oil is a delicious baking ingredient and is no hardship to use in the likes of flapjacks and cookies! It is sold in solid form in many wholefood stores.)

Coconut-related food supplements such as caprylic acid and VCO can work out pretty pricey at times, but many other coconut products are a positive bargain, especially if you know just where to shop. Per 100 grams, desiccated coconut can be had for cheaper than almost any other nut or seed and is positively gorgeous in cakes and biscuits (as well as in curries according to many cooks, though I’ve never fancied the texture in that context). The tinned milk is often also very cheap in ethnic grocery stores and supermarkets.

Do you fancy a bit of a culinary adventure? Do you wonder what more variety could do to enhance your meals and your health? Why not give coconut a whirl in one of its many forms?


References

[1] Sparks, D.L. 'Advances in Agronomy, Vol. 101.'San Diego: Elsevier Inc., 2009, pp. 278-292

[2] Dean, C., Wheeler, L.C. 'IBS Cookbook For Dummies.' Hoboken: Wiley Publishing Inc.; 2010, p.283.

[3] Intahphuak, S., Khonsung, P., Panthong, A. 'Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil'. Pharmaceutical Biology. 48;2: February 2010, pp. 151-157.

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