Monday, November 30, 2009

Coconut: A functional, flavorful food

Coconut is a versatile staple food in many different cultures. The milk is used in sauces, and as the base of soups and stews. The oil is used for frying and in baked products. The “meat” of the coconut is shredded into baked products and used in custards, puddings and porridges. Beyond its culinary applications, coconut has a number of controversial yet beneficial health effects which deserve attention and exploration.

Coconut is high in saturated fat which has been associated with cardiovascular disease and weight gain. However, the structure of fat in coconut, medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), is different from the fat found in animal products. MCTs are not deposited into fat tissue like their long-chain counterparts. They are rapidly digested because they don’t require bile for absorption. Because they are digested so quickly, they are converted into energy thereby boosting metabolic rate and weight loss. In fact, some practitioners prescribe coconut oil to patients undergoing weight loss.

Coconut oil also contains special health promoting constituents such as lauric acid and caprylic acid. These constituents have antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties and have been used to treat Candida, yeast overgrowth, and weakened immune systems. In addition, a recent study demonstrated that these constituents increased HDL levels, the "good" cholesterol.

In addition to its health effects, coconut has a low allergen potential. Coconut-based milks, yogurt, butter and ice cream may be suitable substitutions for those with dairy sensitivities. Similarly, coconut flour can be a tasty, nutritious alternative to wheat and grain-based flours and may be worth exploring by individuals with wheat and gluten intolerances. Consult a qualified health practitioner if you need additional guidance on how to make appropriate substitutions.

Coconut curry chicken with plum wine

1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil (for frying)
4 chicken thighs (organic and pastured are best)
1 can whole coconut milk
1 cup plain rice milk
3 teaspoons curry powder or 1 tablespoon curry paste
2 tablespoons raw honey or agave nectar
1/4 cup plum wine (can substitute cooking sake or mirin)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped, for garnish
Lime to taste

Heat skillet to medium-high, then add coconut oil. Brown chicken on both sides. Add coconut milk, rice milk, curry powder and stir. Then add honey and plum wine. Reduce heat to low, cover skillet and let chicken simmer for about 20 minutes. Top off with fish sauce before serving. Garnish with cilantro and lime.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Genevieve! I love all the coconut milk yogurts, beverages, creamers, kefir, and ice cream made by So Delicious. I think I'll try making this recipe and substitute their coconut milk beverage for the rice milk. Another great use for coconut oil: it makes a very nurturing and healing skin moisturizer.

eva said...

At your suggestion, I stirfried green beans in coconut oil, grated fresh ginger and tumeric with toasted almond slivers on top. It was awesome! It has such a smooth flavor. An I can almost feel the immune boost :)