Coconuts in Thailand

Coconuts in Thailand: more than just an adornment for a beach

The coconut is one of the symbols of Thailand. People often think of tall coconut trees on the fringe of white sand beaches when they imagine Thailand. This idyllic picture is a reality on many of the beaches of Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Chang, Phuket and other tourist destinations in Thailand. Coconut cultivation is very important for many communities (especially those not blessed with a lively tourist trade). Not only do coconut trees provide an income for the locals but also the coconut fruit can be harvested for its milk, meat and water. The hard shell can be carved into many household items and the rough coir can be used for gardening, mats, making rope and stuffing for mattresses, furniture upholstery etc.

Coconuts in Thailand grow best in the hot and humid south. Places like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan were known as coconut islands before the value of their gorgeous beaches was fully appreciated. In the old days it was the land in the interior of the islands that was most valuable as this was best for cultivating coconuts. Beach land was given as an inferior inheritance to daughters and second sons. How those daughters and second sons are laughing now!

Growing coconuts in Thailand

In Thailand coconut is called maprao. Coconut plantations have irrigation canals and the coconuts are grown on raised beds. The fruit from coconut is a drupe and a new coconut sprouts when it finds land. The new coconut receives nutrients from the juice and meat in the coconut. It acts as its own fertilizer. Moreover, the lauric acid in the coconut oil also helps to protect the young plant from disease. Thus, coconuts in Thailand need no expensive inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to flourish. Water and sunshine is all that is needed; and the tropical rainforests in the south supply these two things in abundance.

Coconuts in Thailand take only 7 to 10 years to become productive. In some areas people shin up the trunks to harvest the coconuts. In other areas trained monkeys on leashes are used. These macaque monkeys are called ling gaeng. I’ve often seen men on motorbikes with their monkeys riding on the back.

The Use of Coconuts in Thailand

Every part of coconuts in Thailand is used. The juice, milk and oil is extracted and used in cooking. Coconut milk (‘nam kofee’) is particular popular as an ingredient in curries, desserts and drinks.

The dried shells are used to make numerous useful things including musical instruments. From a recent visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok I noticed coconut bracelets, souvenir coconuts filled with virgin coconut oil and coconut water scoops. The speckled color of the coconut can take a high polish and makes good decoration. Although not strictly a wood, coconut is hard enough to use like wood.
The leaves from the coconut were traditionally used for making beach bungalows and coconut ‘timber’ used for making the floor of the bungalows. Sadly, nowadays many bungalows are made out of concrete.

Coconut coir is dry and fibrous. As mentioned, the coir from coconuts in Thailand makes good stuffing and insulating material. In Thailand it is often used as kindling to get a fire going.

Health and Beauty

Coconut oil is an important commodity in Thailand. It is used as a standard cooking oil. Perhaps many Thais are unaware of how much good their high coconut oil diet is doing them. It is one of the reasons why Thai people have good metabolisms and stay slim. Although the new found wealth of many urban Thais has changed diets, and the propensity for smoking and drinking among Thai men has changed the figures Thailand still has a heart disease rate of 2.6% (see note 1) much lower than other countries that have rates of 4.9% of the population.

Thai women use coconut oil to condition hair and keep it smooth and silky. Coconut oil is also commonly used as a moisturizer to replace lost oils and repair hands damaged by working in the fields.

Palm Sugar

Sugar can be made from the seed pods of coconuts. The seeds are cut and they ooze a liquid that is collected in bamboo poles. About 1 litre of liquid can be collected a day. This liquid or sap is boiled down into crystal form and then allowed to set. The resulting sugar is a delicacy called palm sugar.

Coconut Harvest in Thailand

The Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations (FAO) estimate that Thailand is the sixth largest producer of coconuts in the world. The annual harvest for 2009 was thought to be 1,721,640 tones (see note 2). That is an incredible amount of coconuts. Koh Samui alone is said to produce 2 million coconuts a month. Indeed the locals warn tourists about the dangers of falling coconuts.

Coconuts in Thailand: Cultural Conclusion

In short, coconuts in Thailand are far more than just the perfect adornment to perfect beaches. The coconut is an integral part of Thai culture.

Coconut Flour

It is estimated that nearly one third of the World is dependent on the coconut for food and commerce. The coconut reaches maturity in just 6 or 7 years and doesn’t need expensive or environmentally damaging inputs of fertilizers and pesticides to be grown commercially. For these two reasons coconut is the ideal crop for people living in hot countries where certain resources are in short supply but voracious bugs are not.

One of the more unusual uses of coconut is to make coconut flour. Once produced coconut flour looks very similar to wheat flour and can be used in a similar way to bake bread and cakes. Coconut flour is an ideal alternative to wheat flour because it is free of gluten. It is as rich in protein as other types of flour. Moreover coconut flour is low in carbohydrates, rich in fiber and contains important minerals.

How is coconut flour made?

To make coconut flour mature coconuts are taken and the coconut meat is removed. It is then pressed to make coconut oil. The remaining coconut meat is then dried and defatted. The dried and defatted coconut meat is then ground into a fine powder which looks like wheat flour.

About Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is very different to wheat flour.

Coconut flour consists of 14% coconut oil and 58% dietary fiber. The remaining 28% is protein, carbohydrate and water.

The coconut oil in coconut flour is a good way to replace unhealthy trans fats in the diet with healthy saturated fats that are readily metabolized by the body and turned into energy.

Coconut flour has a higher percentage of dietary fiber than any other type of flour. Fiber is essential for the smooth functioning of the digestive tract.

Coconut flour does not contain any of the protein known as gluten, but does contain other proteins useful for the body. Gluten intolerance is a common problem and coconut flour is the healthy solution.

Coconut flour is low in carbohydrates. The combination of low digestible carbohydrates and high fiber is ideal for people intent on weight loss as it promotes a feeling of fullness and prevents constipation.

More Advantages of coconut flour

Most coconut flour is organic. It is also made without being treated with sulfites.

Coconut flour contains natural sugars and so when cooking with coconut flour less sugar is needed. Cooking with coconut flour is a good way to reduce processed sugar in your diet.

Coconut flour has a slightly sweet coconut taste which adds piquancy to food.

What can you make with coconut flour?

Just about anything that you bake with wheat flour can be made with coconut flour instead. Foods such as bread, cakes, cookies, muffins and pies can all be made with coconut flour. There is no loss of shape or sacrifice in taste when you substitute coconut flour for wheat or other types of flour.

Many people who use coconut flour use it to replace 30% of wheat. It is often the case that for 100% use of coconut flour 4 eggs should be added for every cup of coconut flour. For muffins and short breads coconut flour can be completely substituted for wheat.

It is not necessary to bake coconut flour. It can be added to smoothies and shakes to add protein and fiber to a drink. It can also be dissolved in water to make a quick gluten-free protein and high fiber drink with a coconut taste.

Coconut flour can also be used in cooking to thicken soups, sauces and curries. In other words coconut flour is nearly an exact match in uses for wheat flour.

Where can I buy coconut flour?

You can buy coconut flour at health food shops and online at Amazon.com and other reputable online retailers. There is now a good selection of coconut flour on Amazon, most of which is organic. Tropical Traditions do 2.2 lbs packs for under $12. It comes highly recommended by people who have made purchases through Amazon.

Resources for those who want to learn more about gluten intolerance and about gluten and wheat free foods

1) Unique Gluten-Free Grains by Danna Korn is a good overview of gluten intolerance and lists many legumes, fruits and grains that are free of gluten. Many of these grains are some of the oldest foods known to man.

2) This is a list of authority sites dealing with gluten intolerance. The medical, nutritional and anthropological aspects of gluten  intolerance are all covered.

Coeliac (Celiac) Disease and how Coconut Flour can help

Coeliac or Celiac disease?

On the web the disease associated with food intolerance to gluten is called both celiac disease and coeliac disease. They are one and the same thing. For the sake of convenience I will use the Wikipedia appellation, coeliac disease.

Science has got to the stage where it can identify the genes responsible for a pre-disposition to coeliac disease. Testing for coeliac disease is only effective if someone is on a diet which includes gluten.

Symptoms and health problems caused by coeliac disease

The symptoms of coeliac disease are fatigue, chronic diarrhea, anaemia, and in children it can lead to slow rates of weight gain and delayed pubertal development. The disease can also be asymptomatic, which means there are no visible signs of the disease. This is a problem because coeliac disease does long term damage to the body. Basically, gliadin (a gluten protein) attaches itself to the villi lining of the small intestine. Antibodies then attack the villi that lines the small intestine. This results in what is known as villous atrophy.

The result is a reduced ability to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. It also causes failure to absorb enough iron which leads to anaemia. Failure to get enough vitamin D as well as calcium leads to bone problems such as osteoporosis.

Coconut cure for coeliac disease

The cure to the problem of gluten intolerance and coeliac disease is simple: a gluten free diet. This means cutting wheat, barley, spelt, semolina, durum and rye out of the diet. Suitable gluten free cereal alternatives are maize (corn), millet, sorghum, teff, rice, and wild rice. Non cereals such as amaranth, quinoa or buckwheat, and coconut flour are also free of gluten.

One of the best gluten free flours you can use is coconut flour. It is fine, white flour that has a slight sweetness and taste of coconuts. Coconut flour can be used to make cakes, sweet breads and other deserts. It can also be made into bread. As such coconut flour is an ideal substitute for wheat for those who love bread and cakes.

Health benefits of coconut flour

There are also a number of health advantages to using coconut flour. It is high in dietary fiber and high (for a type of flour) in protein. At the same time it is low in carbohydrates. This is a winning nutritional combination that helps to nourish the body while promoting weight loss.

As with coconut oil, coconut flour contains medium chain fatty acids that are easily absorbed by the body and turned to energy. This means coconut flour recipes gives energy without extra fat being put on.

In contrast to coeliac disease that prevents the body from absorbing vitamins and minerals, coconut flour is a great provider of vital vitamins C, E, B1, B6, B3 and B5. It also contains such minerals as calcium, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

In many ways coconut flour is a great remedy for the ill-effects produced by coeliac disease or gluten intolerance. By switching to coconut flour you immediately start to address the damage done by gluten. And by doing so you do not need to give up any foods that you love – just replace the wheat flour with coconut flour!

Can Coconut Oil Help with Weight Loss?

Lots of people are under the illusion that eating fat, any fat is what makes you fat. It is not fat that makes you over-weight, it is calories that make you fat. Protein, carbohydrates and fats all contain calories. Only by eating a balanced diet that contains fewer calories can you lose weight. If you try to stop eating fat you will make yourself not only depressed but quite possibly sick. It is not by cutting fat out of your diet that you lose weight. Weight loss is about eating the right types of food and the right types of fat. It is also about metabolism and exercise.

The calories in your food are only half the story. The other half is metabolism. In other words how well your body can take the calories and turn them into energy. This is where coconut oil is beneficial to those people who want to lose weight.

Coconut Oil, Weight Loss and Metabolism

Fats and oils such as soy, sunflower and safflower contain mostly long chain fatty acids that are too big for the body to easily break down and convert to energy. Only a part of the polyunsaturated fat you eat becomes energy, what the body cannot metabolize becomes body fat and bad cholesterol that increases your chances of suffering from heart disease.

In contrast, coconut oil contains mostly medium chain fatty acids or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) as they are also called. These are easily absorbed by the body and become energy and not body fat. This is the reason why coconut oil doesnt make people fat.

Coconut Oil, Weight Loss and Thyroid Gland

Moreover, coconut oil in the diet increases the metabolism by removing stress on the pancreases. This allows you to burn off more of the calories you eat. It also helps to increase thyroid gland activity that not only improves your immunity system but also helps to burn calories. If you have an under-active thyroid gland you feel run down and lack the energy to go to the gym. Having an active thyroid gland not only gives you more energy to exercise but also speeds up your metabolism. It also has the added health benefit of converting LDL cholesterol into anti-aging hormones such as progesterone and DHEA. A better metabolism means quicker weight loss. And the way to a better metabolism and a healthier body is to increase thyroid gland activity by using virgin coconut oil in your cooking.

Coconut Oil, Weight Loss and Traditional Diets

It is interesting to note that people in Asia and Polynesia who have a high percentage of coconut fat in their diet have very low rates of obesity and heart disease. These rates have only increased recently because of the introduction of unhealthy polyunsaturated fats into the local diet from imported food.

Coconut Oil and Metabolism

Metabolism is the battle ground

Metabolism is in many ways the battle ground for the debate that goes on about which type of fat is best to use in the diet. A closer look at how the body responds to different types of fat clearly shows that coconut oil is the best type of fat to use if you want to have a healthy metabolism and avoid weight gain.

Difference between how medium chain and long chain fatty acids are absorbed by the body

The key issue is not whether a fat is saturated or polyunsaturated; rather the thing that is of importance is the length of the fatty acid chain. Both polyunsaturated fats from seeds like corn and sunflower and saturated fats such as those found in beef and pork contain long chain fatty acids (LCFA). When these long chain fatty acids are introduced into the body they are broken down into individual fatty acids that then become lipoproteins that circulate in the bloodstream. Long chain fatty acids end up being stored in the liver and are only burnt as energy when the body cannot get enough energy from carbohydrate intake.

Metabolism is essentially the process of converting food into energy. The better your metabolism the quicker you can convert food into energy. The strength of the metabolism is connected to the performance of the thyroid gland. Those with hypothyroidism have a slow metabolism, and those with hyperthyroidism have a fast metabolism. Foods that contain long chain fatty acids place a greater strain on the metabolism. Thus, there is an important connection between food, metabolism and energy levels.

When medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) from such sources as coconut oil are introduced into the body they are not packaged into lipoproteins – instead they travel directly to the liver where they are converted into energy. This is why athletes have recently begun using coconut oil in their diet to boost their energy levels before a big race.

The reason why exercise is so important is because the fat from long chain fatty acids stored in the blood stream is not converted into energy until the body runs out of energy from carbohydrates. People who do little exercise will find they will quickly lose weight by switching to coconut oil in their diet. This is because coconut oil is turned directly into energy rather being stored by the body as lipoproteins.

Bruce Fife, the brilliant writer on this topic neatly summarizes this point:

“Medium chain fatty acids produce energy. Other dietary fats produce fat.”

Scientific study showing connection between energy levels and medium chain fatty acids (MCFA)

One study involved testing mice swimming endurance. In the study conducted over 6 weeks some mice were fed a MCFA diet and others were not. The study conclusively showed that those mice fed on MCFA could swim for longer against a current than those mice not on a MCFA diet.

Fushiki, T and Matsumoto, K 1995,  Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by consumption of medium-chain triglycerides.  Journal of Nutrition  125:531

Conclusion coconut oil is turned into energy; other fats are turned into fat

It is thus clear that coconut oil is nearly unique among fats in that it contains a high percentage of medium chain fatty acids that are processed by the body in different way to the more commonly found long chain fatty acids in food. Whereas long chain fatty acids are stored in the body, medium chain fatty acids are immediately metabolized by the body and turned into energy. This has important implications for those seeking to increase their energy levels and those people wishing to lose weight.

List of fats in coconut oil

Here is a brief breakdown of the fatty acids found in coconut oil:

Lauric Saturated 47.5% (medium chain fatty acid)
Myristic Saturated 18.1% (long chain fatty acid)
Palmitic Saturated 8.8% (long chain fatty acid)
Caprylic Saturated 7.8% (medium chain fatty acid)
Stearic Saturated 2.6% (medium chain fatty acid)
Caproic Saturated 0.5% (medium chain fatty acid)
Arachidic Saturated 0.1% (long chain fatty acid)
Oleic Monounsaturated 6.2% (long chain fatty acid)
Linoleic Polyunsaturated 1.6% (long chain fatty acid)

Coconut Bread

Coconut flour is 100% free of the gluten protein and is thus perfect for people who have gluten intolerance and for people who have celiac disease. The only cure for celiac or coeliac disease is to stop eating foods containing the gluten protein. This means giving up wheat flour, barley and rye.

This can be inconvenient as it means learning new recipes with alternatives to wheat, barley and rye. Below is the recipe for making coconut bread. With a little practice this recipe can make delicious bread.

Coconut flour has a spongy, dense texture. It is flour that soaks up a lot of moisture and so a little bit of coconut flour goes a long way. Coconut flour is often used in conjunction with eggs and a fat. This fat could be butter, ghee or, of course, coconut oil. It is the firm belief of this website that so called healthy polyunsaturated fats are in fact very unhealthy as they contain trans fat and the wrong type of fatty acids.

Coconut Bread

The following recipe makes bread that only very slightly tastes of coconut (more so if you use coconut oil). The bread produced is slightly heavy. It could be used to make sandwiches but might be better suited to French toast or as a morning bread to go with jam.

Equipment needed to make coconut bread

You will need something to mix the dough –stand mixer, food processor or mixing bowl and whisk. You will also need a loaf pan.

Ingredients for making coconut bread

  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup ghee / butter / coconut oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

Method for making coconut bread

To make coconut bread first pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, put all the ingredients together – the coconut flour, the fat, eggs, honey and salt. Then mix all the ingredients together as you would do when you are making bread with wheat flour. You can either use a whisk and mixing bowl, stand mixer or a food processor. The better the ingredients are mixed the lighter the bread. The mixture is ready when the mixture is smooth with no lumps.

Finally grease a loaf pan and add the mixture to the pan and put the loaf pan in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 40 minutes and then you have one loaf of coconut bread. Easy!

Coconut bread: final note

As you will have noticed this is bread that is made without yeast. Thus it is not light, fluffy bread. Also coconut bread requires lots of eggs, as mentioned before the coconut flour is very absorbent. This makes coconut bread a rich and heavy food. It is also worth mentioning that coconut flour is high in dietary fiber. For most people this is a good thing which promotes better digestion, for others it can cause gas and bloating.

How to Cook Green Curry

Favorite Thai Dishes and Coconut Milk

According to a survey (see source 1) conducted by the Thai National Cultural Commission of 1,000 Thai restaurants around the world the top 5 favorite Thai dishes of customers are: 1) Tom Yam Kung; 2) Green Curry; 3) Phad Thai (fried noodles); 4) Phat Kraphao (meat fried with sweet basil); and 5) Kaeng Phet Pet Yang (roast duck).

Green curry (kaeng khiao wan) is a great dish that combines spice, aroma and the rich taste of coconut milk. It is great for a dinner party or when you have to cook for others. It is probably no accident that the first and second most popular Thai dishes use coconut milk. The taste of coconut milk is synonymous for many with Thai cuisine. If you have any doubts about whether coconut milk makes you fat you should look at the generally slim and healthy physiques of Thai people. Many Thais drink and smoke and don’t go down the gym and yet they don’t gain pounds and pounds of weight. It is not despite of the saturated fat in coconut milk but because of the coconut milk and coconut oil in their diet that they remain slim.

The secret to cooking great Thai curry is getting the best ingredients and making the curry paste fresh. Ideally you need fresh lemon grass and cilantro. If you can’t get fresh coconut milk then Thai kitchen Pure Coconut Milk is recommended.

If you cannot find cilantro then fresh coriander is a possible substitute.

Ingredients for Green Curry Paste:

4 small green chilies
1 onion/shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated
1 stalk fresh minced lemongrass or 3 tsp. frozen or bottled lemongrass
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 to 1 tsp. shrimp paste
1 (loose) cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
3 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. lime juice

Curry Ingredients:

About 0.7 kg boneless chicken thigh or breast, cut into chunks
1 can of coconut milk
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 zucchini or eggplant, sliced lengthwise several times, then cut into chunks
2 tsp. coconut oil

Instead of the kaffir leaves it’s possible to use 1 tablespoon of grated lime zest. To prepare lemon grass for the paste you need to cut away the leaves and central stem and cut the remaining part into thin strips

Directions for cooking Thai Green Curry with coconut milk

First put all the ingredients for the curry paste into a food blender and turn into a paste. A small amount of coconut milk can be added if moisture is needed to make the ingredients into a paste.

Heat a wok with coconut oil in it then add green curry paste and cook for a few seconds to release the fragrance. Then add coconut milk and chicken chunks. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until chicken is tender.

Next add the red pepper, the zucchini and the lime leaf (or zest). And cook for another 2 or 3 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Finally try and add sugar, salt and fish sauce to taste. If too hot then more coconut milk can be added. It is also a nice final touch to add fresh basil before serving. Serve green curry in a bowl with Thai rice on the side. That should be an authentic Thai green curry taste that is perfect for dinner parties at home. The easiest vegetarian option is to substitute the chicken for tofu. The ingredients given above should feed 4 people.

Coconut Milk vs. Cows Milk

Whats in coconut milk?

When comparing the relative merits of food products it is sometimes helpful to know exactly what is in each product. Most countries make it the law that food companies stipulate the ingredients of their products to allow the consumer to know exactly what they are buying.

This post will make a comparison between cow’s milk and coconut milk. This will help to give a scientific foundation for the assertions made as to the health benefits of coconut milk made on this website. Many people are of the belief that dairy products and milk in particular cannot be substituted for a vegan alternative because such alternatives lack the vitamins or minerals necessary for life, and especially for the healthy development of children.

Breakdown of 100 grams of coconut milk:

Calories – 230
Proteins – 2.3 g
Fat – 23.8g
Carbohydrates – 5.5 g
Dietary fiber – 2.3 g
Sugar – 3.35 g
Vitamin C – 2.8 mg
Vitamin E – 0.15 mg
Vitamin B1 – 0.026 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.033 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) – 0.183 mg
Folate – 16 mcg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – 0.76 mg
Iron – 1.64 mg
Selenium – 6.2 mcg
Sodium – 15 mg
Calcium – 16 mg
Magnesium – 37 mg
Phosphorus – 100 mg
Potassium – 260 mg

Wikipedia’s breakdown of 100 grams of typical cow’s milk:

Water          87.8g
Protein      3.2g
Fat         3.9g
Carbohydrate     4.8g
Energy          66 kcal
Energy          275 kJ
Sugars (lactose)    4.8g
Cholesterol     14 mg
Calcium     120mg
Saturated fatty acids      2.4g
Monounsaturated fatty acids      1.1g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids      0.1g

Analysis protein and calcium

Cow’s milk contains more protein and calcium than coconut milk. However, both are suitable sources of both protein and calcium for a growing child, or for that matter an adult.

From the comparison so far cow’s milk seems to be coming out on top. What is interesting is if we now take a look at the minerals and vitamins found in cow’s milk.

The following list is for 100 grams of semi-pasteurized milk:

Sodium          43mg
Potassium    156mg
Calcium     120mg
Magnesium     11mg
Phosphorus     94mg
Iron        0.02mg
Zinc        0.4mg
Chloride     87mg
Manganese     Trace
Selenium     1µg
Iodine      30µg
Retinol     19µg
Carotene     9µg
Vitamin D     Trace
Vitamin E     0.04mg
Thiamin     0.03mg
Riboflavin     0.24mg
Niacin      0.1mg
Vitamin B6     0.06mg
Vitamin B12     0.9µg
Folate             9µg
Pantothenate     0.68mg
Biotin             3.0µg
Vitamin C (mg)    2mg

NB. µg is 1 millionth of a gram: in other words a very small amount.

Analysis of vitamins and minerals in coconut milk and cow’s milk

Coconut milk has more vitamin C, Vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B3 (niacin) than cow’s milk. In terms of minerals coconut milk has more phosphorous, potassium, selenium, iron and magnesium. Coconut milk is much lower in sodium than cow’s milk (this is a good thing).

Cow’s milk has more vitamin B6 and vitamin B5 than coconut milk. In most other respects cow’s milk is inferior to coconut milk in terms of the mineral and vitamin breakdown.

As Wikipedia points out, modern Western civilization is unusual in continuing the consumption of milk after the period of breast feeding is over. This is prolonged through taking dairy products, especially cow’s milk. As we get older the enzyme, lactase, needed to breakdown the lactose found in cow’s milk and mother’s milk declines. This decline is only halted by the continual consumption of lactose containing milk. So if you have a break between mother’s milk and drinking cow’s milk there is a good chance that you will develop lactose intolerance.

Another point worth making is that both cow’s milk and coconut milk are high in saturated fat. The key difference is that coconut milk contains saturated fat that is mostly composed of medium chain fatty acids that are readily metabolized by the body. The saturated fat in cow’s milk contains a lot of long chain fatty acids that in comparison that are not readily broken down by the body and turned to energy.

Finally, as this website has pointed out a number of times. Coconut milk and coconut oil contains lauric acid the same as mother’s milk. The only other natural product that contains significant amount of lauric acid is palm oil. Lauric acid is responsible for making mother’s milk capable of protecting an infant from viral, protozoal, fungal and bacterial infection. Coconut milk can provide the same protection for adults. This alone makes coconut milk superior to cow’s milk.

Coconut Milk Health Benefits

Types of Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made from the meat of the mature coconut. There are two basic types of coconut milk: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is the first liquid that is taken by squeezing coconut meat through cheesecloth. The previously squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second and third time to produce thin coconut milk.

For those living in areas where coconuts grow and are used every day the difference between thin and thick coconut milk is important. It is less so if you buy coconut milk in a can. Usually canned coconut milk is a mixture of both thick and thin coconut milk. If a can of coconut milk is opened and left to sit the two types of coconut milk separate – the thicker coconut cream floats to the surface and can be scooped off.

In Thailand, Polynesia and the Caribbean thick coconut cream is often used to make dry sauces and for desserts. Thick coconut milk is sometimes referred to as coconut cream when it is used for sweet dishes. Thin coconut milk is frequently used for soups and wet sauces.

Health Benefits of Coconut Milk

Coconut is very good for your health. It can be used by people with lactose intolerance as a substitute for milk. Coconut milk is also popular with vegans. It makes a great base for smoothies and can also be used as yoghurt. It tastes delicious with fruit and muesli.

Coconut milk has a slightly sweetish taste and has just the faintest aroma of coconut. It has a 17% fat content. The fat is mostly lauric acid which is a medium chain fatty acid that is much easier for the body to break down and metabolize than long chain fatty acids found in such fats as sunflower, soy and safflower. Lauric acid is remarkable in that it is antimicrobial, anti fungal and anti protozoal. Thus drinking coconut milk helps to protect the body from infections and viruses. As with coconut water, coconut milk can be taken as a daily health supplement.

Another benefit of coconut milk is that although it is a yoghurt and milk substitute it doesn’t go off quickly. Coconut milk contains anti-oxidants that stop it going rancid. An unopened can of coconut milk won’t go bad for many months. If it is opened and has an inconsistent thickness that is because the thin and thick milk has separated, not that it has gone off. This consumer problem is solved by some brands by adding thickening agents.

Antioxidant Properties of Coconut Milk

Not only is the antioxidant quality of coconut milk useful for storage it is also important for health. It means that after you eat coconut milk it doesn’t go rancid in your stomach. This is the opposite of low fat spreads and margarine that contain polyunsaturated fats that quickly go bad, even before it has passed through the human digestive system. There are long term health implications of having rancid material in the body.

Fight Lipid Disorders

Regularly drinking coconut milk either in smoothies, desserts or in other foot items helps to maintain a balance of lipids in the body. Thus coconut milk is a good medicine against hyperlipidemia – the condition of too much cholesterol in the body. Hyperlipidemia causes coronary problems, strokes and other vascular disorders. The Indians in their traditional medicine called Ayurveda consider coconut milk a very important medicine. (ref: Wikipedia)

Coconut Milk as Substitute for Dairy Products

Finally, coconut milk is a good source of vitamins and minerals. It is considered a good replacement for dairy products because it contains high levels of calcium that are needed to keep bones healthy. It also contains potassium and other important minerals.

Coconut milk tastes like it should be bad for you because it is rich and delicious. It can be taken in many different ways. It might contain saturated fat, but coconut milk is very good for you.

Zico vs. Vita Coco vs. O.N.E

 

 

 

 

The three major brands of coconut water on the market are Zico, Vita Coco and O.N.E. For the first time buyer of coconut water it can be a difficult choice as to which brand to try first. They are all about the same price and on Amazon.com all three brands have their admirers and detractors. Taste is such a subjective thing that it is difficult to make a recommendation based upon what you like because someone else is bound to have different tastes to you. In this post I will attempt to give as much information about the three brands of coconut water to help you choose for yourself.

Zico Coconut Water

Zico was formed by Mark Rampolla who discovered the benefits of coconut water while serving in the Peace Corp in South America. Zico sponsors sports events and pushes its coconut water as a sports drink.

Zico coconut water is low in acidity, gluten free and kosher certified. Zico is made from young Brazilian coconuts. It is sold in 11.2 ounce tetra packs by Amazon.

Zico coconut water has probably the smoothest taste of the three coconut waters. It strikes a balance between the natural sweetness and tang of coconut water. Zico also has an even consistency that is not too watery or conversely too syrupy.

Vita Coco Coconut Water

Madonna has used her considerable influence to make Vita Coco a hot new topic in Hollywood. Her showbiz chums now swear by the stuff as great for curing hangovers and rehydrating after a good workout.

Vita Coco is sold in 11.2 ounce tetra packs by Amazon.com. It is free of fat, cholesterol and sugar, and low in acidity. As with Zico, Vita Coco is made from young Brazilian coconuts.

Vita Coco has the strongest coconut flavor of the three coconut waters under review. It is a tangy drink with a moderately creamy body and a nutty taste.

O.N.E Coconut Water with a Splash of Fruit Juice

The founder of O.N.E is Rodrigo Veloso who grew up drinking coconut water straight from the coconut. O.N.E stands for ‘one natural experience’. The principal behind the company is to replace sugary unhealthy beverages with healthy ones.

This is slightly ironic because although O.N.E coconut water is much lower in added sugar than the average cola it does taste sweeter than either Zico or Vita Coco because it is often sold mixed with a ‘splash’ of either pineapple, guava, passion fruit, mango or tangerine. For those who are not too keen on the tangy taste of coconut water this splash of natural fruit juice does wonders for the palate. It also makes O.N.E coconut water a good mixer for cocktails and fruit punches.

While some people find O.N.E to have the most authentic coconut taste, others feel that it is too watery.

O.N.E coconut water is sold in 8.5 ounce tetra packs by Amazon.

General Note about Coconut Water

All of these coconut waters should be served cold. The chill makes them a lot more refreshing and palatable. The perception of coconut taste is very important. Coconut water from the young coconut water has a sweetness with an underlying tang that some enjoy. It is something of an acquired taste. Often people who grew up drinking coconut water associate the tang of coconut water with their childhood. To a North American taste bud there probably is no nostalgia about coconut water to influence choice.

The general consensus seems to be that Zico and O.N.E are the best coconut waters with Coco Vita coming out third consistently. For those who love the taste of coconut water there really is nothing that can beat drinking straight from the husk of a young coconut.