The survival of ancient civilizations has a lot to do with the types of food they live off. It's no wonder many ancient foods, like the coconut of the Pacific Islanders, have all the nutrients to sustain such robust societies. These foods are now called superfoods in today's society, in contrast to villainous fast foods. However, these superfoods were considered the norm by history's most productive civilizations.
Coconut is a superfood in a class by itself because it contains saturated fat – yes, the fat we've all been told to avoid like the plague! There was a time when this tropical fruit was shunned for being high in saturated fat, but research has vindicated the coconut revealing that it contains a type of saturated fat that is beneficial to health. How can that be? The answer lies in the length of the fatty acid chain.
Here's a lesson in chemistry 101. Fatty acids are composed of a long chain of carbon and hydrogen molecules. The number of carbons determines the length the fatty acid while the number of hydrogens determines the level of saturation. In the body, longer chain fatty acids have been found to have negative health effects while shorter chain ones may confer benefits. The saturated fat in coconuts and coconut oil is medium chain in length and easily absorbed into the body. This means that energy from coconut fat burned up faster with less accumulation of the fatty deposits we all want to avoid. The medium chain fat in coconut has actually been called “the world's only low-calorie fat” because it metabolizes much like carbohydrates, serving as a readily available, long-lasting energy source for the body. There's even evidence that eating a diet rich in coconut can aid weight loss.
It's not just its special type of fat that makes coconut a healthful superfood. The raw flesh of a coconut is high in fibre and, like other nuts, provides an excellent source of B vitamins, iron and zinc. Drying coconut concentrates these nutrients given them more nutritional impact per gram weight. Dried coconut is a versatile ingredient that is delicious in granola or trail mix or sprinkled onto a simple bowl of fruit. Coconut is naturally sweet so there's no need to use the sweetened dried coconut flakes. You can also obtain the wonderful nutrition of coconuts in coconut milk, water, sugar, vinegar and coconut oil. When using coconut in recipes, beware that heat destroys its nutrients so avoid cooking them at high temperatures.
Fennel Salad with Coconut Dressing
1 bulb fennel, shaved
1 English cucumber, shaved
1 red onion, shaved
1 stem celery, sliced thinly
1 cup coconut water
3 tbsp. coconut cream
2 tsp. gray sea salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1) Shave fennel, cucumber, and onion very thin on mandolin.
2) Slice celery and place all vegetables in a mixing bowl.
3) Without shaking, open a can of coconut milk, and separate the cream from the water.
4) In a separate medium sized bowl whisk amounts of coconut cream with coconut water, add vinegar and salt and pepper.
5) Toss salad with dressing and finish with desired amounts of mint and cilantro.
6) This can be made ahead of time, and flavours will infuse.
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