Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
19 Jan

The Wonderful World of Coconut Products

Coconut seems to have a special place in Primal hearts. Judging from the forums, people are pretty taken with the fatty pseudo-nut and they’re always interested in new ways to consume the stuff. For some who abstain from dairy completely, coconut products make a great replacement for creams and butters. Others see the evidence from South Pacific traditional groups who thrived on a diet of coconut and fish, and want a bit of that in their lives. The milk makes a great base for smoothies, soups, and curries; the oil is a great source of saturated fat that stands up well to heat; the water beats commercial sports drinks with its impressive electrolyte content; the nut itself can be used as a projectile weapon. It’s just a well-rounded, versatile food with some interesting characteristics and a ton of offshoot products. Unlike most food “products,” however, coconut products are legit. They’re real food, and they’re real good. To help you guys wade through the often-confusing world of coconut products, I’ve put together a little guide to them all. Of course, I’ve probably missed a few things, so share your thoughts with me in the comments section.

Without further ado:

Coconut Oil

We’ve mentioned coconut oil plenty of times before. Tons of our readers eat it. It’s good by the spoonful, with eggs, on your scalp, or as a moisturizer. It can even double as a benign form of suntan lotion. Coconut oil is primarily saturated (over 90%), with the bulk of it coming from lauric acid, a medium chain saturated fatty acid; it’s incredibly heat-stable. Use it for stir-frying and sautéing, or drop a spoonful in your coffee. Makes a good base for an energy bar.

A tablespoon gets you 14 grams of fat, 12 of them saturated.

Coconut Butter

Coconut butter is to coconut oil as butter is to ghee; it’s made from whole coconut flesh, with all the delicious fat and the solids included. The oil and flesh meld together to form a creamy texture that spreads well. I wouldn’t use it for any high heat cooking, though, as the bits of flesh will just burn. Spoonfuls of this stuff are delicious, but addictive. Because the flesh is included, it retains a decent amount of sweetness. A big dollop of coconut butter can really finish off a curry nicely, though.

Two tablespoons get you 18 grams fat, 16 saturated.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made by mixing shredded, fresh coconut meat with water, then squeezing it through a sieve or cheesecloth. The thick, creamy liquid that comes out is coconut milk and can be used for Thai curries and Brazilian seafood stew. Personally, I love drinking a big chilled glass of it by itself. Because people tend to misinterpret the natural separation of coconut milk in the can as spoilage, most canned coconut milk often includes thickening agents like guar gum, especially the stuff sold in Western countries. I wouldn’t worry too much about guar gum.

You could always make your own, of course, if you wanted to avoid any thickeners, preservatives, or BPA from the can lining.

A quarter cup gets you 12 grams of fat, 10 of them saturated.

Coconut Flour

We’ve gone over coconut flour before, so I’ll keep it brief. Use this stuff if you have a hankering for baked items. Ideally, we’d all stick to whole, real foods in their natural state, but there’s nothing wrong with the occasional Primal baked good. If it helps you maintain your eating plan without any major lapses, I’d say using coconut flour is a good compromise.

Two tablespoons get you 1.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated, along with 10 grams of carbs, 9 of them fiber, and 2 grams protein.

Coconut Cream

Think of coconut cream as coconut milk without all the water. It’s the same stuff – pulverized coconut flesh mixed with water – but coconut cream is thicker and pastier. If you want to make a thicker coconut curry without all the added liquid, use coconut cream in place of milk. Many recipes even specifically call for coconut cream. In case you don’t have access to actual coconut cream, you can skim the thick top layer out of an unshaken, undisturbed can of coconut milk; that’s the cream. Store bought coconut cream is often sweetened, so be vigilant and scan those labels.

Creamed Coconut

Creamed coconut usually comes in a solid block. It may look like shortening or hydrogenated lard, but it’s not, and it may sound like coconut cream, but it isn’t. It’s pure coconut flesh, pulverized and formed into solid blocks that can be broken up into chunks and added to sauces or curries toward the end of cooking. Some claim it makes the best curries, better even than milk or cream-based ones. I haven’t tried, so I can’t verify that statement, but I am keeping my eyes peeled for creamed coconut.

An ounce will get you 20 grams of fat, mostly saturated, along with 6 grams of carbs, mostly fiber.

Desiccated Coconut

Desiccated coconut is unsweetened, very finely ground coconut with most of the moisture removed. This is not to be confused with coconut flour, which has the fat removed; desiccated coconut retains all the SFA goodness. Desiccated coconut is used all over for desserts, but PBers might enjoy sprinkling it over a bowl of berries and cream, onto curries, or directly into their mouths. It’s just the coconut flesh only dry, so there’s still a nice bit of subtle sweetness to desiccated coconut.

An ounce will get you 18 grams of fat, 16 grams saturated, 7 grams carbs, with 5 being fiber, and 2 grams of protein.

Shredded Coconut

Shredded coconut is mostly dry, but it usually retains more moisture than full-on desiccated coconut. But really, the main difference between shredded coconut and desiccated coconut (and flaked coconut, too) is the shape of the coconut. Shredded coconut comes shredded; it’s in thin strands or strips. Flaked coconut, meanwhile, comes is flatter, wider pieces. Still dry, though, and still coconut. Use shredded or flaked coconut the same way you’d use desiccated, ground coconut.

Sources

Ethnic groceries, especially ones catering to Indian or Southeast Asian clientele, are the best brick-and-mortar spots for the various coconut products. They’ll usually have the most authentic products at the cheapest prices, but not everyone has access to these stores. Whole Foods and other health food spots will generally carry coconut oil, coconut milk, desiccated coconut, as well as shredded and/or flaked coconut. Maybe even coconut butter. Again, though, not everyone has access to a Whole Foods or a health food store. Trader Joe’s carries a coconut milk, but it’s “light.” Avoid these and stick to the full-fat versions.

Another option is an online vendor. There are several good ones:

Tropical Traditions tends to get high marks for its coconut products. Coconut oil gets most of the attention, but their “Organic Food” pull down menu has a section for other coconut stuff: flour, flakes, shredded coconut, and cream.

I hear great things about the Artisana Coconut Butter, available from several different sources, including Amazon and many more.

Simply Coconut is another vendor.

Another good option is to just browse Amazon, which carries a ton of different coconut products, each with user reviews. Find a few, compare the ratings and reviews, read the nutrition facts, and take a chance.

Word of mouth is best, though. I’m interested in hearing from readers. What are your favorite coconut products? Did I leave any out? And where do you buy your creamed coconut? What’s the best online vendor, in your opinion?

Photos Courtesy of Netrition.com, OregonLive.com, cornflower.typepad.com and phil.lees

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I love Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate. I warm the jar to soften the contents then dump out the gooey mess into a square glass dish, mush everything up so the oil is mixed in (at room temp in the jar, the oil is mostly on the top) then refrigerate the container. It makes a very dense, crystalline mildly sweet fudge-like snack/mini meal. Very filling, low carb, high healthy fat and not that potently coconut in taste. Adding a few nuts would be tasty. Toasted walnuts perhaps. Yummy stuff and worth experimenting with. :)

    Lillea Woodlyns wrote on February 4th, 2010
  2. New to this. I just bought SO delicious french vanilla coffee creamer. After deciding to give up my fat free half and half when I read your article WTF….Is this a primal alternative?

    Betsy wrote on March 3rd, 2010
  3. I highly suggest the most delicious creamer….heavy whipping cream. Nothing extra added and only fat.
    I am a bit confounded by “fat free half and half”.
    Try the simple made by nature products and ENJOY!

    Gina wrote on March 3rd, 2010
    • Gina~
      Seriously – heavy whipping cream? I have been unable to lose weight since hysterectomy 5 yrs. ago and I have recently discovered that I need more fat in my diet. I have been eating everything low-fat and fat-free to no avail. I am soo tempted to go and buy the heavy cream just to see if it will make the scales move…..

      Deborah wrote on August 12th, 2010
      • Hi Deborah,
        I had the same problem until I discovered Primal. Now I eat heaps of fat but no carbohydrates (grains). I am now as thin as I was at age 18! I am also starting to build up some good muscle tone. I feel great.
        I have coconut cream as a creamer. My husband and I are both ‘addicted’ to it now. Eating fat took a while to get used to after so many years of the low-fat diets but now I enjoy eating fat and almost crave it.

        Angelina wrote on August 12th, 2010
  4. I use the Coconut Secret brand “coconut aminos” also (Whole Foods), and find it to be a great substitute for soy sauce in stir fry dishes. Not nearly as salty, and slighty sweet. It is made from the coconut tree sap which is gathered from the blossoms of the fruit. It never exceeds the heat of a tropical day as far as processing goes, and is a live food.

    For those of you with excitotoxin concerns, it is not at all the same as Bragg’s Aminos, which seems to have an effect on many MSG senitives. I have two sensitives in my household who have no side affects from it’s addition to foods.

    NotSo Fast wrote on April 28th, 2010
  5. My concerns are the high saturated fat content of coconut, is this healthy?

    Steve

    Steve wrote on May 5th, 2010
    • Is saturated fat healthful? Yes.

      Ginger wrote on November 29th, 2010
  6. Whats wrong with half and half, i.e article

    Steve wrote on May 5th, 2010
  7. The gist of the article is when they take out the fat they replace it with sugar. I have been at a weight loss stall for 3 to 4 weeks. Went on the forums and asked for advice. I was drinking full fat half and half and they informed heavy whipping cream is better. Half and half has something in it that is just another form of sugar. Since raising my fat intake just on monday I have dropped 3 pounds. Mostly water weight I’m guessing but the scale moved.

    Betsy wrote on May 5th, 2010
  8. Coconut products

    zsemonadi wrote on May 8th, 2010
  9. I have just recently added coconut products to my diet and I love it all! Unfortunately, I’m having a problem with coconut milk… When I store it in the fridge, it turns into a solid within a day or 2. It is not the canned coconut milk, it is in a box similar to almond milk. What can I do to refrain it from becoming a total solid?

    Trevor wrote on May 18th, 2010
  10. Went looking for Coconut Powder, grabbed Coconut Powder by mistake. Does anyone know what to do with it?

    Jenny wrote on June 21st, 2010
  11. Good To Know…he who plants a Coconut Tree plants food and drink, vessels and clothing, a heat source, habitation for himself and a heritage for his children. It is the most useful tree in the world. Rope, soap, wine, textiles, baskets, cups, bowls, medicines, all are byproducts of the ever versatile Coconut Palm! Source: “The Great Exotic Fruit Book” by Norman Van Aken. Say’s the peak season to buy is Ocotber through December! Yummmmmm, I love everything Coconut!

    BReeZy wrote on July 28th, 2010
  12. I love coconut anything. I use coconut oil in my hair as a moisturizer. I am going natural and a lot of the curly community love it for that reason. I eat a teaspoon every other day. I use the oil with coconut milk as a hot oil deep conditioning treatment for my hair.
    Anytime I am dehydrated I get young coconut from the store and chug the water. Young coconut ice cream from the local Asian market is so delicious on a hot day in AZ. I just love coconut period. This article was hello insightful. :-)

    Frana G. wrote on September 4th, 2010
  13. Just recently read an article on virgin coconut oil. It is extensively used in the Indian sub-continent for hair care. It is an excellent conditioner and helps in the re-growth of damaged hair. It also provides the essential proteins required for nourishing damaged hair, even when you have bad credit loans.

    tom wrote on December 6th, 2010
    • These spammer are getting good :)

      Grok wrote on December 6th, 2010
  14. what exactly is it about coconut that makes it healthy? what vitamins/minerals are in it? can someone elaborate on the health benefits?

    gary martins wrote on January 28th, 2011
  15. Coconut has been a godsend, especially since following pretty much a primal diet (I have a Candida overgrowth in my stomach & intestines, so there’s a lot of food I can’t eat). Coconut flour has meant that I can bake again. I buy Aman Prana’s brand, as it only has 4g of carbs per 100g (my body is heavily intolerant to a high amount of carbs. Anything above 10g/100g & I’m risking enduring a lot of pain), & it’s the only brand of coconut flour I’ve found to have such a low rate of carbs. It also has 20g protein per 100g, so it’s a good source of protein too, & I find it rather filling.

    Coconut milk in coffee – delicious! I find myself eating the cream alone at times, it’s just damn tasty!

    Natalie wrote on February 21st, 2011
  16. Does anyone know if the carton kind (i.e. Silk or 8th Continent’s version) of coconut milk is the same as this creamy concoction being mentioned as coconut milk. I’d really like to give this stuff a try. If I have to I’ll make my own but I want to know if anyone has tried these variations.

    Rob wrote on February 24th, 2011
  17. Silk isn’t pure coconut milk. Aroy-D makes a 100% coconut only milk/cream.

    Veronica wrote on February 25th, 2011
  18. I love coconut too, but easily addictive.

    I wonder, how much fat is too much?

    I take in about a gram of protein per pound of body weight, and keep my daily carbs in the 50-100 range, but i don’t remember seeing a fat guideline on the primal blueprint.

    Mark Cool wrote on March 9th, 2011
  19. i freakin’ LOVE coconut oil! i put it in my green smoothies all the time and it just sets it off.

    David wrote on March 29th, 2011
  20. i can’t remember when i last took a spoonful of virgin coconut oil, but one thing is sure, this gave more positive reactions in my system. Only if i have another chance, i’ll buy more bottles with VCO the next time i visit my province…

    Dublin personal Training wrote on April 13th, 2011
  21. i can’t remember when was the last time i took a spoonful or 5 ml of VCO and it’s done. honestly i felt so many improvements in me. i’ll never let myself not to find a store for it the next time i visit our province..

    i Love VCO…
    i Love Coconut… it’s a tree of live..

    Dublin personal Training wrote on April 13th, 2011
  22. Seeing those pictures of the uses of coconut simply remind me of that coconut is really a tree of life… Long live coconut…

    Buy Coconut Products wrote on April 13th, 2011
  23. Coconut flour is amazing. ‘Nuff said.

    Meagan wrote on April 13th, 2011
  24. This is really interesting! I’d never thought that there’s already such coconut butter and coconut flour. These are pretty cool! It just proved that there are actually lots of uses of coconut! Thanks for sharing this!

    Dog Fashion wrote on April 13th, 2011

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