Coconut Food & Cooking

Coconut seems to be used in just about everything these days, from ice cream and yogurt to moisturiser and even mouthwash. As it’s so popular I thought I’d talk a little about how awesome it can be, but also what to watch out for.

Coconut water is what I come across most frequently. It seems to be everywhere, cropping up not only in health shops but also in office canteens and even on train snack trolleys. Coconut water can be good for health as it’s full of electrolytes and natural sugars, which boost energy. The message around its nutritional benefits is a little confusing, though, and as with many commercial health products, a lot of brands may be misleading the consumer.

‘Coconut oil works especially well in healthy baking as it’s a great binder and adds a subtle sweetness’

The majority of coconut water is pasteurised for a longer shelf life, so some of the nutrients have been boiled away. If you love the taste then do enjoy it, but if you are buying it for its health properties then sadly you are wasting your money. Instead, look out for a raw product. Two companies that sell this are Unoco and Chi: the bottles are always kept in fridges and the water is pink (because of all those antioxidants), so they will stand out from those available on the mass market.

If you are trying to cut down on dairy then coconut is a fantastic addition to your diet as it creates the same smooth, creamy texture and the taste is always amazing. Coconut yogurt is one of my favourite things. It’s the perfect accompaniment for granola, porridge and chia puddings. Coconut ice cream also tastes just as good as (if not better than) regular ice cream, but it makes lots of people feel better as it tends not to contain so many refined sugars or additives. Just make sure that whatever you buy is made entirely from coconuts, rather than dairy products with coconut flavourings.

One thing I always have in my kitchen (and my bathroom) is coconut oil –it’s so versatile, I use it every day. It works especially well in healthy baking as it’s a great binder and adds a subtle sweetness. I add it to cakes, raw treats, cookies, smoothies and porridge, but it’s also good in savoury cooking, as it has a high smoke point, so I often use it instead of olive oil in stir-fries or when roasting veggies.

In the bathroom, too, coconut oil is a wonder product. I use it as a moisturiser, hair mask, make-up remover, exfoliator, nail softener, face mask, lip balm, mouthwash… and even put it in my bath – nothing has ever made my skin softer.

I keep two separate pots of the same product at home, one for cooking and one for beauty. For both, make sure what you are buying is raw, unrefined, virgin, organic coconut oil. Tubs of this (which is snow-white and solid at room temperature, and turns to liquid when heated) are available at most supermarkets, so it should not be hard to get hold of. You’ll never look back.

Cracking coconut recipes

Deliciously Ella’s creamy coconut porridge