Are Coconuts the Next Superfood?


Coconut tree_USDA

By Clare Haggerty

Coconuts and coconut oil have been in the news lately for their health benefit claims for everything from slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, reducing blood pressure, improving liver health, and treating digestive disorders to a key ingredient for weight management struggles.

While the research is still not definitive on these claims, the hard-shelled, hairy coconut is making waves among foodies and nutritionists.

While some may think coconuts are a giant nut, they are not.  They are actually a stone fruit. The name of this tropical fruit comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word, “cocos,”which means “grinning face.”  The three small indentations on the coconut shell definitely make the coconut seem appear like a smiling face.

Coconuts come in many different forms.  Take a stroll through the grocery store and you can find the whole coconut with its fresh meat, coconut water, dried coconut, coconut oil, coconut vinegar, coconut milk, coconut flour, coconut sweeteners, and more.

There are so many uses and possible health benefits of coconuts that author, Stephanie Pedersen decided to write an entire book about the virtues:  Coconut: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Superfood.

For Pedersen, the coconut is more than a book title.  “Today, I enjoy coconut, in one form or another, at almost every meal,” Pedersen says. “All coconut foods are worthy additions to your diet.”

In her new cookbook, Pedersen shares ways to incorporate coconut in every meal of the day, including Pumpkin Coconut Chai Latte, Decadent Breakfast Quinoa, Coconut Chicken Chili, Avocado-Coconut Dip, and even Coconut Kettle Corn.

Take your taste buds to the tropics with one of these creative coconut recipes:

coconut lettuce tacos

Coconut Lettuce Tacos

Makes 4 servings

Coconut Filling:

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon coconut nectar
1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1⁄4 teaspoon ground chipotle
3⁄4 cup unsweetened large coconut shreds

Coconut Dressing:

1⁄3 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1⁄2 cup canned coconut milk
2⁄3 cup hempseed*
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄3 cup coconut oil

Taco Wraps:

8 butter lettuce leaves
Optional: 1 cup leftover shredded chicken, flaked cooked fish, or chopped cooked shrimp
Optional: 1 or more avocados, diced
Optional: 1 or more tomatoes, diced

To make the coconut filling, combine the melted coconut oil, salt, coconut nectar, paprika, and chipotle in a medium bowl and mix well. Add coconut flakes and toss well to evenly coat.

For the coconut dressing: Combine lemon juice, coconut milk, hempseed, garlic, peppercorns, and salt in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. While the blender is running, add the ⅓ cup coconut oil and blend. Add water to thin the dressing, if necessary.

To assemble tacos, lay lettuce leaves on a flat surface or plate. Top each lettuce leaf with a tablespoon of coconut dressing. If desired, add a thin layer of chicken and/or a layer of avocado and tomato.

Divide the spicy coconut filling among the lettuce leaves, place on individual plates or a platter, and serve.

*(Editor’s note: You can purchase hempseed on Amazon,, or at your local Vitamin Shoppe.)

spicy thai steamed mussels 282

Spicy Thai Steamed Mussels

Makes 6 servings

5 pounds mussels (preferably cultivated)
1⁄3 cup lime juice
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1⁄3 cup dry white wine or broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 1⁄2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 cup parsley or cilantro, chopped

Scrub mussels well and remove beards.  Set aside.
In a large (at least 8-quart) stockpot, boil lime juice, coconut milk, wine, curry paste, garlic, and fish sauce over high heat, stirring, 2 minutes.
Add mussels, tossing to combine. Cook mussels, covered, stirring occasionally, until opened, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Discard any unopened mussels.
Toss herbs with mussels.

Coconut.  The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Superfood, by Stephanie Pedersen, ©2015, published by Sterling Publishing,

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