Friday, September 28, 2012

Coo Coo for Coconut!

It's pretty easy to go coo coo over something as delicious as coconut.  And now that so much research is coming out about coconut's health benefits, it seems to be appearing everywhere.  No longer only in traditional Thai and South Indian cuisine, coconut is increasing in popularity as a staple in many non-dairy alternatives for milk, yogurt and butter.

In Nicaragua, chopping off the top of a coconut and drinking the water with a straw is an easy, natural, 
and delicious way to replenish your electrolytes, so easily lost in the 40 degree heat.

For years, coconuts were demonized for their high saturated fat content.  Recently, however, researchers have discovered that the saturated fats present in coconut are unlike those in animal products.  The difference lies in the type of fatty acids they contain; coconuts contain a unique type of fatty acids called 'medium chain triglycerides'.  MCTs are quite different from long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), which are abundant in animal products, and have more beneficial effects on the body.  MCTs are metabolized differently in that they bypass the usual digestive processes and are sent directly to the liver.  MCTs are then immediately used for energy, rather than being stored as fat, and are therefore seen to boost metabolism and assist with weight loss.  In addition, MCTs do not negatively affect cholesterol levels like LCFAs can, making them a healthy fat for those concerned about atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Aside from being a healthy source of fat, coconut are delicious too!  Normally, I go for chocolate desserts, but today, a friend of mine made one of the most delicious desserts I've ever tasted, and it didn't contain a trace of chocolate.  This time, the key ingredient was coconut, and when I got home, I was inspired to re-create her masterpiece.

Coconut Crack Bars

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons coconut oil (melted to liquid)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients and mix - I used my trusty Magic Bullet, but a food processor or even mixing by hand would work just fine.  Transfer mixture to a small pan or container and press to form an even layer.  Refrigerate for one hour before cutting, or put in the freezer for 15 minutes if you can't wait that long!

I recommend enjoying these with a cup of tea or beverage of your choice, as they are very rich on their own.  And as a warning, they are called 'crack' bars for a reason... you might not be able to stop at just one!

¡Buen provecho!

After spending the morning volunteering on Lulu's farm in Ometepe, Nicaragua, 
he kindly used his machete to open fresh coconuts for us all to enjoy!

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