Coconut Demystified

August 31, 2011 · 28 comments

Coconut is a very healthful food to incorporate into your diet. It is full of good saturated fat. Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride and is not stored, but rather used as energy right away. Lauric acid is present in the oil which is protective against bacteria and viruses. There are so many coconut products out there it is hard to figure out how to use them all. Fear not, this article will explain it all.

Coconut oil is perhaps the most commonly used product made from coconuts. There are several ways to classify coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil are both unrefined and usually made from fresh coconut. Heat may be used before or after the oil is expressed, in order to remove any water. This will ensure a longer shelf life.  There are only a few virgin coconut oils that are truly raw. Why do you want it raw? Because that does preserve the flavor as well as all the nutrients in it. All virgin coconut oils should have a coconut taste, though this can vary from strong to very mild.

Expeller pressed and centrifuged coconut oils usually have some heat used in the processing and cleaning of the oil.  The color can vary from a tan color to an off white color depending on how clean it is. The oil may taste “off” and it can burn the tongue if it is not cleaned well.  I use expeller pressed and centrifuged oils that are both very clean and delicate and do not have a sharp taste.

The Refined coconut oils have no taste, because they have been more processed than the expeller pressed oils. You must be very careful in buying refined oils as these tend to be highly processed, deodorized and may even be hydrogenated! Do not buy refined coconut oil in the conventional market.

Where to buy high quality coconut oil.

Coconut spread, coconut butter or coconut concentrate are all the same. Essentially they are about 65 – 70% oil and the rest is fiber. It is made by drying the fresh flesh of a mature coconut and then grinding it. The highest quality is achieved by getting a very low moisture content for a long shelf life without toasting or burning the fiber when grinding. Some brands separate more readily than others and would need to be mixed together before use much like naturally made peanut butter.

Coconut spread may be used in many ways. It’s great simply as a spread much like a nut butter. It is so good you might want to eat it right off the spoon! It may be mixed with warm water to make coconut milk. This is not as smooth as a coconut milk made from shredded or flaked coconut, but it’s good when you need just a little for a recipe. It’s great mixed with coconut oil and water as the base for a smoothie blended together with added fruit. It is so versatile!

Where to buy high quality coconut spread.

Coconut milk is the liquid from the mature or brown coconut. It may also be made at home from shredded or flaked coconut flesh. Of course, coconut milk is a great non dairy beverage, full of medium chain triglycerides for energy.

Coconut water is the liquid from the young green coconut. It may be retrieved from fresh young coconuts by poking a hole in one and draining it. It may also be purchased as pure coconut water in tetra paks from various companies. Be sure to get the unflavored or plain water. It is full of electrolytes and some people kefir it for greater healing properties.

Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm and is collected much like sap from a maple tree. The sap flows from the flowering stem at the top of the tree called the inflorescense. The sap is simmered until it crystallizes and then is ground into fine grains. It may be substituted for refined white sugar in recipes although it is not as sweet. It is a disaccharide so it is not appropriate for people on the SCD or GAPS diets.

Coconut Vinegar is also made from the sap of the palm and is fermented like many vinegars such as apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar. I must say, raw unfiltered coconut vinegar packs quite a punch! Some people prefer the pasteurized coconut vinegar with raw honey added.

Where to buy the high quality coconut products listed above.

Coconut Flour is probably my favorite coconut product as you may have guessed from looking at my long recipe list of coconut flour baked goods. Coconut flour contains no gluten and is low in carbohydrates. This is excellent news for people on the SCD or GAPS diets and for people who are just trying to avoid gluten. It is very high in fiber — four times higher in fiber than oat bran — and it contains as much protein as whole wheat flour. Baking with coconut flour is easy and the results are light, tasty and satisfying. In my opinion baked goods made with coconut flour are much lighter than those baked from nut flours.

Which coconut product do you love the most? Leave a comment and let me know!

Where to buy high quality coconut flour.

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This post is linked to: Creative Juice Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Turning the Table Thursday, Friday Favorites, Fresh Bites Friday, Food Trip Friday, Foodie Friday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food, Fat Camp Friday, Simply Delish, My Meatless Monday, Sugar-Free Sunday, Seasonal Sunday, Savory Sunday, Monday Mania, Homemaker Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Mangia Monday, Melt in Mouth Monday, Midnight Maniac, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesday at the Table, Delectable Tuesday, Delectable Tuesday, Tuesday Tasty Tidbits, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, What’s on the Menu, Real Food Wednesday.What’s Cooking Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Cast Party Wednesday, Cast Party Wednesday, Foodie Wednesday, Whole Health Weekend

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth @ Ruth's Real Food September 1, 2011 at 5:50 am

Thanks for putting together this info clearly all in one place.


Judy@Savoring Today September 1, 2011 at 8:38 am

Coconut oil and coconut sugar are the two I use most often. I have not yet used coconut flour, but now that I am experimenting with gluten-free stuff, I will be doing so. This is a great, concise list, thanks for putting it together.


Bailey K. September 1, 2011 at 10:21 am

this is a great post! we eat coconut everything around here. i looove coconut flour. i bake with it (gf here) and i even put a spoonful or two in my smoothies for extra protein.

thanks for the info!


Molly September 1, 2011 at 10:45 am

I try to drink at least 3 T of coconut oil a day in tea. Gives me the extra energy I haven’t had in years. I use coconut sap sugar for water kefir too. Have not used much coconut flour but I need to.


Janelle September 6, 2011 at 7:32 am

I have struggled with fatigue for years, so I may try this out. Thanks for sharing!


Amanda September 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm

This is a great cheat sheet. Thank you!


Sunny September 2, 2011 at 9:35 am

I’ve been using coconut products for quite some time and I love them as well as my daughter and my mom. This is a very informative post and I think people will appreciate all the info. I make smoothies using coconut milk and they taste great. I love the film from the oil.

I do have a question to ask. I know most canned coconut oil can have some levels of BPA and I heard of a brand called Native Forest coconut milk. It’s organic and states that the cans are BPA-free and wanted to know if that was a good brand to try. I would really appreciate your help as I am trying to get away from BPA in my canned coconut milk.


Jill September 2, 2011 at 10:36 am

Hi Sunny,
That is a great question. I would contact the company and ask them if they could give to you in writing the information you seek. If they will not write clearly that their cans are BPA-free I would not trust their advertising statements.

If they are BPA-free they would be fine to try. But the other issue with coconut milk is all the gums they put in it in order to emulsify it. It is easy (and cheaper) to make your own coconut milk using my recipe here:

Let me know how it goes!


Sunny September 2, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thank you Jill for your response. I will contact these companies and I think this is a good idea to do so.


Sheila September 2, 2011 at 11:42 am

Fresh coconut cream and milk (made from squeezing the grated mature coconut’s flesh) taste better than the canned kind.


Liberty September 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Did not know coconut butter and coconut cream were the same thing!


France @ Beyond The Peel September 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I had no idea there was such a variety of coconut products out there. Great post. I love all the info you provided. It will help me explore some of the other options in the future. But I did use coconut palm sugar in our wild plum crisp this morning and it was delicious and I do use the oil regularly. Now to get on the coconut flour wagon!


Miranda September 3, 2011 at 1:15 am

Great lesson on coconut. I saw some brown ones at the international farmer’s market last week, but how do you recommend opening them?


Jill September 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Hi Miranda.
I think you need t open the brown ones with a hammer and chisel or something like that…


KB and Whitesnake September 3, 2011 at 3:02 am

Thanks for sharing with us at
Simply Delish Saturday

Have a great weekend.


Jenny September 4, 2011 at 1:12 am

Good post.
FYI…Walmart (of all places) now carries the only non gum brand of coconut milk I have found. Ingredients listed are Coconut Milk, Water. Brand is GoldenStar, has a mostly green label.

BPA is mostly with OG cans for some reason. Cheaper, non OG canned foods usually do NOT contain BPA.

The only thing I really disagree with is the recommendation not to buy refined coconut oil. IMO, coconut oil is beneficial and protective because of its saturated fat which is not harmed by the refining process. I personally know people who have recovered fully from cancer using the coconut oil available at Walmart.

I , personally, love the smell and flavor of virgin oil, but my wallet likes the RBD oil better. I would hate for someone to not use coconut oil simply because their budget didn’t allow for the premium price.


Jill September 4, 2011 at 7:04 am

Hi Jenny,
Thanks for your comments. I would definitely contact the manufacturer of any canned coconut milk, because some kind of gum is usually added and it may not be on the label.

My recommendation not to buy refined oil refers to the refined and hydrogenated oil sold at conventional groceries. That would have trans fats in it. The coconut oils sold at Walmart may actually be good but you have to carefully read the label.


Janelle September 6, 2011 at 7:33 am

Thank you for putting this post together. I knew coconut had all these health benefits but I never really knew where to look to get the information. Much appreciated.


May - So Very Domestic September 6, 2011 at 11:37 am

Great post! I just started using coconut milk and the virgin coconut oil a few months ago after reading about the benefits. Coconuts are where it’s at! Who knew? LOL


kirstin September 8, 2011 at 9:18 am

Thank you for sharing. I haven’t used coconut products (because I can’t stand coconut) )C: but know they are so good for you. I just don’t know how to incorporate it when I don’t like it…Well, I don’t mind the fresh coconut flesh (but only so much, then I get tired of it), but anything else with coconut I don’t care for because of the flavor…any thoughts on how to incorporate it without getting too strong of a taste


Jill September 8, 2011 at 9:41 am

Hi Kirstin,
You could try the refined coconut oil — just be careful to get it from a reputable source (see my resource page or click on the link in the post). That has no coconut flavor. Also, the coconut flour has no coconut flavor to speak of. I never really liked it either, but after a while you develop a taste for it. Now I love it!


kirstin September 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

thank you Jill. I will look into it. My hubby would like me to try using it. I have been joking that maybe I just need to learn to like coconut. My hubby loves to try and trick me into eating things with coconut. I know that if he offers me a bit of something it usually means it contains coconut. )C:


Lea H @ Nourishing Treasures September 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm
Susan@Permanent Posies September 9, 2011 at 11:02 pm

You have such great information! I learn something every week. Thanks for posting and sharing.


Lea H @ Nourishing Treasures September 12, 2011 at 3:02 am

I love coconuts!

Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasure’s Whole Health Weekend Link-Up.

Check back on Friday when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)


Barbeebutts September 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Never heard of coconut flour until just now.
I’m totally into almond flour and now I’m excited to add coconut flour to my pantry. (Um-should I keep it in the fridge like I do almond meal/flour?)

Thanks you for this blog. A gem @ every turn.


Jill September 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Thank you for all your kind words. I do not keep the coconut flour in the refrigerator, However, when I order a lot I keep the extra bags in the freezer until I am ready to use.


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