Ah, coconut. So delicious. So controversial.
Some people love it. Some people hate it. Whether you fall in one camp or the other likely has something to do with your belief in one of the following:
- Coconut is a miracle food that will save my life
- Coconut is a fat bomb and will surely kill me
- Coconut tastes good, suckaaaa
Me? I hover somewhere in between unwilling to make a firm statement for or against since, well, we don’t have any solid research that makes me feel comfortable doing so right now. But it does taste good. This is scientific fact.
The deal with coconut is that it is a saturated fat. Highly saturated. Of the 18g of fat in one serving of coconut butter, 16 of those are saturated. The average person on a 2,000-calorie diet would want to limit saturated fat to about 20g a day.
Lovers of coconut argue that the medium-chain length of the fatty acids in coconut are more easily broken down in the body and, therefore, healthier than the long-chain fatty acids in saturated fats from animal products (meat and dairy). The jury’s still out on this claim so coconut (and other tropical oils like palm) are shunned by many, including the American Dietetic Association.
My take? Personally, I don’t consume much saturated fat. I never eat meat, rarely consume dairy and reserve fried foods for drunken nights. So yes, I do eat coconut on occasion. I don’t think it’s a miracle food. I just don’t see anything wrong with it. Plus, I like it.
SO. If you want to eat coconut, perhaps you have some questions…
What’s the difference between coconut oil and coconut butter?
Consider something more familiar: a peanut. Peanuts can be used to make both butter and oil, correct? Yes. Peanut butter is made simply by grinding nuts into a paste. Creating oil involves extracting it from the nut in a far more complicated refining process. But it happens. Peanut oil is a good choice for frying as it has a high smoke point. Fun fact. You’re welcome.
Similarly, coconut can produce both butter and oil. The butter is made by grinding the meat (white flesh inside the nut) into a paste. Again, oil involves a more complicated process. Both are solid at room temperature and will melt when heated.
When heated, coconut butter is thick, opaque, spreadable and FREAKING DELICIOUS. When it cools though (say, when poured atop a smoothie) it will solidify again. Kind of like that magic shell ice cream topping from your childhood. But better.
When heated, coconut oil will be clear and runny like, hello, oil. It can be used in cooking (think sauteeing, roasting, etc.) the same way other oils are.
What’s the difference between coconut water and coconut milk?
People ask me this all the time. When I tell them I chug coconut water after 90 minutes of hot yoga they look at me like: WHATEVER YOU ARE GROSS. This is because they assume I’m drinking coconut milk. Some people who have never heard of coconut water even try to tell me I’m drinking coconut milk. I’m not drinking coconut milk.
Coconut milk is made from the flesh of the coconut. It is white like regular milk, high in fat and often has sugar added to it. It’s usually sold in cans. Coconut water, on the other hand, is the water from inside the coconut. It’s high in electrolytes (like potassium), fat free, lightly cloudy, slightly sweet and so damn good.
So there you have it. Now you know more about coconut than you ever cared to.