In Ayurvedic Medicine, every food, spice and drink you consume either improves or challenges the state of your health. The food choices you make are your medicines or they are your toxins. Particularly powerful remedies have a variety of uses both internally and externally, Ayurveda teaches us that nutrition is consumed both from within and from without.
Coconuts are one of these powerful remedies, a true super star food, the original “triple threat” offering three main products: water, meat and oil. Each form has different properties that are beneficial all year long but are particularly balancing for the heat and energy of late Summer.
Sadly, coconuts still have a bad reputation for being “bad fats” and can seem daunting sitting in their thick hairy shells in the “ethnic/Asian” section of the produce aisle. Read on to learn what the different parts of the coconut can do for you and to try your hand at a simple late Summer chutney.
The water at the center of a fresh coconut, 1 cup (approx 250g) yields about 50 calories, 4% daily need of iron, 6% daily need of calcium, 33% more potassium than the equivalent serving of a banana and is fat free. This is the best choice for late summer hydration, a smarter choice than all the –ades and supplemented waters sold on the market.
Derived from the meat. Very high in lauric acid which has antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Externally: coconut oil has a cooling, soothing effect, great for mixing with a bit of aloe gel for sunburns or with a few drops of tea tree oil for summer acne or athlete’s foot.
Internally: coconut oil heats and revs the digestive system, used in lieu of butter it can improve the speed and efficiency of nutrient absorption, helping to shed pounds.* Yes, the fats are mostly saturated, but this is a raw saturated medium chain fatty acid that helps the body to burn stored fats as opposed to becoming a stored fat. The unhealthy saturated fats are processed and heated or refined, and found in pastries and packaged foods. Buying raw or unrefined coconut oil is the healthy choice.
If you are of a predominantly Kapha dosha, consuming coconut oil is good for you as it will balance weight and increase digestive heat. If you are of a Pitta dosha, only use this topically; Vata should also stick with topical uses only. (visit www.JoyfulBelly.com to determine your dosha)
*Make sure to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner before using coconut oil to manage weight in order to make sure your symptoms are in fact due to sluggishness and not from another source.
Also high in lauric acid and fiber and a variety of nutrients (see nutritional information) but what makes coconut meat stellar in Ayurveda is its ability to cool and calm the digestive system without slowing down metabolism. Coconut meat is healthy for all doshas, but is particularly beneficial to Pitta and Vata dominant constitutions, Kaphas can enjoy small servings on occasion.
To open a fresh coconut:
- Find those 3 bowling ball type holes at the top. Place the coconut with 3 holes facing up on a towel or pillow. Puncture one (there’s always a weak one) with the tip of a nail or corkscrew of a wine bottle opener. Work the corkscrew/nail into and out of the fruit until you can easily pour the coconut water into a glass. Drink this immediately, its freshest within 30 minutes of opening.
- Next, grab your hammer and place the coconut on a pillow/blanket placed on the floor with the holes aligned on the side. Twist the fruit until you see one of the thick main seams facing upwards and begin to tap with pretty good force until it cracks open. The seam closest to the hole you opened is probably the weakest point, but you may need to play around.
- Once you’ve cracked the fruit in half, wrap one half in a plastic bag and then wrap this in aluminium foil and store in the freezer. With the remaining half, score and carve out chunks with a pairing or medium sized knife. The thin brown inner skin (obviously not the hard tooth shattering outer shell) contains nutrients too, much like the skins of other fruits and vegetables, so make sure to leave that on. Continue scoring and removing the meat until you have approximately 1 cup.
Healthy Summer Chutney (good for all, outstanding for Pitta)
This recipe is an adaptation of a traditional Indian chutney. I have adjusted it to be lower in calories, sodium and fat than the original.
- Vidalia Onion is added to reduce calories and to add texture, cooked onions are a sweet taste and help to reduce inflammation, improve digestion and do not disturb Pitta
- Cilantro cools and calms the digestive system and provides wonderful antioxidants
- Cumin improves digestion and adds a depth to the overall taste
- Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that offers a salty and tangy element without increasing the sodium content
- Limes taste sour to the palate, but have a cooling, sweet quality which is more gentle than their lemon cousins. Limes stimulate the release of digestive enzymes , helpful in indigestion.
- 1 cup (approx yield from 1/2 fresh fruit) coconut meat
- 1 large vidalia onion
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 large bunch of cilantro (whole bunch from store, not a handful)
- juice and zest from 1 large lime
- 1/2 – 1 tsp Kala Namak or black salt (or sea salt)
- (optional) pinch of cayenne pepper or Indian pickling spice
- 1-2 tsp ground sumac powder
- In a large frying pan, bring to boil 2 cups of water with the cumin and cayenne/pickling spice. Once boiled, add the onion chopped roughly. Reduce to a medium flame and cook until onions become sweet, soft and have absorbed all the water (about 10 minutes)
- Into a blender first place your cooked onion, then add the chopped coconut, then add the juice and zest of lime and salt. Lastly add the cilantro. Pulse or blend to desired consistency. Adding the cilantro last is key as it has the lowest water content and if placed towards the bottom of the blender can take forever to blend and therefore may burn out your motor.
- Transfer to a large glass or ceramic container and finish with sumac. Will last in the fridge for approximately 1 week.
This recipe is great on sandwiches, with slices of cucumber with or without crackers, can be thinned to make a dip or sauce, be creative.
You can keep fresh wrapped coconut in the freezer for up to 3 months, thaw in the fridge for a few hours before next use.