Ever since discovering the health benefits of coconut, it has been one of my must have pantry staples. However, it’s not just the recently popularized coconut oil that has made my list of necessary ingredients to have on hand. In fact, there are 7 coconut-inspired products that I just can’t live without, and am sure that once you try them, they will be must have pantry staples for you as well!
1. Coconut Water
Gaining a cult-like following over the past several years, coconut water has long been a favorite for people around the globe. Known for its cool, crisp taste and amazing hydrating abilities, this slightly sweet beverage is just as delicious as it is good for you. In fact, when compared to other sport drinks, coconut water has less sugar and more minerals and antioxidants. Great after a long run, or a night full of drinking, coconut water is definitely one of the must have pantry staples for young and old alike.
2. Coconut Oil
Once banned by the health conscious for its saturated fat content, coconut oil is now a go-to in virtually every nutritionist’s kitchen. Full of MCFAs (medium-chained fatty acids), coconut oil breaks down differently than other fats. In fact, it is shown to help speed up metabolism and burn fat, as opposed to the traditional fats that seem to go straight to your hips. As a base for stir-fries, or added to your favorite baked goods, coconut oil easily replaces butter or other oils in a perfect one-to-one ratio.
3. Coconut Milk
A favorite ingredient in Thai cooking, coconut milk has gone from solely being a curry essential to being used in everyday cuisines. Whether you want to add it to your favorite cereal, use it as a substitute for cream in soups, or use is as a substitute for milk in baking, coconut milk is as versatile as you allow it to be. Available in both full-fat and light varieties, the subtle sweetness and creaminess will lend the perfect hand to whatever dish you decide to throw it in. Just keep in mind that there is a stark difference between the two, so if you prefer a more delicate flavor, then try the light version first.
4. Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
Looking for a substitute for those high calorie toppings for your froyo? Or want to add a healthy crunch to your salad or baked goods? Then look no further than unsweetened coconut flakes. With caramel-like notes in the roasted varieties, and the perfect amount of crunch, unsweetened coconut flakes can be used in virtually any dish where a subtle crunch is wanted. But be aware to avoid the pre-sweetened versions, as these add significant amounts of both sugar and calories.
5. Coconut Sugar
From agave, to honey, to brown rice syrup and the like, there is no lack of sugar-alternatives on the market. And while they all claim to be better for you than sugar, the truth is that most of them are only slightly better, if at all. For the most part, your digestive system does not know the difference and these "better for you" alternatives will still cause a major spike in blood sugar upon consumption. Thankfully, coconut sugar is one of the exceptions to the rule. Maintaining a very low glycemic index, coconut sugar enables even the sugar-sensitive to enjoy a little bit of sweetness in their diets.
6. Coconut-spiked Nutritional Bars
Whether you like sweet, savory, salty, or crunchy, coconut always seem to be the perfect ingredient to balance out your favorite nutritional bar. Great as you run out in the morning, for a post-workout snack, or as a healthy treat before you hit the sheets, coconut-spiked nutritional bars are a staple in my pantry and should be in yours too! My faves are those with pure cocoa added, but really, there are so many great ones to choose from… Do you have a favorite bar that you’d recommend?
7. Coconut Chips
Coconut chips are the new "it" thing when it comes to healthy snacks. Similar to coconut flakes, coconut chips are a bit larger in size, but are just as tasty and are great straight out of the bag, or added to an endless amount of dishes. My favorites? I love them broken into pieces and added to Asian stir-fries or topped on my salads.
If you haven’t jumped on the coconut bandwagon yet, don’t put it off any longer. There are so many great coconut-based products out there that even the skeptical are sure to find at least one that they enjoy. But be aware, once you try them you may get hooked, so be prepared to stock up your pantry with coconut staples. Are there any other coconut products that you just can’t live without?