There are many products that are derived from coconuts. A few years ago it was hard to find edible coconut products, I was always searching in healthy food stores or ordering online. But these days, through great social media, the coconut is becoming more readily available in our supermarkets.

So, what is each product and what does it do?

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. There is a plethora of uses for this in both cooking and skin care. It’s a great oil to use due to its versatility at different heats. At room temperature this oil becomes liquid and when cooled it hardens to a solid state. These days there are many brands of coconut oil. When choosing a brand, always opt for organic, cold pressed, virgin coconut oil opposed to refined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil is processed through heating and therefore looses its nutrients and antioxidants. My favourite brand is Nui “Wild Harvest’ Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil.

Coconut butter is the flesh of the coconut which as been ground into a butter. It is creamier than the oil, and is a handy butter to add to delicious desert and snacks recipes.

Coconut flakes are the dried, flaked meat of the coconut. They can be enjoyed raw or lightly toasted and make a great textural addition to recipes.

Desiccated coconut is coconut meat that has been shredded or flaked and then dried to remove as much moisture as possible. Of all the forms of dried coconut this is generally the finest. A great added to or used to coat snacks balls.

Shredded coconut like desiccated coconut is the coconut meat that has been shredded or flaked and then dried, but it’s larger in pieces and has a coarser texture than desiccated. This tastes great added to homemade granola.

Fresh coconut water is the tasty, clear liquid inside young coconuts. It is full of 5-key electrolytes making it great for hydration. Coconut water also comes bottled or packaged for convenience. Beware of flavoured or sweetened products as they can be added with unwanted sugars and preservatives. Coconut water packaged should contain 100% coconut water and nothing else. My favourite brand is ‘C Coconut’ Water

Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a coconut. The rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high saturated fat and oil content. Coconut milk is great added to curries but also makes a delicious dairy-free milk alternative. It’s great to use as the base for smoothies and is also great on your cereal.

Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water giving it a thicker, paste-like texture. Use it much like you would coconut milk in all types of sweet and savoury dishes.

Coconut flour is made by dehydrating coconut meat, and then grinding it into a flour. It’s a great gluten-free alternative with fewer carbohydrates than many other flours and a significantly higher fibre and protein content. Coconut flour is versatile enough to be used as a substitute to wheat flour in baking and savoury dishes, but be mindful that coconut flour soaks up liquid like a sponge. You may have to up your liquid ingredients to accommodate.

Coconut sugar is produced by making several slits into the bud of a coconut tree and collecting the sap. The sap is then boiled until it thickens and solidifies. Coconut sugar is nearly 50% fructose making it a no-go if you are avoiding or quitting sugar. I do not recommend this product of coconut, as it is still adding sugar into your diet.

Coconut nectar is much the same as coconut sugar but in a syrup form similar to agave or honey. As mentioned above, avoid this ingredient if you are quitting sugar. It’s also important to check sugar-free products that use coconut sugar or nectar as their replacement for other sugars.

An important note on preservatives – If you are particularly sensitive to preservatives, avoid any dried or tinned forms of coconut. There are some preservatives such as sulphites 220-228 that are found in most packaged foods. Sulphites are known to cause inflammation and allergic reactions when ingested. Its best to choose organic coconut products at all times to avoid any other chemicals used in the farming process.

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