Coconut oil was an essential part of the discussion while we were dreaming up the concept and menu in the initial stages of Real Coconut Kitchen. Back in the days where the plan was a simple one: a cosy beach front cafe where you could get healthy, tasty nibbles for all the family. Little did we know it would become so much more and we see now how coconut oil was such a vital part of its success.
Coconut oil is just the perfect allrounder, there is not much you can’t do with this oil, and there’s not much we haven’t done with it. It features in so much of our food (and drinks); we use it for cooking and we use it in the Sanará Spa for the treatments and natural products. We literally eat, drink and bathe in the stuff because it is just so darn wonderful.
The coconut is a tropical tree so it grows in abundance around our HQ in Tulum, Mexico. We make fresh coconut milk daily for use in lots of our dishes and we use the flour for our signature coconut tortillas and tortilla chips (which are then cooked in coconut oil). One of our foundation philosophies is to use sustainable plants with a multitude of uses and the coconut is one of them. Another reason why can’t get enough of the lovely, lovely coconut!
Coconut oil is so special largely due to its molecular structure which makes it high in something called medium chain triglycerides, which are a type of saturated fatty acids. They are shorter in structure than saturated animal fats and easier to digest, as they absorb straight into the small intestine without needing any digesting from bile salts. This means they can provide you with some pretty instant, sustained energy, without the crash you quite often get from a sugar or caffeine hit.
SATURATED FATTY ACIDS
Saturated fatty acids are extremely stable as they do not react so easily to light, heat and air, as they are completely saturated in hydrogen atoms which leaves them unexposed to the elements. This means that they are extremely good for cooking with as they do not oxidise, which is extremely important as oxidation leads to free radical production. Free radicals are very damaging to our health as they harm important molecules in the body, which can lead to a variety of other health issues, as well as just generally contributing to cellular ageing and degeneration.
We use avocado oil and coconut oil for all high temperature cooking as they both have high smoke points due to being saturated fats. If we don’t want something to taste too much like coconut, then we switch to avocado oil. Either way, we only use the healthiest vegan fats for cooking.
Saturated fats are an important food for the body as it uses them to generate energy and construct cell membranes. We blend coconut oil into many of our hot drinks as it adds creaminess, as well as giving us a boost of energy, saving us from having to reach for something sweet.
Fats are also needed for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K. These are important vitamins needed for the immune system, for their high antioxidant properties and therefore general cellular health. So eating fats, like coconut oil, with your meals is actually pretty important.
Coconut oil has also been shown to have antimicrobial properties due to the lauric acid content, so it could be a really good addition to your diet if you have issues such as candida or other yeast infections. This would really however have to be in conjunction with a general gut health diet in order to see real benefits. You could utilise the antimicrobial properties by also massaging it into an itchy, flaky scalp - leave to soothe and nourish the skin for a couple of hours, before washing it out with a gentle shampoo. We even put coconut oil in one of our wellness shots, the Bionic Blast which we always give to clients who are feeling under the weather.
SUSTAINABLE PLANT SOURCE
The coconut, like the plantain, is a hugely sustainable tree which grows abundantly in the tropics, requiring little attendance, water or interference. It fruits all year long, so as soon as you have harvested one bunch of coconuts, then another starts growing! It’s an endless supply! The coconut when fresh provides a nutrient rich water and beautifully soft flesh which tastes amazing with chilli and lime (Mexican classic). Coconut meat is pressed in order to extract both extra virgin coconut oil and cream, and the residual fibre is ground into coconut flour. You can also use blend coconut meat with water, then squeeze through a nut milk bag, or cheesecloth to make fresh coconut milk. We use the flour to make our signature coconut flour tortillas. We also ferment the milk to make a probiotic yogurt for the restaurant menu and for treatments in the Spa. So it’s uses besides the oil are many.
Our Tulum restaurant is part of our beautiful beach front hotel Sanará, which is also home to our Wellness Centre where you can indulge in some traditional or more unusual treatments. If we apply anything to the skin during our treatments then we only use the most gentle and natural of products, and where possible, we try and stick to the philosophy of only putting on our skin what we would be happy to put in our mouths! Sounds a bit extreme but it actually really helps you stick to a skin friendly regime. Your skin is extremely absorbent so it’s a good idea to think about what you’re happy to rub all over your body, as it could absorb through into the bloodstream. This is why we use coconut oil as our standard massage oil and as a base for many of The Sanará brand moisturisers and balms.
We are pretty much happy to use coconut oil whenever and wherever possible!
RHIANNON BAKER | HEALTH & WELLNESS AUTHOR