By Laura Ng
I love adding coconut cream when cooking curry. Nothing can replace the flavor of coconut cream in curry. Its sweet aroma simply enhances the taste of the dish and gives a smooth, silky consistency to the curry when added the right quantity.
However, despite its versatility and tantalizing taste, people shun coconut cream like a plague due to its high saturated fat content. In fact, coconut cream benefits your health more than you can imagine. But why the false impression?
When nutritionists and doctors start labeling saturated fat as the possible cause for heart disease, people start to associate all saturated vegetable fats to be the same as animal saturated fat.
And when the same people tell you that eating coconut cream can clog your arteries and lead to stroke and heart attack, it's no wonder coconut cream becomes one of the top "risky" foods to avoid.
The same goes for those who want to lose weight. Most weight-loss programs will warn you how fatty coconut cream is and by eating even just a bit it can destroy your entire weight loss plans. What exaggeration! "Avoid them at all cost" probably is the repeating slogan of those so-called weight-loss "experts".
But that's a serious misconception about coconut cream's health benefits!
The saturated fat encased in coconut cream is actually healthy good fat that your body can easily metabolize and turn into energy fast, without raising your blood cholesterol level and adding pounds to your weight.
In other words, it doesn't transform into bad cholesterols that may clog up your arteries. So don't worry.
Besides, the principal saturated fat, or fatty acid, in coconut cream is lauric acid — the same type of saturated fat found in abundance in human breast milk.
Scientists and researchers have been encouraging mothers to feed their infants with breast milk because the supernutrients in it can help infants fight off intrusive viruses and bacteria.
So, if lauric acid (in mother's milk) can provide health benefits for infants, all the more its presence in coconut cream can benefit both you and me, make sense?
Although we're not as vulnerable as infants (whose immune systems are still in development) since our immune system had fully developed, we do still need protection against viruses and bacteria. And coconut cream can supply us with that.
When lauric acid (in coconut cream) converts to monolaurin (an anti-viral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride), it boosts your immune system and defends your body against many viruses, including hepatitis C, herpes and even the deadly HIV!
Besides, it carries important anti-carcinogenic and anti-pathogenic properties, which can help prevent you from cancer attack. Many microbes that are resistant to drugs used to fight infection may be overcome with the fatty acids in coconut cream.
Furthermore, it improves digestion and bowel function, relieving problems such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. It also promotes normal brain development and contributes to healthier and stronger bones, which is especially important for kids and elderly.
More importantly, coconut cream is less likely to make you fat than polyunsaturated oils, by speeding up your metabolism. As mentioned earlier, energy is burned off faster to cope with your activity level, rather than stored as fat.
Never know coconut cream can benefit your health so much, right?
But don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting you to indulge in coconut cream, but rather than avoiding it altogether, it's all right to take in moderation or slightly more since coconut food (including its cream, milk, water, meat) does you more good than harm. And when you eat, make sure you get premium quality coconut cream for better taste and greater nutritional benefits.
Before I show you how to choose quality coconut cream, you need to differentiate between coconut cream and coconut milk so you know exactly which to use for your coconut-flavored dishes to suit your preference. Like me, I particularly like curry with thick gravy, that's why I prefer coconut cream to coconut milk when making curry.
First of all, coconut cream or milk is not the juice in the coconut (that's coconut water) but comes from coconut meat.
By squeezing only the coconut meat, you'll get thick and rich coconut cream. It resembles heavy whipping cream and doesn't taste as sweet. Hence, it's a great substitute for dairy products in ice cream, eggnog, cakes and other desserts.
The main difference between coconut cream and coconut milk simply lies in the consistency. By adding water to coconut cream and stir the mixture thoroughly you'll get coconut milk.
Alternatively, you can mix 1 part shredded coconut meat with 4 parts water and strain the coconut mixture through a muslin cloth or cheese cloth to get the coconut milk. If you let the milk stand for a while, the coconut cream will separate and rise to the top of the milk, forming a white non-liquid layer.
Simply put, you can dilute coconut cream to the right consistency you want by controlling the amount of water added.
To save you trouble in making coconut cream / milk yourself, you can get coconut cream / milk readily in can or package at most supermarkets or online store like Amazon.
But bear in mind, once you open it, make sure you refrigerate it or it'll turn rancid easily, which is the only disadvantage as far as I know. Even if you store it in fridge, it's best to finish it within 2 - 3 days.
Also, do not freeze coconut milk as this causes it to curdle when you next use it in cooking. Try different brands to find the one that best suits your liking. Good brands which have not been artificially homogenized will have thick cream floating on top of the can while the milk at the bottom is much more watery. Take note.
Organic Coconut Cream Concentrate by Tropical Traditions
Coconut Lover's Cookbook by Bruce Fife