We love the taste of gourmet food. The smells, textures, and flavors provide otherwordly experiences. The way it melts in our mouths gives a pleasure that cannot be described in a way that really does it justice.

Unfortunately gourmet dishes are often unhealthy for our bodies, with dairy, gluten, cane sugar, or other ingredients we eschew here at MHLC. Luckily one amazing food, coconut, can make many dishes both more enjoyable for our taste buds and healthier for our bodies.

Because of high global demand for this popular food, coconut is not always grown in ways that are healthy for the local people or environments. Be sure to source your coconut products from companies that use organic, sustainable growing practices and work within fair trade agreements.

1. Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is a delicious gluten-free base ingredient. It gives a naturally sweet flavor and thick, decadent texture. It is high in fiber and contains some protein. It tends to be very dense, so even though it is more expensive than other types of flour, a little goes a long way. Use about half as much coconut flour as you would wheat flour in most recipes.

Coconut flour can be used raw or cooked, and performs well as a base for raw cakes, cookies, crackers, and other treats.

Coconut flour is a guilt-free way to go gourmet because it is very low glycemic. Unlike wheat flour and most gluten-free alternatives like rice flour, it will not spike blood sugar levels or contribute to obesity and diabetes, when enjoyed in moderation.

2. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a dairy-free way to add gourmet creaminess to your sweet and savory dishes. It can elevate a plain soup into an extraordinary bisque. It makes a decedent base for puddings, mousses, and other whipped deserts. And it can be warmed and whipped with raw cacao powder or vanilla and a sliced date for a fantastic winter beverage.

Coconut milk is (relatively) guilt-free because the fat it contains is the MCFA (medium chain fatty acids) that support brain health, boost metabolism, and give us lustrous skin and nails. You still want to enjoy it in moderation like any fat, but in appropriate amounts it is beneficial for health.

3. Coconut Sugar

The dried sap of coconut palms makes a wonderful sweetener with a molasses-like flavor and lots of trace minerals. Coconut products tend to be high in trace minerals because cocos usually grow close to ocean coasts and absorb the minerals from the water and land.

Coconut sugar is available in liquid, powder, or crystal form. It can be used as a 1 to 1 replacement for cane sugar in dry forms, and it is a little sweeter than other syrups in liquid form.

Using coco sugar is a good way to reduce guilt because it is lower on the glycemic scale than cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, and many fruits. It is still a sweetener so dont go eating it out of the bag, but in moderation it makes a healthful replacement for other sweeteners.

4. Coconut Water

Oh, coconut water. It really is nectar from heaven. Full of electrolytes and probiotics, it is the closest substance in nature to human blood that we know. It can restore your pep on a lackluster day and make your cells sing with the joy of hydration.

Use coconut water in smoothies or as a post-workout refresher. It goes on the guilt-free goodness list because it provides many health benefits with no fat and very few calories.

5. Coconut Amino Acids

Love Braggs or tamari but want to cut soy out of your diet? This extract of coconut sap can be used to add a salty flavor to your dishes that is similar to soy sauce, without the soy.

Coconut amino acids also provide some trace nutrients while adding a pleasant distinct flavor that is like a very mild tamari not too sweet, not too bitter. It can enhance the flavor profile of almost any dish, and help unite all the other ingredients into harmonious flavor bliss.

6. Coconut Vinegar

Another product made from coconut sap, coconut vinegar is a healthful addition that can add just the right acidic touch to dressings, sauces, and stir-fries. It contains trace vitamins and minerals, including potassium. It also has FOS, a probiotic that supports digestive health, and it helps alkalinize the body. Just a splash in most dishes will be plenty, or you can use more to balance the flavor profile in sweet or fatty dressings and sauces.

Be sure to get coconut vinegar that is made from the sap, not water, to get the minerals and other health-promoting benefits mentioned above.

You can have your (gluten-free, low glycemic) cake and eat it too! Using coconut products is a great way to enjoy gourmet flavors and textures without harming your body the way that conventional ingredients can. Enjoy this nutritious wonder food and find the balance of health and delight in all that you eat.