CURRIED LENTILS, WITH BEETROOT, SPINACH AND FETA
4 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion Finely Chopped
4 Cloves Garlic Finely Chopped
1 Tbsp Madras Curry Paste
1 x 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 x 400ml Tin Coconut Milk
8oz Puy Lentils
1 ltr Vegetable Stock
6 Assorted Beetroots (Preferably with Leafy Tops)
1 Bag Spinach Leaves (approx 6oz/180g)
12 oz/360g Feta Cheese Diced
Coriander (cilantro) Leaves to Garnish
Nutrition; Beetroot is a fantastic ingredient. Having been shown to be a great liver cleanser the dark purple colour also aids in fighting cancer. Eating beetroot regularly has been shown to increase the uptake of oxygen by as much as 400%. It is virtually fat free and converts into sugars in the body very slowly so can help stabilise blood sugar level for longer. The green tops are very rich in folates. Lentils are an amazing food also being a very important source of iron for vegetarians. They are rich in protein and contain 2 of the essential amino acids (lycene and isoleucine). They are also a good source of fibre and have a low GI so are excellent for diabetics.
- For the curry sauce, sauté the onion in the oil over a low heat for 20 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the curry paste and allow to cook for 5 minutes until the flavours have developed.
- Add the tomatoes and the coconut milk and bring just to a simmer for 45 minutes to1 hour, or until the sauce has reduced and is nice and thick and oily.
- If the beetroot has the leafy tops, then remove and wash them well, especially the stalks in addition to the spinach.
- Wash and roast the beetroot in a moderate oven for an hour or two until softened. Allow to cool a little, then peel and quarter them and keep warm in the oven.
- Meanwhile cook the lentils in vegetable stock until tender, approximately 20 minutes, you may have to add a little more stock or water. Strain and set aside.
- When the sauce is ready and the beetroot and lentils are cooked, assemble the dish. In a large frying pan or skillet heat the curry sauce and stir in the lentils. You may have to add some more stock to thin out the sauce a little. When the lentils are simmering add the spinach and beet leaves and toss in the pan until wilted.
- Divide the beetroot between 4 bowls or plates and spoon over and around the lentils and spinach mixture. Scatter with the feta and flash under a hot grill to lightly brown the cheese.
- Top with the coriander leaves (cilantro) and serve with bhajis or pilau rice.
2lb/1kg Grated Raw Carrot
1 tbsp Ground Cardomon
1 x 400ml Tin Coconut Milk
4oz/110g Ground Cashew Nuts (Optional)
Nutrition: This is a great way to turn a healthy vegetable, such as the carrot, into a very tasty sweet treat which is ideal for a packed lunch or picnic. It can also be eaten as a coffee or tea snack. Packed with carrots rich in vitamin-A and lutein, both very good for eyesight and protecting against macular degeneration. Carrots are also rich in beta-carotene, an excellent anti-oxidant. Even more powerful are the anthocyanins found in purple carrots. They are also rich in glutathione, calcium and potassium. There aren’t many fudge recipes that could be said to be good for you……. Or as tasty!
- Put the carrots and the butter into a good size heavy bottom saucepan over a low heat.
- You need to cook the carrots slowly until they are very soft.
- Add the sugar and coconut milk and continue cooking at barely a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Once all the liquid has been absorbed and you are left with a kind of carrot paste it is ready. Don’t worry if it appears ‘oily’. This is because of the fats in the butter and coconut milk.
- Lastly stir in the ground cashews which will help the halwa set.
- Line a loaf tin with cling film and squash the halwa into it fimly. Fold over the cling film and refrigerate for several hours or until set.
- Turn out and cut into squares with a sharp knife.
What’s Up Doc ?
Carrots (Daucus Carota) are probably the most widely consumed vegetable there is, they sell second only to potatoes, (which are actually tubers, not vegetables). Carrots are cheap, readily available and very nutritious. They are also amazingly versatile.
All of which is no bad thing when we look at the nutritional value that they provide.
Carrots originated several thousand years ago in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The Greeks and Romans used them, but it wasn’t until the middle Ages that the Arabs introduced them to Europe.
When carrots were first cultivated, they were originally grown for their healing properties, the green leafy tops were used for medicinal purposes. The roots themselves were virtually inedible, being too fibrous and bitter to eat. Only by modifying crops over the years did they become edible………. And orange!
It’s true that in their original form, carrots were actually purple or black. These and other varieties are making a comeback now, which is good news as these darker carrots have even more nutritional value.
The orange version was cultivated in the Netherlands in the 17c. It was reportedly grown in honor of William of Orange, but this tale is probably apocryphal. However there is another urban myth, which is true.
During WWII, the British spread propaganda that carrots were good for your eyes. Whilst this has been shown to be true (more later), the real reason behind the story was to try and hide, from the Nazis, the fact that the British had discovered radar. The sudden accuracy of the RAF, during night raids, in being able to locate and shoot down Nazi bombers needed to be played down by the British government. It also had a twofold effect in encouraging the public to grow their own vegetables to help with the war effort. The popularity of these allotments (small patches of land for people without gardens to grow their own produce) continues to this day in the UK.
What’s so good about carrots?
Carrots contain a staggering amount of phytochemicals. Much is being said about these compounds with little explanation. The word ‘phyto’ is Greek for plant, so phytochemicals are literally ‘plant chemicals’. These have been shown to be the medicinal factor, which makes fruit and vegetables healthy. They are usually found to be the pigment colour, which is what makes bright colorful fruit and vegetables particularly beneficial to health.
In carrots it is in the form of the orange beta-carotene, which is what most people think of in carrots. Alpha carotene is also found in carrots and according to Michiaki Murakoshi at Japan’s Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, alpha carotene may be more beneficial to preventing cancerous tumor growths.
Beta-carotene is certainly a very powerful anti-oxidant, and is crucial in the battle against cancer growth, heart disease and premature aging. Premature aging is not just looking older quicker. It is actually descriptive of the damage caused by free radicals, which speeds up the aging process and makes us more vulnerable to degenerative diseases. Anti-oxidants are the main combatants to free radicals.
Beta-carotene is also converted in the body into vitamin-A (a single carrot can provide the whole daily allowance). According to the WHO vitamin-A deficiency blinds, or partially blinds, over 300,000 children a year worldwide. Carrots also contain lutein, which has been shown to help combat macular degeneration. Up until recently it was unsure whether the body could access the lutein in carrots, but now tests at University of Wisconsin-Madison have shown that over 65% of the lutein is available biologically. People with a high intake of carotenoids have been shown to be up to 60% less likely to suffer from age related macular degeneration. Eating carrots, as we can see (excuse the pun), is very good for the eyes due to a combination of lutein and the vitamin-A content. So they weren’t very far from the truth in WWII.
Carrots are also a good source of vitamins B,C,D, and E, and potassium, copper, folic acid, magnesium and calcium pectate, a pectin fiber that has been found to have cholesterol-lowering properties. The green tops are rich in vitamin-K, which oddly, is absent in the carrot itself.
It is true that carrots are said to have many benefits, such as,
immunity boosting, wound healing, reduced acne, and strangely alcohol withdrawal. Apparently when eaten regularly they help to cleanse the liver by excreting fats and bile.
According to the Greeks, carrots were beneficial in digestion. Being used to treat upset stomachs, ulcers, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea and celiac disorders.
There really are myriad health benefits attributed to the good old carrot.
The Raw or The Cooked
There are various camps when it comes to cooked versus raw when eating carrots. The answer is that both have their benefits so it is entirely up to you. Eating raw vegetables is generally more healthy for you it is true. However with the carrot, due to the cellular nature, unless it is juiced, the body cannot break down the goodness. Add to this the fact that, according to research carried out at the Institute of Food Research, the body can only absorb 5% of the beta carotene when they are raw, compared to 60% when cooked. Another interesting fact is that cooking carrots before slicing them increases their anti-cancer properties by 25%. According to research by Dr. Kirsten Brandt, at Newcastle University, carrots that have been cooked before slicing contain one quarter more of the anti-cancer compound falcarinol. Whilst we are on the subject of slicing or peeling before cooking, a large proportion of the nutrients of carrots are in the skin. So peeling them reduces their goodness, by up to 15%. In answer to questions I get about this and pesticides in the skins of vegetables. If a vegetable has been treated with pesticides, the chemicals are going to be in the vegetable themselves as well, and if it is of concern then you should be buying organic produce! You will have to decide for yourself as to how you prefer your carrots. The following recipes may help you decide!
As I mentioned before, carrots in their original form were purple or black. These varieties have recently been reintroduced, unfortunately they haven’t proved terribly popular so you are more likely to find them in farmers markets than the supermarket.
This is a shame as the darker colored carrots are more beneficial. This is due to the their pigment color, anthocyanin, which is an even more potent anti-oxidant than beta carotene.
Orange Carrots – Contain beta-carotene and alpha carotene. High in vitamin-A essential for well being and healthy eyes. Originate from Middle East and Europe
Yellow Carrots – Contain xanthophylls and lutein, pigments similar to beta-carotene. Originate from the Middle East.
Red Carrots – Colored by lycopene (another carotene), a pigment also found in tomatoes and watermelon. It is associated with reduced risk of macular degeneration, heart disease, lipid oxidation and a variety of cancers. Originate from China and India.
Purple carrots – Contain beta-carotene and anthocyanins, both shown to slow down free radical damage. Anthocyanins also help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting and are a good anti-inflammatory. Originate in Turkey, Middle East and Far East.
Black Carrots – Also contain anthocyanins, which are particularly active in black carrots. They are said to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. An oil made from their seeds can help control scalp itchiness and provides nutrients needed for hair growth. Originate from Turkey, Middle East and Far East.
White Carrots – The ‘least’ healthy of all the carrots. These lack pigments but do contain other phytochemicals. Originate Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
The Power of Spinach
There can be little doubt that spinach is very healthy for you, but just how amazing the effects can be is only just becoming known.
This is mainly due to the fact that spinach is very rich in phytonutrients. Research is still being done on these substances and the full potential of them is as yet unknown. What is known however is that they have potent cancer fighting properties.
Not only are they rich in phytonutrients, but also rich in a whole host of vitamins and minerals, such as: Vitamins A, B2, B6, C and K. Minerals, magnesium, folate, calcium, potassium, folic acid, copper, phosphorous, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a good source of iron, but nowhere near as good as people think. This is due to an error made by Dr. E. von Wolf, who originally classified the nutrient value of spinach in 1870. Unfortunately, in his notes he misplaced a decimal point and thus spinach was thought to have 10 times the iron content it does. The mistake wasn’t discovered for some 70 odd years.
However, iron aside, there are not many ingredients available that can pack all that punch.
It also contains a carotenoid called neoxanthin, which has been shown to lower incidence of breast cancer in women, and prostate cancer in men.
The high levels of folate help to neutralise the harmful effects of homocysteine, which raises the risks of both heart disease and stroke.
The high calcium and Vitamin-K can reduce risk of osteoporosis in women.
It has anti-inflammatory nutrients, which make it good for arthritis sufferers.
Spinach contains lutein, which has been shown in government studies to not only protect against macular degeneration, but also against cataracts. Now that’s one hell of an ingredient!
There are many different varieties of spinach, and it is also related to chard, beets and sorrel. If you are lucky enough to live near an Asian supermarket you should try some swamp spinach (also known as kangkong). This is just as beneficial but quite a lot cheaper as it does not need to be cultivated. It comes in big bunches and looks a little like long thin pak choi. It is eaten all over Asia, which is where all spinach is native to, South-western Asia to be precise. The more common varieties that you will find in the supermarkets are;
Smooth Flat leaf – This variety usually comes washed and ready to eat. It is excellent raw in salads and also wilted to serve as a garnish on dishes such as you would in a restaurant.
Semi-Savoy – Crinkly edged yet similar to a light cabbage leaf, this lends itself to being used as a side of green vegetables with a meal or tossed into a stir fry at the very last minute for a few seconds.
Savoy – This is the most hardy of spinach and is best suited for shredding and adding to bold soups such as Ribollita or Pistou soup. It needs a good washing as the wrinkles in the leaves gather a lot of grit and soil.
Whichever type of spinach you use or whatever the dish that you use it in, there is one fundamental basic to using spinach. If you are cooking with it, you must not cook it longer than 20-30 seconds, this is known as ‘al minuto’ in restaurants, which means ‘to the minute’. If you don’t exceed this then you will have bright vibrant tasty spinach with lots of colour and texture. However, if you cook it for too long you will end up with mushy, bitter tasting brown sludge that will have all the appeal of tinned spinach!
The first recorded instances of spinach being consumed as a vegetable date back to the 7th century in China before becoming popular in the courts of Europe.
It was particularly popular amongst the Italian aristocracy. Catherine de Medici (the Medici’s were a very powerful medieval family from Florence in the middle ages) was so fond of it that when she married the king of France, she brought her own chefs to cook it the way that she liked it. Since then dishes served with of on spinach have been known as ‘A la Florentine’
As far as vegetables go, nutritionally speaking, spinach is hard to beat. And wilted in a wok, in a little olive oil or butter, with black pepper and a little grated nutmeg……. What’s not to like!???
From small things………….
There is no doubt that lentils are one of the most versatile of all the legume family. Indeed it is not only their culinary usefulness that they are well known for.
In Egyptian times they were used as ‘bubble wrap’ for ancient artefacts and sculptures for shipping. The word lens is the Latin for lentil and derives its name from the shape of these little nutrition packed wonders.
The cultivation of lentils as a food goes back to well before the Egyptians, to Neolithic times (roughly 10.000 years ago). It was during this time that farming came about and lentils were one of the earliest crops to be cultivated, originating in the Middle East. It is no surprise then that there are so many references to the lentil in the Bible. The French dish Esau Potage is a lentil broth named after Esau. In the Old Testament, Jacob bought the birthright from Esau with a dish of stewed lentils. Then there is the arguable notion that Lent was named after the lentil as the majority of people were too poor to be able to afford fish at this religious time and therefore had to rely on lentils for sustenance.
But it is for their culinary uniqueness that we are looking to this humble legume. There are few foods that are so versatile. They can be made into anything from pates, dressings, soups, dhals, fritters and salads.
They are packed full of beneficial nutrients as well as being a very rich source of soluble fibre, and being the third richest vegetable source of protein there is.
A study of dietry patterns and risk of heart disease following 16,000 middle aged men in the U.S., Finland, Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan over a period of 25 years, found that after analysing the data, diets with a high legume content were associated with a huge 82% reduction in risk of heart disease!
Another study published in the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ confirms that a diet high in soluble fibre, such as lentils, helps prevent heart disease. Out of 10,000 adults, those eating the most fibre (21 grams a day or more) had a 12% reduction in coronary heart disease and 11% less cardiovascular disease. Those that ate the most water soluble fibre fared even better.
The fact that lentils are excellent for heart health is not only in the fibre content, but also the significant amounts of folate (folic acid) and magnesium they supply. Folate has long been associated with heart health as it helps to lower levels of homocysteine. This is an amino acid that damages artery walls and is a serious risk factor for heart disease. When folate is present it converts homocysteine into cysteine or methionine, both of which are benign. Folate is also a crucial nutrient for pregnant women. Up to 70% of birth defects such as, spina bifida and neural tube defects have been shown to be due to a lack of folate in the diet. Most doctors advise women of child bearing age to increase their intake of folate as it is not just during pregnancy but also prior to conceiving that there is a great need for folate.
The magnesium content in lentils adds another heart helping dimension. Magnesium is known to help the arteries and veins ‘relax’ which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies have shown that not only are low levels of magnesium associated with heart disease, but that after a heart attack low levels promote free radical injury to the heart.
It doesn’t stop there either. Lentils are an important source of B vitamins, particularly B-3. They are also high in iron, zinc and calcium, which is why they are so popular as a substitute for red meat. The iron is better absorbed by the body when eaten with vitamin C rich foods such as dark green vegetables. One of my favourite dishes is Indian spiced lentils, or dhal, with spinach stirred in at the last minute. A bowl of that with a hot naan bread makes a substantial and very healthy lunch for about a $1.00 a portion! Frugal food needn’t be bland and boring. It is high in protein too, being as good a source as some cheaper cuts of meat. Whilst they are deficient in only two amino acids, this is not the case once they have sprouted. When sprouted they contain sufficient amounts of all amino acids. In addition to this, their nutritional value goes up in sprouted form too.
Apart from the fact that they get a bad rap as being boring ‘hippy’ food, there is not a lot that you can say bad about the humble lentil.
Packed with goodness, nutrition and incredibly versatile as you will see in the following recipes. As with the acorn and mighty oak parable, these little guys should not be underestimated……
There are numerous varieties of lentils but some of the most common are:
RED SPLIT (CHIEF) – These are perhaps the most common of all. They are good for soups and purees as they tend to become mushy when cooked and don’t hold their shape. A good use for them is to thicken stews or casseroles. Instead of reaching for the gravy granules or artificial thickener, try adding a good handful towards the end of cooking when making your next casserole. You’ll find it absorbs the excess liquid and provides a good protein boost to your meal.
BROWN LENTIL – Again these break down and become mushy if over cooked, but if cooked carefully they will retain their shape. They are good added to sauces or broths.
YELLOW LENTILS – These are actually split mung beans and are very similar to red lentils except they are a bit firmer.
BELUGA LENTILS – These are an incredibly attractive lentil, so called because when they are cooked they glisten like caviar. They retain their shape and remain firm when cooked. Excellent as an accompaniment to meals and also in sauces or dressings.
PUY LENTILS (FRENCH GREEN) – These to my mind are the king of lentils. Small and robust, they too keep their shape after cooking and are adaptable to a whole host of uses from pates to stuffing’s for vegetables to sauces and dressings. Green and brown lentils are also higher in nutrients than their red and yellow cousins.
BKACK LENTILS (URAD DHAL) – Again these are actually a bean and if they are shelled and split they become white lentils. These are widely used in Indian cooking. It is no surprise that India is the biggest producer of lentils in the world. But it may come as a shock to know that Canada is the second highest producer!
Top 5 Healthiest Foods
Lentils – ‘Health’ Magazine has listed lentils as one of the top 5 healthiest foods you can eat and with good reason. They have been shown to be a key ingredient in fighting heart disease. This is due to the high levels of fibre, magnesium and folate. A high fibre diet (over 20 grams a day) has been shown to reduce heart disease by up to 15% in a study published in ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’. Another food study taken over 25 years from countries such as Japan, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Finland and the U.S. has shown that diets that were the richest in Legumes (lentils are in this classification) was associated with a whopping 82% reduction in risk. The magnesium and folate both play a strong role here too.
Magnesium has been shown to help veins and arteries relax which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Magnesium deficiency is not only associated with heart attack but immediately following a heart attack lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart. Folate is important as it helps the body convert homocysteine (an amino acid which damages the artery walls and is considered a serious risk factor in heart disease)) into cysteine and methionine, which are both benign.
Further to helping protect against heart disease, lentils are also a very good food for stabilising the blood sugar levels whilst providing steady slow burning energy, which is excellent news for diabetics.
Lastly lentils are a very good source of iron, particularly for menstruating women, and unlike red meat are low in fat and calories.
The only one down side to lentils really is there poor public image! They are seen as a boring staple food for vegetarians. Take a look at my recipes for imaginative and unusual ways that lentils can be appreciated for their diverseness.
There is a reason that they are in the top 5 healthiest foods!
Are Processed Foods Pathogens?
There is little doubt that eating raw food is much more beneficial from a nutritional point of view. This is primarily due to the fact that the enzymes in food break down when cooked at high temperatures. Enzymes in food aid with the digestion, when these enzymes break down the body has to produce it’s own enzymes to help with the digestion. If the body has to produce all the enzymes necessary to digest your food it puts a lot of extra burden on your pancreas and other organs. Stressing your adrenals like this is also one of the major causes of diabetes. In a nutshell raw foods are packed with enzymes, which will help digest your food for you. This will take the pressure off your body to produce your own enzymes allowing your body to concentrate on other functions. Simple really!
There was a very interesting study conducted at the Institute of Clinical Chemistry in Lausanne in 1930. Under the direction of Dr. Paul Kouchakoff it was found that a person would produce white blood cells after eating meals. This is known as ‘digestive leukocytosis’ and is a normal response, however it is not known why the body would react as if there was something harmful such as infection or toxins entering the body. The surprising discovery was that the body did NOT react this way when eating raw foods. This study seemed to show that the body reacted as if it were being harmed when eating foods cooked to high temperatures, but not when eating raw foods. This must tell us something!
The Most amazing find though was that the same rule applies to ALL foods that have been processed, white blood cells are automatically produced, so again, not good. More reason to be cooking your own food rather than to rely on ready made foods.
The end result of the study showed that when foods are heated beyond a specific temperature (temperatures vary individually to each food) the body will produce white blood cells, but not if they are kept below that temperature.
The best ways to eat cooked foods is lightly steamed, slow-cooked (in a slow-cooker is fine) or stewed. Cheap cuts of meat benefit being cooked at 100-110c long and slowly over night so this is perfect for a healthy Sunday lunch. Slow roasted vegetables especially nutrient rich root vegetables are perfect for this. Slow cookers are becoming all the rage as people are trying to juggle busy careers with ever escalating food costs and are a perfect answer to both these problems.
Not everyone likes salads, but equally you don’t have to cook everything that you eat!
The Best Medicinal Food Ever?
Beet roots have been in our diets for millennia. They have been discovered in tombs in Thebes and charred remains in Neolithic digs shows that they were roasted and eaten also.
As a food stuff they must rank as one of the highest in medicinal value. It is amazingly good at helping to combat heart disease, diabetes and also cancer.
It has been shown to lower high blood pressure and also to purify the blood. This is due to the large amounts of folate and soluble fibre.
These folates have been shown to help protect against Alzheimer’s and demantia too.
Containing virtually no fat and rich in phosphorous and pottasium, with an incredibly low G.I. (Glycaemic Index). This means it is converted into sugars very slowly, which helps stabalise the blood sugar, which is excellent news for diabetics.
But it is perhaps it’s anti-carcinogenic properties where beets come into their own. The purple pigment betacyanin (a flavenoid related to anthocyanin found in red foods) has been shown to increase the uptake of oxygen in the body by up to 400%. This can effectively starve the respiration of cancer cells. Tests with beetroot and cancer patients has shown that it is possible to halt and even regress tumours in patients.
The best benefits from beetroot come in it’s raw form.
So enjoy some of ‘natures candy’ as the ancient Greeks used to call it!!
After air and water, food is the one element we need to survive.
Obviously there is a direct link between what you put into your body and how long you live.
It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t seem to realise that this applies more to the quality of the food than anything else. If you eat better you live longer, it’s not rocket science.
The basic line is that if you eat better quality food, and I’m avoiding using the tag ‘healthy’ as the whole point of what I am trying to get across is that good food can be both. See the recipes on my page for proof!!
Simply eat a healthier lifestyle made up of more ‘whole’ foods. Whole foods are not something you buy from a wholefood store incidentally!! Simply unadulterated foods i.e. vegetables, fruits, fish , meat, cheese etc. anything that is unprocessed.
You don’t have to change overnight, just try cooking more and buying ready meals less.
The point is that by getting back in the kitchen you are going to live longer. So enjoy a guilt free drink knowing that you have counter balanced it with some healthy food. I am living proof of this………. but that, as they say is another story!
Get a bottle of wine, some friends over and get the pans out, and get cracking.
Coconut products are used and relied upon in large amounts in the tropics all around the world. However in western countries they have been somewhat over looked recently due to bad publicity and propaganda. Soy and corn manufacturers in the 80’s spread the rumour that coconut oil was unhealthy and increased cholesterol to benefit their own products over coconuts. Whilst it is true that coconut oil is high in saturated fat it is not hydrogenated which makes it beneficial. Up until then coconut oil was widely used and the third world countries they were imported from couldn’t afford to refute the bad publicity that was being spread by the conglomerates.
Modern research has now proved that not only is the information that was put out incorrect, but that coconut oil is quite probably the MOST healthy oil known to man!
The benefits of coconuts are endless. They posses anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, they have also been shown to help fight flu, herpes, measles and other viruses. It is also used by local populations to treat fevers, headaches, stomach upsets, diarrhoea and dysentery. The medium chain fatty acids (lauric acid) found in coconuts have been shown to lower cholesterol, because the medium chain fatty acids are quickly and easily assimilated by the body they are not stored as fat like long chain fatty acids found in animal products. Studies from around the world have shown that diets where coconuts are a staple in the diet DO NOT suffer from high serum cholesterol OR high rates of heart disease. Another study in the Yucatan, on effects of virgin coconut oil, showed that although people who consumed considerable quantities of the saturated fat, they retained a lean body mass. Another thing that was shown in the Yucatan studies was that women participants didn’t suffer the typical symptoms of menopause. Interestingly the next thing with the most similar properties to it is none other that breast milk! So coconuts truly are ‘Mothers Milk’. Apart from their nutritional value they were also used as emergency intravenous drips during WWII. The coconut juice inside coconuts is sterile and contains sugar so can easily be hooked up as a drip in emergency conditions. Further more matting, shoes and numerous other items are made from the husks so nothing goes to waste. Coconuts really are an amazingly versatile food.
Further to this coconut milk is lower in calories and fats than normal milk and is also obviously lactose free. There aren’t many recipes that coconut milk can’t be used instead of milk, especially desserts, for instance brulee’s, rice puddings, and custards are all fantastic made with coconut milk. Soups, curries, sauces and stir-fries are all enriched with flavour using coconut milk.
So do yourself a favour and make the switch, stock up your cupboard with coconut milk, oil even fresh grated coconut is readily available now for quick chutneys, pickles and desserts.