Monday, January 2, 2012

The Amazing Health Benefits of Coconuts/ Restaurants in Puerto Rico

 I just flew in a couple of days ago from Puerto Rico where my sister lives.  We had a wonderful family reunion with my other sister and parents who also joined us.  So sad to say bye to everyone.  Here we are gathered at the table on Christmas Eve.

Alas, I am back in Maryland.  It was also hard to leave the wonderful tropical climate.  I wish we could just pack up and move to some warm location.  I couldn't have such an experience and not do a post on one of my favorite foods.  Coconuts!  I told my sister that all I wanted in Puerto Rico was "coco-frio".  On one occasion we were driving down one of their main thoroughfares which ran by a coconut tree lined beach.  My husband spotted the sign first.  My sister swerved from the busy road to park in front of a line of food vendors.  We passed by all of the popular food vendors to a pick-up truck loaded with coconuts.  The vendor gave the coconut a few chops with his machete, put in a straw and handed me my most coveted tropical elixir, coconut water!

Our stash of coconuts

The benefits of this abundant tropical fruit are astounding and endless.  I will site a few just to give you an idea of the caliber of this amazing fruit.  Coconut water is hydrating, alkalizing, filled with antioxidants and electrolytes.  It has anti-aging properties and makes some nutrients more absorbable.  It boosts the immune system, it's antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antibacterial.  It aids in digestion and increases one's metabolism.  It is naturally sterile and has been used to save the lives of people in developing countries where blood banks are not readily available.  It is almost identical to human blood plasma.  Imagine a patient hooked up to an I.V. line and bag filled with coconut water.  Yes, it has been done.  It is also excellent for athletes.  Blend some up with a tablespoon or more of chia seed and you have an amazing sports drink.  Much better for you than the neon colored synthetic drinks available on the market.
My kids enjoying coco-frio
Apparently the craze for coconut water has caught on giving birth to multi-million dollar businesses.  Some popular brands are Zico and Madonna's Vita-coco.  I do have a problem with them, however.  They are pasteurized.  I will not say the they are void of all nutrients, but pasteurization renders much of the beneficial properties useless.  Raw will always be best.  Body Ecology is a company that packages the water and freezes it.  You can find it on  amazon.  Exotic Superfoods is another company  that sells truly raw coconut water.  Another option would be to buy fresh young coconuts in Indian and Asian markets and cut them open yourself.  Here's a youtube how-to video.  (If having trouble with the link, right click on link and open in new window)  Please be careful with your digits!

Coconut oil has gotten a bad rap for far too long.  After research and observing people groups that have a high consumption of coconut oil, it turns out that coconut oil is the best oil to use.  It is stable and does not become carcinogenic when heated like most other oils.  It turns liquid at approximately 70 degrees and solid below that temperature.  It will not coat your arteries, as a matter of fact, it promotes heart health.  Coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid.  (Lauric acid helps to fight infection.)  The only other source that is similar in quantity is mother's milk, which explains why breast fed babies suffer far fewer infections than formula fed babies.  Like coconut water, the oil also helps to increase one's metabolism and  improves digestion.  Used topically it is fantastic!  My husband tells me that I often smell like a coconut.  It is wonderful to slather it on as a moisturizer.  It helps the skin ward off infection, psoriasis and eczema, especially if dairy is cut out of one's diet.  It also helps to strengthen and repair hair when damaged. About once a week, I just coat my hair with it and let it sit for a half hour before I wash my hair.  I purchase organic virgin raw coconut oil by the gallon from Mountain Rose Herbs.  It really is reasonably priced at this site.  (Coconut oil has a shelf life of up to two years.)

Raw foodists use all food forms of the coconut for their smoothies, sauces and raw confections.  The young meat of the coconut and its gelatinous composition is perfect to create custard like desserts.  The mature meat when grated and pressed produces the milk.  Have you ever tasted it? Yum!! Of course, I'm always using the grated dehydrated coconut flakes for raw pie crust or freezer fudge. Look up Jennifer Cornbleet and Ani Phyo raw prep books for simple dessert recipes on

If you are so inclined to hack at a few coconuts, try this recipe that I found on another blog: Raw Vegan Pina Colada

Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants of Puerto Rico:

If you happen to be traveling to Puerto Rico, may I suggest a few vegetarian friendly restaurants?  I do not stay on a raw diet when I travel.  It is too difficult.  Maybe someday I'll figure it out.  I'm just not there yet.  I do stay mostly vegan.  We ate at some restaurants that catered to our dietary needs.  One Restaurant was "El Ladrillo" in Dorado.  You will not find vegan options on the menu, but if you call ahead 24 hours, they will make special accommodations.  The owner herself prepared the most amazing "vegan mofongo" for us.  It is a dish made of mashed plaintain shaped into a bowl.  It was topped with a tomato based sauce and mixed vegetables.  Killer good!  Another excellent restaurant is located at a mountain retreat in Utuado, "La Casa Grande". They have a phenomenal chef, Mike Mahon, who is completely undaunted by the task of preparing delicious vegetarian or vegan entrees. ( I can't tell you how many times I've been disappointed by other chefs who are totally clueless.)  He delivers mouth-watering delectable dishes every time!  For quick, reasonably priced sandwiches, consider El Meson.  Another good sandwich restaurant and juice bar with a more gourmet edge is Pure and Natural in Condado.  They are a little slow on service, but the food was scrumptious.  Cafe Berlin in Old San Juan is a good option for brunch.  

As always, all good things must come to an end.  Sigh.
And now, back to the grind in cold, gray Maryland!  Happy New Year to you all.  Many blessings in 2012!

Enjoy the Journey!