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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

Go Nuts For Coconut

Hannah Joy Lehman

Circa 2008, there was a single ingredient that started making its way into just about everything: bacon. Without its magical touch, it seemed nothing would ever be the same. By god, bacon had never seen such a glorious day until it suddenly elevated every ordinary pancake, muffin, oil, chocolate bar, cocktail, or dessert into the fashionable bacon variety – who knew chocolate and bacon were long-lost lovers?!

Yet now, there is another ingredient that is almost rivaling the presence of bacon. It’s coconut: touted by everyone as delicious, yet formerly “known to cause heart disease.” Fortunately, the myths about coconut have recently been replaced by more glorious truths about its health benefits. For those of us who don’t eat meat (though some of us vegetarians really do know how amazing bacon tastes), the magic of coconut’s flavor surprisingly fills the shoes of its pork predecessor.

In addition to coconut ice-cream, coconut whipped cream, yogurt, muffins, flour, pudding, salad dressing, oil, and you name it; you can also put raw coconut in just about anything you want to. (Yes, even coconut “bacon” is on the shelves at health-food stores nearby.)

And since coconut is now everywhere, it’s exciting to see that there are plenty of reasons why it is actually good for you. Recent reports claim that it lowers cholesterol, and helps  heart function and brain development. It also has plentiful topical uses as a moisturizer and antifungal, great for combating yeast, athlete’s foot, and even for whitening teeth.

So what are some of the best ways to get coconut into your diet, without having to purchase a hatchet and woodshed? Start with choosing raw, organic coconut products. These have been the least processed, and will thereby provide you with the most benefit to your health. My favorite tricks are to use coconut oil on popcorn or in brown rice, to melt coconut butter over toast, and to put coconut shreds in my morning smoothie or cereal.

Not a huge fan of the flavor of coconut? You’d be surprised how mild the oil tastes, and how many products on the shelf are now using it to replace less-beneficial oils. Or, you might try frying your bacon in it next time to experience a magically succulent flavor combination

Tropical Summer Salad
Serves 2

2 cups cooked quinoa or brown rice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups raw spinach, chopped
Juice of two limes
1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
1/4 cup coconut shreds
Red pepper flakes, optional

Warm the quinoa or rice over low heat on the stove. Stir in coconut oil. Divide between two bowls, and top each with half of the remaining ingredients. Enjoy!

Hannah Joy Lehman is a Charlotte native, though she learned to cook while broke in Chicago. Her passions include all things eclectic and sustainable, especially vegan fare. Read more by her at TheLavenderLunchbox.com.