Coconut: Buyer Beware.

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Today, friends, I bring you a very special episode of Scoffing at Dumb Things. I’ve covered Things that Don’t Exist, I’ve had Fun at the Greengrocer, and I’ve even had a Supermarket Comedy Hour – all executed with my tongue jammed unwaveringly into my cheeky cheek; but today I want to talk about something quite serious. Something insane, in fact. You might even call it completely coco-nuts.

In doing “Kitchen Audits” in my Nutritional Therapy practice, I often see folks who have purchased coconut products to replace their dairy (or non-dairy). It’s a well-intentioned attempt to be healthier using one of the most popular health foods out there – coconut. Coconut is ABSOLUTELY a health food (not to mention an increasingly “politically correct” fat source).

Any time a NEW craze begins – particularly with a whole, healthy food like coconut, the adulterations begin. Case in point:

Polysorbate 80? Propylene Glycol Alginate? These are ingredients you wouldn’t find under my kitchen sink, let alone in my digestive system. Anything industrially useful is likely digestively feckless. (Yeah, I said feckless. What’s it to ya?)

Where the above “cream of coconut” is a total junk-bomb of inexcusable crap, the So Delicious coconut creamer is a junk-rubber-band-snap of unnecessary crud.

Screenshot from So Delicious website.

Here’s my point: our food system is totally industrialized. Even so-called “Health Foods” are generated with a profit-first mentality. It’s buyer beware, whether we’re talking white bread, candy bars or dairy-free coconut-based creamer for your organic, ethically-sourced espresso roast.

So what’s the solution? Read labels. Or, better yet, make your own coconut milk! It couldn’t be easier. Get some dried, unsweetened coconut, put a scoop in the blender, cover with hot water, blend and strain. Or make it slightly more difficult and start with a whole coconut, as I did in this old-school post. If you want coconut cream, there are plenty of brands that’ll satisfy: Artisana and Tropical Traditions come to mind.

Other coconut tips?

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  1. We discovered that the other day and were absolutely horrified at the ingredients that were put into what sohuld be 100% coconut!

    We have settled with using Thai Kitchen Premium Coconut Milk (not regular or light) since it only has coconut milk, water and guar gum. Still not perfect but I can at least pronounce all three ingredients…

    • I do like Thai Kitchen as well, but I have never seen their Premium kind! I’m intrigued. I’ve been told that Native Forest is packaged in BPA-free cans…But honestly, you just never know what claims actually hold water! It’s a bit scary how much we’ve all been separated from what was once a basic skill – creating (not buying, but CREATING – as in, raising and growing) our own food!

  2. Thanks for posting this. My family is certainly a culprit of purchasing things they think they’ve heard me talk about, only to have me show them why it’s still not great! I hate that some things have to be so complicated, but that’s just the food industry attempting (and succeeding) to trick people into buying cheaper products!

    • Don’t you hate telling someone who is so excited about a new choice that they may have missed the mark? I feel like such a jerk. One thing I’ve learned as I do research for my book is that we have virtually NO historical precedent for the economy, industry, & moneyed interests behind our food system. What we consider “normal” is basically an experiment! It’s so crazy. Food is an industry – this was NOT the case a mere century ago!

  3. What do you think of xanthan gum? All of the brands I have seen at least have that ingredient…

    • Generally I’d say it’s not the biggest deal, though I’ve been told there ARE people sensitive to legume-based gums like guar, xanthan, locust bean…Also, I’ve been told there might be some GMO concerns. Just another reason to make your own I suppose – although be assured I have some Native Forest coconut milk in my pantry for eventualities :)

  4. I used to buy the So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk until every store in my area it seems stopped carrying it. Once I read the ingredients I was glad for it. I make my own sometimes from Let’s Do Organic unsweetened shredded coconut, but not nearly as often as I would like to. From boiling the water to blending it to straining it with cheesecloth and cleaning up the inevitable mess it always feels like more work than it is worth for a glass or two.

  5. Liz you are right, now brands are just thinking on making money from us without taking care if this is bad for us or not.

    And by the way this type of products will never ever taste the same as a real coconut milk, im very sure that the brand owner had never tasted his own product.

  6. My favorite is Natural Value full fat coconut milk. Only coconut and water, and they have recently converted to BPA-free cans, too. I tried making coconut milk from coconut meat – wow – that was a long and hard process. I could barely get the shell away from the meat, had to get my husband and son to work on it for me. LOL. When we do things completely from scratch it really brings to light the work involved. We have raised our own meat in the past (all the way to butchering and processing the meat ourselves) and it is really a lot of work.

    • This is great to hear, because I’ve not found a BPA-free can that’s also only coconut and water! I’ll look for that. Yes, it’s a process to separate the husk from the meat – a good shortcut is taking coconut flakes and putting them in a blender with hot water and straining that.

      Wow, you’ve raised, butchered and processed your own meat?! That’s amazing. Really an experience I’d like to have one day. I know it can’t be easy.

      Thanks for reading Starlene!

  7. eema.gray says:

    Anybody who lives in a decent size city should check out local asian foods stores for my all time favorite coconut product of all: Frozen coconut milk in 16 oz packs that consist entirely of coconut solids and water. They do not have the emulsified texture of coconut milks “enhanced” with xanthan gum, guar gum, etc but they do have the authentic taste and texture without the work of making it yourself.

  8. I live in a pretty small town, but we have had so much immigration in the last few years that at least 6 Asian groceries have opened. One is on my way to and from work. Think I will check them out for coconut products.

  9. Wal-mart carries Golden Star coconut milk and it’s just coconut! No guar gum! I like it better than Thai Kitchen and it’s $1 less.

  10. great article.. sometimes we have to be reminded.

    how long before you have to toss the homemade coconut milk [shredded or fresh]?

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