We’ve gone a little crazy for coconut in our house lately. It happened mostly because of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss frozen dessert (which I’ll get to) – and now this new craving’s run away with itself. It seems every time I’m in Whole Foods, I find a new coconut something-or-other that turns out to be all that I’d hoped, to the point that I will probably devote some upcoming columns to coconut-related items and recipes.
While the health benefits of coconut are controversial and not yet well researched, many health food companies and stores are toting its nutritional factors and incorporating coconut into a variety of products. No doubt that is due to the fact that consumption of coconut (which includes its water, meat, and oil) is now being publicized as having a wide range of advantages, including: providing a quick source of energy; improving digestion and absorption of other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids; reducing inflammation; supporting immune system function; protecting against heart disease; and promoting weight loss through supporting thyroid function, increasing metabolic rate, and being used by the body to produce energy rather than being stored as body fat (www.coconutresearchcenter.org).
Coconut has mainly gotten its less-than-stellar reputation because of this last item – the high amounts of saturated fat in the nutrition facts; however, I interviewed Larry Kaplowitz, co-creator of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss (the frozen dessert I mentioned made almost solely of coconut milk) and asked him about misconceptions of coconut’s fat content. He clarified: “While the oil in coconut is a saturated fat, it’s very different than the cholesterol-rich saturated fats in animal products that have been clearly shown to promote heart disease. Those are long-chain fatty acids. They’re harder for our bodies to break down, so we’re more likely to store them as fat. For years, health experts have lumped all saturated fats together and told us to stay far, far away from them. But coconut is different; it contains medium-chain fatty acids that we can easily break down and use for energy. Studies now suggest that because of this difference, coconut oil can actually reduce the risk of heart disease and raise ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels. There is even evidence that eating coconut can help you lose weight, because the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) actually speed up the pace at which the body burns fuel!”
Now onto the tasty stuff. After I received an email almost two years ago announcing Luna and Larry’s ice cream alternative creation – and after essentially quitting traditional ice cream due to the wear of the lactose on my stomach and the correlation between refined sugar and my headaches – I eagerly awaited its arrival to stores in Sarasota. Since it was unclear when that day would come, I had several pints delivered through Diamond Organics (www.diamondorganics.com). The result was a resounding “Wow!” Most notably, it was the first ice cream alternative that uncompromisingly passed the taste test, which is even more incredible because it is made of guilt-free, all organic ingredients, which include (in the “Naked Coconut” flavor): coconut milk, agave syrup, dried coconut, coconut extract, and Fair Trade vanilla extract. That’s all there is to it – no refined or chemical sweeteners, not even a blood-sugar-spiking natural sweetener.
If you need another reason to try Coconut Bliss, here’s the story behind it. Larry explained: “Luna and I both share a longtime passion for natural foods. We also shared a love for ice cream, but we had both long ago given up dairy. We tried alternatives but weren’t satisfied with any of them, so one day, we picked up a hand-cranked ice cream maker from Goodwill, and Luna suggested we try using coconut milk – and we were excited about using agave syrup because of its low glycemic index. We knew we were onto something special. As time went by and we shared it with our friends, who also loved it, it became apparent to us that we should focus our energy on this.
“We bought a small professional gelato machine and started experimenting at home. When we had a bunch of flavors that we were happy with, we packed them in pints and invited people to a series of tasting parties. They loved it, bought lots, and then we had stores asking for it. We’ve been working hard to keep up with the demand since.”
And lastly, if you’re concerned about your picky children or skeptical diners, don’t be. Our lactose-intolerant friends were thrilled and shocked at its creaminess and amazing flavor (even one who doesn’t love coconut), the three children who taste-tested it begged to be able to eat a pint each, and the ultimate cynic kept repeating “Wow, that’s good.” After such resounding praise, I knew I had to share Coconut Bliss with everyone I know. Do yourself a favor by picking up a pint – or several – and please let me know what you think!
Current flavors include: Naked Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Island, Mint Galactica, Cappuccino, Cherry Amaretto, Strawberry Lemon Love, and Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge. Their three new flavors, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Naked Almond Fudge, and Pineapple Coconut, are due in stores any day! You can find out more about Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss at www.coconutbliss.com.