Raw Young Coconuts and Coconut Milk Products, and Eating Out (December 21, 2009)

Q: Jesse writes, “I love the white coconuts from Whole Foods to drink and to eat even in the winter. How do they combine? And can I drink the boxed coconut water and eat the coconut ice cream?”

A: Coconuts are delicious. It’s important to distinguish between mature coconuts and young coconuts when figuring out how to combine them. And packaged coconut products should be used very sparingly.

Raw young coconuts, that come with the green shell removed and look white and woody in the market or at the health food store are different from the smaller brown and hairy coconuts in the produce department. Raw young coconut meat combines as a starch, or with dried fruit and raw nuts and seeds. It is very versatile in recipes, adding an extra layer of flavor to Thai-inspired raw soups, or blended salads, for example. And it is wonderful eaten alone right out of the shell with just a spoon.

Raw young coconut water can be enjoyed anytime as a refreshing drink, but I’d like to add a couple words of caution. First, organic is important as the shell removal process in the non-organic coconuts uses harsh chemicals. Second, for those women and men still dealing with systemic yeast issues go easy on the coconut water. Although it shouldn’t be an issue, you will notice that drinking the water alone will sometimes awaken cravings or create bloating that lets you know your yeast is being fed (ever so slightly). This is certainly not the worst you can do, and raw young coconut water still works well with the Detox4Women approach, but proceed with caution and awareness. The bottled coconut water can be used sparingly in recipes with no issues, but remember that we’re trying to eat closer to nature and steer away from packages, fads, and gimmicks. Go for the real thing if you can.

Mature coconuts (the small, brown, hairy type) combine as a dried fruit, in the Nuts/Seeds/Dried Fruit category. Mature coconut is what is used as coconut flakes, in raw treats like rolled date bars, and in the coconut ice cream products. It is not ideal for a transitioning woman, but can be used sparingly (even after a starch-based dinner if the transitioner is new to the lifestyle and waits some time after the meal). Eat only a small quantity, and if the result is gas or bloating you have your answer; the dried fruits are not working yet because the yeasts are still too strong. I would have someone new to the lifestyle whose body has not become so picky about food combining try mature coconut (or as a great treat for kids!). Or someone so clean that he or she can enjoy some raw dried fruit on occasion with no negative effects. But always keep in mind that the products (like ice creams) have additives like guar gum and sometimes even grain flours so this should be enjoyed very seldom.

Q: Kim asks, “I’m always worried about eating out. I want to be social, but we don’t have any raw restaurants here. Any advice?”

A: It’s funny, but my favorite places to eat out are not raw restaurants at all, even though we have plenty here in New York. I find I can order off of almost any menu, as long as the waiter or waitress is patient (and I ask very sweetly). Here are my top three tips:

1.    The Sides.  Never ignore the side options on a menu! They have steamed broccoli rabe, sautéed spinach with garlic (just ask for butter, not oil), tossed side salads, and sweet potatoes on many menus. These can fill out your meal to make it satisfying and delicious.

2.    The Sauces. Diijon mustard, marinara sauce, BBQ sauce, and carrot-ginger dressing are great additions to add flavor to your order.

3.    The Purse. I always bring my arsenal of lemon, stevia, and dark chocolate to make sure I love my meal.

At an Italian restaurant you can order a double side salad with goat cheese if it’s available, and cover it with lemon and stevia. Follow with a steamed fish, or a spread of steamed veggie sides with marinara dipping sauce. At a steak house the same applies, and a small side of BBQ sauce will add to the meal (you can get away with the slight sugar content if it’s in the company of enough raw veggies and used sparingly). Houston’s in NYC makes an amazing steamed cauliflower plate if you just ask. Diners have double side salads, omelets, and often goat cheese as well. And they always have great sides, I’ve even found one with baked sweet potato fries (and avocado and salsa for the salad). Sushi is a breeze. I order a double salad with a seaweed salad to dump on top. I follow with sashimi and shaved radish (a garnish to other diners).

The trick is just to get your server on board by explaining that you want a giant salad followed by steamed veggies. And to read the menu carefully. Look at the ingredients included in the dishes to know what’s available in the kitchen. And you won’t be the difficult diner, I promise. Asking, “Can I please have two tossed salads followed by a side of steamed broccoli, a side of spinach, goat cheese, and a small bowl of marinara sauce?” Is very different from demanding that your steak be cooked to perfection. I look at it as doing my part to gently nudge dining establishments in the right direction!