Coconut is the Paleo enthusiast’s best friend (or at least one of them). Unlike most tree nuts, coconut does not contain omega six fatty acids. Instead, coconut is rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), a very special “short”-chain saturated fat (unlike the longer saturated fatty acids typically found in animal fat). MCTs do not require bile salts for digestion. They diffuse passively from the intestines into the blood and do not require modification before being used as energy for your cells. They are metabolized very easily and, because they are a fat and not a sugar, they can be used by your cells for energy without a spike in your insulin. Also, because MCTs are a saturated fat, they do not oxidize easily or produce free-radicals. Coconut oil is very stable and will keep at room temperature for very long periods of time.
Coconut is also a rich source of manganese, a mineral necessary for enzymes that work to protect the body from and repair damage caused by free radicals. Copper, iron and selenium are also found in good quantities in coconut, as are calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc to a lesser degree. Coconut is a fairly good source of many B-vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and pantothenic acid. Coconut is also a source of vitamins C and E, phytosterols, and fiber.
Coconut has long been recognized for its ability to boost the immune system, and act as an antibiotic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial (basically small things that might make you sick don’t like coconut). It is even believed that a few times daily dose of coconut is one of the best things you can do to restore healthy gut flora (I don’t think there are any studies proving this though). It should be noted though that coconut does contain some phytic acid (although much, much lower than most tree nuts), which can be a problem for some people struggling with auto-immune issues.
Best of all, coconut is versatile. I have no less than 7 different coconut products in my home at all times. For cooking and baking, extra virgin coconut oil (which has a delightful coconut flavor) and naturally refined coconut oil (which has very little coconut flavor) are essential! I bake with unsweetened shredded coconut fairly frequently as well as unsweetened coconut flakes. Actually, coconut flakes are one of my Go To snacks (there is such a thing as the coconut intermittent fast in paleo circles where you skip a meal but eat some coconut or coconut oil to help lose weight and increases insulin sensitivity). Coconut Milk and Creamed Coconut (which can sometimes be used interchangeably) are wonderful for soups, curries, smoothies, custards and paleo baking of many varieties. And finally, coconut flour (which is mostly fiber) is a very useful tool for paleo baking and thickening sauces and is a staple for every paleo kitchen.