Let’s start with coconut in all its forms: fresh, dried, milk, cream and oil but not low-fat varieties and not coconut water for energy, although this is a fantastic drink for balancing electrolytes.
The human body is remarkable in that it is able to burn both sugar and fat to produce energy but consuming too much sugar from carbohydrate foods can promote inflammation and contribute to the onset of chronic disease. On the other hand, the body will burn fat for energy much more cleanly and effectively but it’s important to choose healthy fats, while cutting down on your carbs at the same time.
The majority of fat in coconut is saturated but don’t let that put you off because it is predominantly a particular group of fats known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are rapidly converted to energy that can last for hours and do not get stored as fat. They are anti-inflammatory, have anti-ageing properties, supply the preferred food for the brain and can help raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels. To get started, use only cold-pressed coconut oil for cooking and swap your regular milk to coconut milk - beware though, shop-bought coconut milk often contains less than 7% fat. The best coconut milk I have found is Grace Premium Coconut Milk available in 1 litre cartons (don’t buy the tins) from Amazon. It has no ‘nasties’ added, is 75% coconut and 25% water and pours smoothly like double cream. Put in the fridge to use as cream or dilute with an equal amount of coconut water for a delicious pouring milk.
Avocado is a fruit and I would not usually recommend eating fruit to provide energy because generally fruits are sweet and therefore relatively high in sugar, causing a spike in blood sugar that makes you feel good temporarily until it falls again. However, avocado is an exception; it is rich in monounsaturated fats while being low in sugars (the carbs in avocado are predominantly fibre that can aid bowel function), providing a ‘clean’ source of rapidly produced sustainable energy, just like the coconut. Eating half an avocado with your lunch can help keep blood sugar stable for hours, eliminating those afternoon slumps. But that’s not all - we can view avocado as a superfood because it can help weight loss, reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol while increasing ‘good’; it benefits brain and heart health, and is abundant in vitamin K for bone mineralisation plus vitamins B5, B6, B9, C and E along with lower levels of vitamins B1, 2 and 3, vitamin A, and the essential minerals magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus and manganese.
As I mentioned earlier, the human body can burn both sugar and fat for fuel to provide energy. The key to ‘sugar-burning’ is to choose foods that provide a steady trickle of glucose that keeps blood sugar stable for sustained energy and avoid foods that spike blood sugar. The best source of carbohydrates to achieve this are ALL non-starchy vegetables. Today I’m celebrating kale because it is abundant at this time of year and has many additional health properties. It is a member of the brassica family (cruciferous vegetables) that, if you eat 3 times a week or more are known to significantly improve overall health and can help provide protection against cancer. Kale is anti-inflammatory and very high in flavonoids that are potent antioxidants capable of scavenging the disease-promoting free radicals we regularly produce in the body.
Kale significantly supports your body’s natural detoxification systems to remove harmful substances, preventing them from accumulating; it is rich in calcium and vitamin K for bone health, contains high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, known to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, and beta carotene that will convert to vitamin A along with high levels of vitamin C for immune support over the winter months.
To get all the benefits from kale, try to buy organic and eat some raw, perhaps in salads and smoothies, and some lightly cooked.