Shredded Coconut

Drew’s mom makes the best granola I have ever tried, and I’ve tried quite a few. It never lasts very long when she mails Drew a fresh supply of her homemade granola from Indianapolis. The original recipe does not call for shredded coconut, but Kathleen adds some, and Drew loves that part. He likes adding shredded coconut to foods (even ground beef, which tastes real good). So, I try and always have shredded coconut on hand.

Coconut has lately received a lot of attention for all its health properties. And it does have several. However, it should be noted that not all packages of shredded coconut are processed the same way.

Several (sometimes most) varieties found in grocery stores contain added ingredients, ingredients that many consumers may want to avoid, such as added sweeteners, sulfites, or preservatives. Thankfully, as consumers become more discerning and demanding, healthier versions of shredded coconut are becoming more popular in regular grocery stores – you do not always need to shop at a Whole Foods type market to find these healthier versions of shredded coconut.

For example, the ingredient list for one popular brand, Kraft Bakers ,

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reads as follows: coconut, sugar, water, propylene glycol (preserves freshness), salt, sodium metabisulfite (retains coconut whiteness). And it is advertised as being “The moistest Coconut on the market! It sells for approximately $3.30 for a 14-ounce bag, or $.23 per ounce on Amazon.com

For other brands, such as Bob’s Red Mill,

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the ingredient list reads as follows: Natural, Unsulphured Coconut. It sells for approximately $3.09 for a 12 ounce bag, or $.77 per ounce on Amazon.com.

Now, many may be wondering what is the difference, other than price, between these two options. It all comes down to the ingredients, let’s take a closer look at the conventional brand’s ingredients: coconut, sugar, water, propylene glycol (preserves freshness), salt, sodium metabisulfite (retains coconut whiteness). The coconut in conventional brands may well be very similar to the coconut used in more unprocessed varieties. But the conventional brand also adds sugar, which is most likely conventionally produced and refined sugar (which is typically made white by granular activated carbon [GAC], or ion exchange resin which removes less colour than GAC but also removes some of the inorganics present. The conventional brand also adds propylene glycol, which though it shows a very low acute oral toxicity , and large quantities are required to cause perceptible health damage in humans, it is still an additive that many consumers would rather avoid. The conventional brand also includes salt, which is a generic term to describe one of many different kinds of salt. Most likely, conventional brands of shredded coconut use refined table salt, a form of salt that typically has added anti-caking chemicals, and added iodine. Refined salt is also processed at high temperatures, altering the molecular structure of the salt and removing the beneficial trace minerals. Unrefined salt is approximately 84% sodium chloride and 16% other minerals. Refined salt is approximately 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemical additives. Lastly, the conventional brand of shredded coconut had added sodium metabisulfite, a popular conserving and antioxidizing agent used in food, drugs, and cosmetics, to which a small portion of the population is allergic.

For consumers trying to avoid food additives and excess sugar and salt, alternatives to conventional shredded coconut brands is probably a good idea.

Here is the granola recipe Kathleen shared with me:

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Ingredients
4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup shelled, raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups slivered raw almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups pure Grade A dark amber maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
Kathleen also adds shredded coconut, barley flakes and flax meal as well (and then a bit more oil and maple syrup to help coat the extra dry ingredients)Directions
1) position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees
2) Place oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and cinnamon in large bowl and stir to combine.  Add the maple syrup and oil and stir until dry ingredients are moistened.
3) Spread granola on 12×17 inch rimmed baking sheet.  Bake granola until it begins to brown about 25 minutes, then stir with a spatula.Continue to bake until light golden brown, dry and fragrant- about 15-20 minutes longer.  Stir once more and watch during final minutes because it can burn quickly.
4) Place on a cooling rack and add raisins- stir to combine.  Let cool completely and transfer to airtight container.  Can be stored at room temperature for 1 month or frozen for 6 months.
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