2: COCONUT-RITION

Jimmy Buffett isn't the only one who considers the coconut inspirational. In researching coconuts, I found benefit after benefit after benefit, and no one knew about this stuff, said Bruce Fife, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based naturopath. He founded the Coconut Research Center about six years ago, after listening to progressive nutritionists discuss the healthfulness of the nut's saturated fat. Six

Jimmy Buffett isn't the only one who considers the coconut inspirational.

“In researching coconuts, I found benefit after benefit after benefit, and no one knew about this stuff,” said Bruce Fife, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based naturopath. He founded the Coconut Research Center about six years ago, after listening to progressive nutritionists discuss the healthfulness of the nut's saturated fat.

Six books later, Fife — Dr. Coconut to his readers — says that each coconut derivitive attracts a different set of consumers. The oil is a good source of lauric acid, which has long been used as an antimicrobial agent; the juice or water is a natural isotonic beverage popular with the gym crowd.

“Coconut products are coming into the mainstream. Wal-Mart is now selling coconut oil,” Fife said.

But there's a trend within this trend that should interest mainstream retailers looking to get ahead of the curve: coconut flour. Sales of the versatile, wheat-free powder are increasing as people suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease look for alternative ingredients to cook with.

“Coconut flour is 61% fiber and about 10% digestible carbohydrate,” Fife noted. “Although it doesn't have any gluten, it contains 12% protein, which is about as much as whole wheat flour.”

Although it's made with dehydrated, defatted and pulverized coconut meat, the resulting flour is mild in taste and has the look and feel of everyday wheat flour.