The holiday season might be upon us but it does not mean we need to slide down the slippery slope of having a cocktail after a long day on the beach.

So look beyond the Pina Colada and find a fruit that is fantastically nutritious, and very versatile? Look no further than the coconut. Hard and hairy and difficult to get into, the coconut is worth more than being knocked off a stand at the fair!

There’s a good reason that coconut is a huge part of the diet of people across the world, and it’s not just the fact that it’s tasty (although that’s probably a factor too).

Do you know your way around a coconut? Think the liquid inside is coconut milk? Think again – it’s actually the coconut water, and it’s incredibly refreshing and filled with electrolytes, minerals and enzymes that help digestion. Great news!

The white fleshy part – that’s the coconut meat and you can eat it raw or cooked into main dishes and desserts. Shredded or toasted, it’s delicious and a fantastic source of healthy fats as well as protein, vitamins, minerals and the important saturated fatty acid lauric acid (which increases good HDL cholesterol levels).

Coconut and curry are a classic combination, and ginger, chilli and lemongrass are all flavours that pair really, really well.

For desserts, carrot cakes benefit from a hint of shredded coconut for a “secret ingredient” flavour that adds a little something. Pineapple is another flavour that’s a match made in heaven. And don’t forget to “put the lime in the coconut” – it’s a classic for a reason!

So coconut milk… Yes, we’ve moved on from the water and the flesh, but there’s still more to this versatile ingredient. The milk is made by extracting the juice from the coconut flesh, and it’s a delicious addition to many Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai recipes.

Is that it? No, we’re still going! You can also get coconut oil, which is highly resistant to oxidation at high heats. Now, cooking in oil is rarely ideal – but if you are using oil for cooking then coconut is a great choice. It’s also used for skin and hair care, but that’s a little out of my area!

If that hasn’t convinced you to look beyond a Pina Colada then I do not know what will!

Fiona Stephen is a nutritional therapist based in Barnet, North London. Find out about the nutritional therapy packages available or contact Fiona Stephen Nutrition to discuss your requirements.