When most people think of coconuts, they either think of tropical drinks or deserted islands. But coconuts have a number of health benefits that are placing them on the health foods radar.
The Latin name for the coconut is cocos nacifera. The early Spanish explorers who discovered the tree called it "coco" which means "monkey face" because the indentations on the hairy coconuts resemble the face of a monkey. However, despite its name, coconuts are not actually nuts, so they are safe for people with nut allergies.
Nearly every part of the coconut is consumable in some capacity. The meat, juice, milk and oil are staples of many diets and healing practices around the world, particularly in Asia and the Pacific islands. Coconut is high in fiber and has many vitamins and minerals. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides benefits beyond mere nutrition. Because of this, the coconut tree is often called "The Tree of Life".
Coconuts as Food
Coconut is a staple of many diets around the world, particularly those from South America, Asia and the Pacific islands. The meat is used in a variety of dishes from stir-fry to deserts. While most people think of coconut as a sweet food, and indeed it does have some natural sweetness, it is often used in savory, and even spicy dishes throughout places like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Hawaii, Guam and many others.
As a food, coconut contains fiber, which helps people feel fuller longer. Because of this, the coconut is being praised for its weight loss properties, though this is still up for debate. Coconut also contains omega-6 fatty acids, as well as phytosterols, many different minerals and vitamins.
Not only is the meat edible, but the liquid, oil and milk are as well. Coconut water, the liquid that sloshes around inside of the coconut when it's shaken, has been referred to as a natural sports drink. It is loaded with electrolytes and people often report perking up after drinking it. It has a slightly sweet taste and interestingly, it is completely sterile, because the water that makes up the liquid inside is filtered by the shell naturally. In certain parts of the world where medical resources are limited, coconuts have been successfully used for intravenous hydration.
Coconut milk is a product derived from soaking the coconut meat and squeezing the mixture of coconut water and oil from the meat. It can be substituted in any recipe that calls for milk. It can even be used on cereal or in coffee in the morning.
Coconut oil is often used as a cooking oil. It can be used as other cooking oils are, and has a fairly high smoking point so it is often used in high heat applications, such as stir frying.
Points to remember:
- Rich in vitamins and minerals
- High in fiber, so it's filling
- Loaded with electrolytes
Coconuts as Medicine
Coconuts are rich in a substance called lauric acid, in addition to all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients discussed above. This acid converts to a substance called monolaurin, which is added to baby formula, medical dietary supplements and IV solutions for its antibacterial properties as well as its caloric value. It is also found in human breast milk.
Coconut has been found to have a number of antiviral, antibiotic and antiviral properties. There has been some promising research done that shows that coconut oil even has an effect on the HIV/AIDS virus, prompting researchers to seriously examine coconut as the basis for a treatment and cure.
The recommended serving size of coconut for medicinal purposes is seven ounces of raw coconut, and 3.5 tablespoons (10 ounces) of coconut milk. This provides 24 grams of lauric acid. It is also about 764 calories, which makes it great for those who are looking for a healthy means to gain weight.
- Coconuts are rich in lauric acid, a substance found in breast milk.
- Coconuts are highly caloric, making them great for those underweight.
- Coconuts have many promising medicinal uses.
The Fat Flap Debunked
It is true that coconuts are high in saturated fat, and while it's well known that saturated fat is bad, more and more research is showing how the benefits of coconut oil, where the saturated fat comes from, and lauric acid. Experts and nutritionists alike are claiming that, in moderation, coconuts are not harmful.
So by enjoying coconuts in moderation, people can feel good about all the wonderful things they are doing for their body.