THE MANY HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUTS

By MARY LUCIANO

Coconuts have slowly become a very hot and versatile food commodity. They are being used in everything from our daily cuisine to our beauty regimens. Not too long ago, the coconut had a bad reputation as being an artery clogging, cholesterol packed food that contributed to heart disease. Today however, the coconut is making a huge comeback as the new “miracle food.” Coconuts are highly nutritious, rich in fibre and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. From culinary creations to magic beauty potions, coconuts pack a good punch.  What is it about this exotic food that continues to tantalise and intimidate us at the same time? Together, let’s explore the amazing health benefits of coconuts and what they have to offer.

COCONUT FLESH & WATER

Fresh coconuts can be either young or mature. The mature coconut is most recognisable to many with its brown hair. Young coconuts differ as they either have a green shell or a white husk (where the green shell has been removed).  These are typically Asian coconuts. Young coconuts contain more water and soft, gel-like meat whereas mature coconuts have firm meat and less water.

    Young coconuts are the most health enhancing of the two. The water in the young coconut contains one of the highest sources of electrolytes. Electrolytes are responsible for keeping the body properly hydrated so the muscles and nerves can function appropriately. Therefore, it is most beneficial to drink the water from a young coconut after an intense workout. Coconut water is also low in calories, carbohydrate, sugars and is almost completely fat-free. In addition, it is high in ascorbic acid, B vitamins and protein. Furthermore, the soft meat or “flesh” inside the coconut helps to restore oxidative tissue damage and contains a source of healthy fats, protein and various vitamins and minerals.

COCONUT OIL

Despite its natural healing wonders, a lot of people are still confused as to whether or not coconut oil is good for our health because of its high content of saturated fats. Hydrogenated coconut oil is not to be mistaken with pure cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil.  Pure coconut oil is derived from the mature coconuts which contain a harder flesh. The white flesh is shredded, collected and then cold pressed at 32 - 38 degrees Celsius.  Unprocessed, unrefined virgin coconut oil is not hydrogenated and is a safe choice for consumption.Although coconut oil is a saturated fat it is unlike the high calorie, cholesterol-soaked, long chain saturated fats.  It is rich in a medium-chain fatty acid that can actually help boost metabolism and aid in fat loss. It is metabolised quickly and instead of fat sticking to your belly, it gets burned off as energy. It also helps detoxify our body and balances our digestive tract.

HOW TO USE COCONUT OIL

One of the better known uses for coconut oil is for cooking foods. Coconut oil is one of the most stable oils when cooking with high heat and does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperatures like other vegetable oils do. In addition, it can be used as a spread, for baking and for making delicious raw, vegan desserts. To add to its impressive list of benefits, coconut oil can also be used topically on your skin and hair. Instead of bathing your skin with synthetic toxic lotions and creams, coconut oil can be used to nourish and moisturize our skin, scalp and hair. Coconut oil has been used in both food and medicine for many centuries.

IN THE KITCHEN WITH COCONUTS

The benefits and use of the coconut continues to impress, especially in the kitchen with creative culinary delights. Due to its health advantages and natural low glycemic index rating, coconuts have replaced cream, butter, refined sugar and flour. As a result, many coconut products have replaced some of our common every day ingredients for healthier, delicious recipes. Let’s take a look…

COCONUT FLOUR

Coconut flour is simply dried, ground up coconut meat. Coconut flour is gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, high in fibre and ideal for baking.

COCONUT MILK & CREAM

Coconut milk is made by mixing shredded, fresh coconut meat with water, then squeezing it through a sieve or cheesecloth. The thick, creamy liquid that comes out is coconut milk and can be used for Thai curries and stews. Coconut cream on the other hand, is basically coconut milk without all the water. It is thicker and pastier. If you

want to make a thicker coconut curry, without all the added liquid, use coconut

cream in place of milk.

COCONUT SUGAR

Coconut sugar is derived from the coconut sap, the sweet juice that is extracted when the budding flower is just about to grow. This process offers a delicious sweet taste similar to brown sugar with a hint of caramel. Coconut sugar contains added vitamins, minerals and amino acids that refined sugar does not offer. Try using coconut sugar as you would commonly use other sugars and sweeteners as coconut sugar is considered a low glycemic food and is diabetic friendly.

   The wonders of the coconut never cease to amaze. Coconuts can add flavour, variety and healthy nutrients to our diet. Fans of coconuts rave about the health and beauty powers that range from consuming coconuts both externally and internally. Finally, the coconut is getting the respect it deserves.

10 HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUTS

These are just some of the health benefits you can reap from coconuts.

1.   Supports immune system health, it is anti-viral, anti-bacterial,

      anti-fungal and anti-parasitic.

 

2.   Provides a natural source of quick energy and enhances physical

      and athletic performance.

 

3.   Improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

 

4.   Improves insulin secretion and symptoms associated with diabetes.

 

5.   Helps protect the body from cancers due to insulin reduction and the

      removal of free radicals that cause premature aging and degenerative disease.

 

6.   Improves good cholesterol (HDL) and heart health.

 

7.   Restores and supports thyroid function.

 

8.   Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infection.

 

9.   Promotes weight loss.

 

10. Helps keep hair shiny and skin youthful looking by preventing wrinkles,

      sagging skin and age spots while providing sun protection.

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