Nuts for Coconut!

by Nutrition

Nuts for Coconut!

If you’ve done any research into health in the last 20 years or so, it seems like coconut is everywhere. Cocos nucifera, commonly known as the coconut palm, grows throughout tropic regions around the Earth. It prefers areas with sandy soil, lots of fresh water, humidity, and an ambient air temperature of around 80 or more degrees Fahrenheit. The word ‘coconut’ typically refers to the seed or fruit of the palm. Most people may not realize there are two main types of coconut palms. A harder-to-grow dwarf palm is commonly used for the food industry and a tall palm is used for many applications including building.

The palm itself is referred to by several cultures as a life-giving plant due to its cultural significance and diversity of uses. In South Pacific island cultures and India, it has a place in social and religious ceremonies including death rituals and marriages. Its nicknames include “tree of life,” “tree of abundance,” and “tree of heaven” by the people who depend on it. There are around eighty-three functional uses of coconut palms including wood to make beds, buildings, small toys and boxes, utensils, musical instruments, brushes, cricket bats, etc. Coconut produces five different types of food products including coconut water, coconut milk, sugar, oil, and meat. Coconut water is sterile and best harvested from young coconuts. Coconut sugar is made from boiled-down coconut water.

Additionally they have been used as medicine since ancient times. Traditionally, it was used as a folk remedy for a variety of conditions including alopecia, amenorrhea, asthma, bronchitis, bruises, gastrointestinal conditions (constipation, stomach ache, etc), and skin conditions such as rashes and wounds. In more recent times, during World War II, it was used directly for blood transfusions when plasma supplies were low. In modern times, research is ongoing on the benefits of coconut. Most research studies are very small, so more information will come out as studies continue. Evidence suggests it may be beneficial for those with cardiovascular disease. One paper found it significantly increased HDL with this increase being more significant in women. Another study looked at oil pulling for dental health. Researchers found it was comparable to Chlorhexidine when using 10 mL of coconut oil for 10 minutes. The oil is to be swished for 10 minutes and then spit out in the trash according to the study.

There are many different ways to use and consume it. The water is loaded with B vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This can be purchased in cans or cartons at your local store. It can be used in cooking as oil or milk which are loaded with short- and medium-chain fatty acids. The sugar can be used instead of cane or beet sugar. Generally, this sugar is considered healthier and can be used 1:1 instead of other sugars. The sugar contains more minerals than brown sugar. Overall, it can be easy to integrate this nutrient-dense food into your diet to gain some tropical health benefits!

References

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