Surprising Superfoods - Coconuts

In Sanskrit the coconut palm tree is known as kalpa vriksha, which means ‘the tree that supplies all that is needed to live’. A pretty good recommendation for this superfood! No matter where you are or how much you’ve mistreated your body, fresh young coconut flesh, coconut water, coconut cream and coconut oil can always be beneficial to your health

Coconuts are a healing food

Coconuts, which are actually seeds, have been considered a healing food and have been a staple food of Asian, Indian and Polynesian cultures for centuries. Yet scientists are only just now discovering why they are so potent as super foods

Coconuts are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytochemicals and healthy fats although there is some controversy about the fats.  The beauty industry is adding coconut oil, milk and water to just about every beauty product you can think of because they are so nourishing,  moisturizing and have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties

Celebrities are using coconut oil to aid weight loss as it can boost metabolism and athletes are using it for instant energy as it is digested quickly

Due to its array of health benefits, coconuts have been used to treat a wide variety of health ailments, some of which include: abscesses, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, fever, flu, gingivitis, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, malnutrition, nausea, dehydration, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, and ulcers

Coconuts contain healthy fats

The fats that coconuts contain are known as short chain and medium chain fatty acids. Several studies have shown that these fatty acids are three times more effective at increasing metabolism than long-chain fatty acids ( found in vegetable and most seed oils) so can burn off stored fat. Studies have concluded that coconut oil can help reduce abdominal obesity in people who cook with it regularly

The fear of coconut oil increasing cholesterol came from a study where animals were fed only hydrogenated coconut oil. However, many other studies on populations who regularly eat coconut oil found that it doesn’t lead to high cholesterol nor to heart disease

Coconut water

As a newly hyped craze, coconut water is being marketed as the ultimate electrolyte replenisher or ‘nature’s sports drink’, as it’s not only low in calories, but also a source of electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium.  In fact, 8 ounces of coconut water contains more potassium than a banana and almost 15 times the potassium content of sports drinks.  This essential electrolyte is important in regulating nerve transmission and muscle activity, and has been shown to lower risk for high blood pressure and maintain acid-base balance within the body

When engaged in strenuous exercise, you lose more sodium than potassium through sweat. It’s wise to add a pinch of unrefined sea salt to the coconut water in order to make it an ideal choice for replenishing after a hard workout

In addition to being rich in electrolytes, coconut water also helps to boost immunity due to its content of monolaurins which are antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial. Interestingly, coconut water is similar in composition to human blood plasma and has been used as an IV replacement for rehydration during wartime.  Young coconuts are higher in electrolytes, fructose, and glucose, whereas the water of mature coconuts contain more sugar in the form of sucrose, not to mention the beneficial coconut jelly from which coconut oil is derived

Coconut water can be bought at most health stores and increasingly, at supermarkets. You should always buy it in a cardboard container rather than aluminium - aluminium is toxic in high amounts and can leach into the coconut water

Coconut meat

Although coconut meat can be difficult to remove from  its hard shell, it is often sold in grocery stores with the shell removed and  can be eaten plain or shredded onto salads and other  dishes

One cup of raw coconut meat contains 283 calories, most  of which come from its 26.8 g of fat. While most plant foods contain very little  saturated fat, coconut meat contains a large amount, with 23.8 g per cup

Coconut meat is high in fibre, with one cup containing  7.2 g, which is more than 20 percent of the recommended daily amount for most adults. Fibre assists in the digestion process by adding bulk to the stool,  which helps to move food through your digestive tract. Fibre can also help you  feel full, which is important if you are trying to eat less to lose fat

Coconut meat is high in the trace mineral manganese,  with one cup providing 67 percent of the recommended daily amount for women and  52 percent for men. Manganese helps you metabolise both fat and protein. It also  supports both the immune and nervous systems and promotes stable blood sugar  levels. Manganese also helps your body use other nutrients such as iron,  thiamine and vitamin E

Coconut meat provides a significant amount of two other  minerals: potassium and copper. One cup provides 14 percent of the recommended  amount of potassium and 39 percent of copper. Potassium, along with sodium, is  essential for proper fluid balance within your cells. It is also necessary for  proper heart function and muscle growth.  Copper is important for the production  of red blood cells and assists with your sense of taste

Coconut Oil/Butter and Cream

Coconut oil is made by pressing the meat of the coconut to remove the fibre. This fat is solid at room temperature and therefore can be safely heated at high temperatures. Surprisingly, coconut oil doesn’t have a strong taste making it a very versatile oil. Coconut oil and cream are medium chain fatty acids (triglyceride), which require minimum effort to digest and are easily converted to energy

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is made from pulped coconut meat and water with coconut cream has a higher meat to water ratio. As such, they have all the health benefits of oil and meat, particularly as half the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut milk are composed of lauric acid,  which is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. Coconut  milk can help boost the immune system. Coconut milk is a dairy-free alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or  allergic to animal milk. This vegan drink is also soy-free, gluten-free and  nut-free

Green coconuts – Nature’s perfect food

We’re more used to seeing mature brown coconuts in our supermarkets but the young green ones are the best ones to get as far as nutrition goes if you can find them. When looking for coconuts to purchase try and buy young Thai coconuts - they’re flat on one side, cylindrical and have a cone-shaped top. The brown and hairy coconuts are mature and still have health benefits but there is often not much coconut water in them and their flesh/meat is not as tender

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April 05, 2012

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