The Health Benefits of Coconut
What you Really Ought to Know About the Coconut
Many of us enjoy consuming the occasional coconut. The flesh is delicious and the juice is refreshing and nutritious. Perhaps you have won one at the local fair or purchased one as a treat in the supermarket. Enthusiasts and health specialists will tell you that you are missing a trick if coconut is not a regular feature on your menu. It has so many health-boosting properties that we should all be consuming them on a regular basis.
The Tree of Life
The population in areas where the coconut is indigenous have known this forever, and for hundreds of thousands of people, it is the staple diet. Often called the tree of life (and for good reason), the coconut palm can be found primarily in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Being highly resistant to saline, preferring sandy soil, lots of bright sunlight and using the sea as a means of dispersal, are all good reasons why many tropical beaches are lined with palm trees.
Coconuts are commercially farmed in many countries with the total yield from cultivation being in excess of 60 million tonnes per year. The Philippines top the list of the worlds’ most prolific coconut producers, contributing in excess of 20 million tonnes.
Not only are coconuts healthy and nutritious but they also have many other uses. Coconut oil is used for cooking and in hair and skin care products. The husk of the coconut is encased with very useful fibre that has been adapted for use in ropes, matting and household items such as brushes and mattress stuffing. The leaves are also particularly useful and provide material for making baskets and roof thatching. They can also be burnt and the ash used to harvest lime.
Coconuts, Nutrition and Health
Coconut oil is produced by processing the meat or flesh of the coconut. In the past the oil was much aligned for its high concentration of saturated fats that were thought to be bad for us. Thinking has moved on and studies have demonstrated that the oil contains medium chain triglycerides which, as opposed to the long chain variety found in virtually all other oils, help to lower cholesterol and subsequently, the risk of heart disease. Populations consuming high levels of coconut oil in their diet have demonstrably lower levels of heart disease.
There are also studies which indicate that coconut oil may help in the fight against Alzheimers as it is now becoming clear that a diet low in saturated fats may well be a contributing factor to the cause of it
The water found inside a coconut is sterile up to the point where the husk has been opened. It is also more nutritious and lower in cholesterol than whole milk. The high levels of lauric acid (which is also found in mothers’ milk) have regenerative effects on energy levels as well as boosting the metabolism. The water has started to gain popularity as a high-performance, electrolyte-rich sports drink and because it contains properties that are very similar to plasma, it has even saved lives by being transfused in medical emergencies where blood is not available.
3. Coconut Milk
Not to be confused with the water, coconut milk is obtained by squeezing, grating or juicing fresh coconut flesh. Already used a lot in Indian and Asian cuisine, it is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative milk for those that are lactose intolerant. Nowadays the milk can be bought in cartons from most supermarkets and is great as a healthy option for drinking, on serials, creaming coffee and even in the making of ice creams and yogurts
If mixed 3 parts milk to one part oil, these 2 coconut derivatives become thick, creamy and can be used in many recipes in place of cream. Why not try it for yourself? Here is a recipe I picked up along the way for coconut and ginger ice cream.
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons minced ginger
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dark rum
BRING coconut milk, milk and ginger to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.
BEAT egg yolks and sugar in medium heatproof bowl with wire whisk until fine yellow ribbons form. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk mixture, whisking until well blended. Place bowl over a double boiler. Whisk in remaining coconut milk mixture. Cook until mixture thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Cool completely in refrigerator or place bowl over an ice bath. When cool, strain through a fine sieve. Stir in cream and rum until well blended.
POUR into an ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions.
There are also many free juicer recipes that incorporate coconut as a delicious sweetener to blend with other fruit juices. A little research will certainly produce the quantity and variety of recipes to incorporate this versatile bounty of nature as a staple part of your diet.
There are not many natural products as versatile and beneficial as the coconut. If you are serious about looking after your health and well-being, perhaps it is time for you to consider the coconut as something a little more than a treat that you might win at the county fair.