Coconuts have slowly become a very hot and versatile food commodity, and are being used in everything from our daily cuisine to our beauty regimens. Not too long ago coconuts 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 fiber, 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 tantalize and intimidate us at the same time? Let’s explore more of the amazing health benefits of coconuts and what they have to offer.
Fresh coconuts can be either young or mature. Young coconuts either have a green shell or a white husk (where the green shell has been removed). These are typically Asian coconuts. There is also the more familiar brown-haired variety which is the more mature coconut. 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 is 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 more beneficial to drink the water from a young coconut after an intense workout rather than the commercial sports drinks we see advertised.
Coconut water is also low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugars, and almost completely fat-free. In addition, it is high in ascorbic acid, B vitamins, and proteins. Furthermore, the soft meat, or flesh, inside the coconut helps to restore oxidative tissue damage and contains a source of healthy fats, proteins, and various vitamins and minerals.
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. However, do not mistake hydrogenated coconut oil 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 90–100 degrees Fahrenheit. 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 metabolized quickly and instead of fat sticking to your belly, it gets burned off as energy. It also helps detoxify your body and balances your digestive tract.
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 the 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 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 as both food and medicine for many centuries.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Coconuts
- Supports immune system health: it is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasite
- Provides a natural source of quick energy and enhances physical and athletic performance
- Improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
- Improves insulin secretion and symptoms associated with diabetes
- Helps protect the body from cancers due to insulin reduction, removal of free radicals that cause premature aging and degenerative disease
- Reduces risk of heart health and improves good cholesterol (HDL)
- Restores and supports thyroid function
- Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infection
- Promotes weight loss
- Helps keep hair and skin healthy and youthful looking, prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, age spots, and provides sun protection
In the Kitchen with Coconuts
The benefits and uses of coconuts continue 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 and butter and refined sugar and flour. The health benefits of coconuts have allowed more and more products that enable a broader use for coconuts to surface. Here is a list of coconut products that have replaced some of our common, everyday ingredients for healthier, delicious recipes.
Coconut flour is simply dried, ground up coconut meat. Coconut flour is gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, 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 is derived from the coconut sap, the sweet juice 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, with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Coconut sugar is considered a low glycemic food and is diabetic friendly. Use coconut sugar as you would commonly use other sugars and sweeteners.
The wonders of coconuts never cease to amaze. They can add flavor, variety, and healthy nutrients to our diet. Fans of coconuts these days are raving about the health and beauty powers that range from consuming coconuts both externally and internally, and coconut is finally getting the respect it deserves.