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The Captivating Coconut

Updated on August 7, 2015

The coconut has been gaining ground in recent years as a beneficial add to your diet. The coconut is not a nut at all. It's actually a drupe, or stone fruit.

Coconut contains a lot of saturated fat but they're not your average saturated fats. These fats are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are metabolized differently in the body. They immediately go to the liver where they are used as energy. Populations that consume a lot of coconut are some of the healthiest in the world. There are three varities of coconut that you can find in most grocery stores these days: water, milk, and oil.

Coconut Water: is the clear liquid in the center of the fruit that is tapped from young, green coconuts.

Coconut Milk: is the liquid that comes from grated coconut meat and is mixed with a small amount of water.

Coconut Oil: is extracted from the meat or kernel. It can be extracted through dry or wet processing. Dry processing involves the meat being extracted from the shell and dried using heat. It is then pressed or dissolved with solvents. Wet processing uses raw coconut and protein in the coconut to created an emulsion of oil and water.

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The water comes from the young, green coconuts.
The water comes from the young, green coconuts.
The water comes from the young, green coconuts.

Coconut Water

Marketers have been calling coconut water "Mother Nature's sports drink" for some time because of its hydrating benefits. It has a sweet, slightly nutty taste and its a digested easily has a carbohydrate.

  • It has more potassium than 4 bananas.
  • It can help with hangovers, kidney stones, and cancer.
  • Contains fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink.
  • A serving of coconut water will give you 14% of your daily magnesium needs.
  • It has cytokinis, which are beneficial compounds that have been shown to slow down the development of cancer cells and the aging process.

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Coconut milk is made from the grated meat of a brown coconut.
Coconut milk is made from the grated meat of a brown coconut.
Coconut milk is made from the grated meat of a brown coconut.

Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk is a popular beverage in the Philippines and the Caribbean with its slightly sweet taste. A great alternative to dairy milk, it's easy to digest, easy to make, and nutritious. You can use it for cooking, smoothies, or just drink it plain.

  • It's an abundant source of vitamins C, E, and B.
  • A rich source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron.
  • Contains selenium that acts as an antioxidant to help reduce free radicals that cause joint inflammation.

If you're going to use the oil, look for virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined kind.
If you're going to use the oil, look for virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined kind.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil contains most of the saturated fat and 120 calories per serving. In addition to saturated fat it also contains linoleic acid, oleic acid, gallic acid, and lauric acid.

  • Lauric acid is converted into monolaurin which is helpful when dealing with herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and h. pylori.
  • The MCTs have been shown to increase energy expenditure by 5%, which can help in terms of weight loss.
  • It helps you feel fuller longer which may be related to the ketone bodies after the oil is metabolized.
  • The fatty acids are converted into ketones which can help in reducing seizures.

Coconut trees in Bali.
Coconut trees in Bali.

Coconut helps your body in other ways besides just eating it. You can it apply it topically to your hair and skin as well.

If dry, frizzy, and damaged hair is a problem then a coconut oil treatment will help with that. Gently heat the oil (if it's in a solid form) and the apply to your hair. You can adjust for time depending on how bad or good your hair is. It's also thought to stimulate growth.

It's also great for dry skin. Either using a product that contains coconut or applying the coconut oil itself to your face will be especially helpful during cold, winter months. But be cautious, coconut oil is comedogenic and may cause you to break out. It really all depends on your skin.

A Word of Caution

While the fat in coconut milk and oil can be used for the good of your body it's important to keep these things in moderation. It is, after all, still fat and getting too much can lead to weight gain.

I use coconut regularly, as it helps with my stomach, but I only average a tablespoon a day. Use a teaspoon, as opposed to a tablespoon, when adding it to things. Remember that 3 teaspons equal 1 tablespoon. Sometimes I'm in the mood for coconut milk instead of the oil, which is what I use the most. Most of the time I'll just stick with the milk and not use any oil or just use 1 teaspoon for that day.


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