Is Coconut Good for You? The Truth about Using Coconut for Lifetime:
In tropical countries, coconut is extensively used in their daily diet. They use coconut oil, coconut meat, coconut milk, tender coconut water etc on regular basis. They believe coconut tree has some connection to god, maybe, due to its multiple uses for medicinal and culinary purposes. I also belong to such an area where we use coconut for making most varieties of food. We should note here that they consumed coconut by including it with fresh vegetables and fruits or with any other cereals. If we see the lifespan of those who consumed each and every product of coconut throughout the lifetime, they lived a healthy life, most of them living over 75 to 80 years.
What I mean to say is, though we consider coconut as a healthy food, It should be consumed as an ingredient to cook fresh vegetables and fruits or to make any other nutrient rich foods, to get the maximum benefit. Consuming the sole coconut product on a regular basis may not give positive health benefits. Eat it moderately to boost immunity and good health.
Popular Coconut products and their Importance as Food and Medicine:
1. Coconut water:
If you break a mature coconut, you get coconut water. This water is normally sweet in taste. But, we refer tender coconut water as coconut water. People drink tender coconut water often especially during summer days. Tender coconut is used mainly for the purpose of its nutritious water whereas the water inside the mature coconut is used only when the coconut is broken for collecting the coconut meat. Mature coconut water is not as healthy as the tender coconut water.
Tender coconut water:
Tender coconut water is a pure nutritious beverage in a natural state. It is a rich source of electrolytes, minerals, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, amino acids, and other nutrients. This makes this water a popular sports drink. According to Sports Science Institute(USA), sports drinks that contain below 5% carbohydrates are considered to provide maximum benefits while those exceeding 10% carbohydrate content like most of the soft drinks are considered to cause nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
Isotonic and bacteriologically sterile properties of fresh coconut water direct from the nut was considered suitable as a plasma replacement by military forces in the Asian Theatre of Combat in World war 2.
Coconut water is sweet in taste having a caloric value of 17.4 per 100gm. It is known to increase semen, promoting digestion and clearing the urinary path as per Ayurveda on tender coconut water.
Tender coconut water is the best product of coconut plant. It is extensively used for the following medicinal properties:
1. It contains compounds that provide growth promotion.
2. Best oral rehydration medium.
3. Kills intestinal worms.
4. Soothes when applied on heat boils. It is known to subside the rashes caused by measles, chicken pox, small pox etc.
5. Controls urinary infection.
6. A medicine for malnourishment.
7. Can be injected intravenously in emergency case.
8. Excellent tonic for old and sick.
10. Effective in the treatment of kidney and urethral stones.
11. Good for feeding infants suffering from intestinal disturbances.
For years, coconut meat and coconut oil are wrongly reviewed and considered not so good due to the saturated fat content in them. Luckily, the progressive research on coconut came out with a result that the type of fat present in the coconut meat are in fact Medium-Chain Triglycerides(MCTs). When you eat coconut meat, the MCTs are carried from intestinal tract to the liver and instantly transformed into fuel. That proves that only a small quantity of the fat is left to deposit in fat tissues of the body.
The MCTs in coconut are also converted into ketone bodies that are potential as replacement energy substrate for the brain. The brain makes use of glucose as the energy source. In people having degenerative neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease, the brain's capacity to use glucose is severely impaired, further aggravating the disease. In such cases, eating coconut meat (MCTs) may help to increase ketone level, potentially alleviating the symptoms and hopefully even preventing the onset of neurological diseases.
Eating coconut meat is heart friendly too. It is considered good for preventing the stroke. The vitamin A and E, polyphenols, and phytosterols act together in lowering the level of LDL cholesterol that forms the layer on blood vessels causing risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Uses of coconut meat:
Coconut meat is useful in many ways. It is normally sweet in taste. You can eat it just like that. The dishes made using coconut meat turns out to be very delicious. People use coconut meat in the form of gratings, slices, and paste. In tropical regions, people use them on daily basis for making salads, sweet dishes, curries, puddings, pancakes etc.
Coconut oil is a type of edible oil made from the kernel(meat) of the matured coconut. In tropical areas, coconut oil is extensively used in daily life. It is used for the nourishment of hair, as a beauty product, for skin care, for keeping teeth healthy and is used in cooking. In the west, the potential benefits of consuming this oil are recently accepted. Even in the USA, coconut products have a good market. The inclusion of this oil as a dietary fat helps people in many ways to maintain good health. Seeing the positive qualities of coconut, I feel it is a wrong review to consider it as a bad oil. However, the progressive research on coconut has recently proved the other way round, hence coconut products are in great demand now.
Uses of coconut oil:
a) It is a potential therapy ingredient for abdominal obesity both in men and women if you have it with high fat, low carb, and low protein diet. The fatty acid, mainly MCTs in coconut oil help in lowering the appetite level and lowers the quantity of food intake. It is also helpful in increasing HDL cholesterol(good cholesterol).
b) Just like coconut meat, coconut oil also increases the ketone level in the body. It is to be noted here that the brain uses glucose as 'food' to function the normal way. If a person has a neurodegenerative disorder like Alzheimer's, the brain's glucose metabolism is impaired. In such cases, high level of ketone in coconut oil acts as a potential substitute in performing the energy release for the brain.
c) Coconut oil reduces the LDL cholesterol(bad cholesterol). The vitamin A and E, phytosterol, polyphenols act together as an antioxidant by preventing the oxidation of LDL.
d) A good skin moisturizer: Applying coconut oil on the skin has a good moisturizing effect. It makes skin smooth and silky. It prevents skin from the formation of wrinkles and aging spots.
e) Coconut oil has the quality to cure skin infections. In tropical areas, people apply coconut oil all over the body before taking bath. They do this at least once in 15 days. This keeps their skin healthy. Infants are given coconut oil massage daily before the bath to ensure healthy skin and also relaxation to the body, promoting growth. It has a natural healing and scar removing property . When applied on rashes and small cut wounds, it heals the wound and erases the scar.
f) It removes bad odor if applied on such area of the skin. It is observed that there is no report of side effect of applying coconut oil on the skin. It protects from sun tan. If you apply it on the foot area, it removes the cracks and makes the skin smooth. Hence, it is used in making skin care products.
g) It is extensively used in making hair care products. It gives strength to hair, makes it shiny and dense. Just apply warm coconut oil on the scalp, before head bath. People apply coconut oil on hair 2-3 times a week to nourish the hair.
h) It is a tasty and flavorful ingredient for cooking. In many cultures, people use coconut oil as a base for most of the food preparations. It has a mild flavor that enhances the taste of the food.
If you grind coconut meat with some water and strain it, you get coconut milk. It is white in color. It tastes moderately sweet. It is used in food preparations and in making beauty products. It has medicinal value too.
However, coconut milk is not used as frequently as coconut meat and coconut oil in food making. It's smooth and creamy texture gives a rich flavor to foods.
The food technology is so much progressing that coconut wine and coconut vinegar are also making news in the food market.