The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is a member of the palm tree family (Arecaceae). The term coconut can refer to the whole palm tree, seed, or the fruit which is a drupe not a nut. The term “coco” is derived from the 16th century Portuguese and Spanish which means “head” or “skull”, after the three depressions on the coconut shell that resembles facial features.
It has various form of uses ranging from food to cosmetics. The larger part of the world supply of coconut comes from Indonesia, Philippines, and India.
The name nucifera is Latin in origin which means nut-bearing. Literary evidences from Sri Lankan chronicles suggests that suggests that coconut was present in the Indian subcontinent as from 1st century BCE
It has been found to originate from the South west Asia and Melanesia. However, there are two main viewpoints on the origins of the genus Cocos, one in the Indo-Pacific, and another in South America.
Coconuts are generally categorized into two general types: tall and dwarf. On fertile soil, a tall coconut palm tree can produce up to 75 fruits per year, but more often yields less than 30. Given suitable care and growing conditions, coconut palms produce their first fruit in six to ten years, taking 15 to 20 years to reach peak production.
This could be divided into its meat (the whitish substance), milk derived from the milk, its powdered (grounded) form and the oil.
Raw White Meat: This is the white component inside the shell in which is a vacuum containing the liquid of coconut. It is delicious, sweet, and firm in texture.
This could be scraped out of the shell and eat raw or processed before eating. It could be sliced, shaved, or grated.
Coconut Milk and cream are made by grounding the raw grated meat.
Dried Coconut Meat: This is usually obtained when the white meat is grated, shaved and it can be used in cooking or while baking. This could further be processed into flour.
Coconut oil is gotten from the extracted white meat.
Benefits of Coconut
For close to 5,000 years, coconut has been grown in the tropical regions of the world, but recently its plantation has increased because of its uses. Some of the benefits of coconut are shared here.
1. Effect on the Heart
It has been discovered that those who frequently eat coconut meat and those living on islands where coconut are richly planted have lower rates of heart disease than those who follow western diet.
Another studies also show that those who eat coconut oil have higher levels of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) (good) cholesterol and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) (Bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
2. Nutritious Value
It should be noted that it is high in fat and low in carbs unlike other fruits that are high in carbs. It also contains protein, minerals, and small quantity of B vitamins. It is however not a significant source of other vitamins.
It is high in manganese which is useful in bone health and the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins and cholesterol. It is also rich in copper and iron which helps in red blood formation.
The values of the table below are given in ranges because humans systems values are always given in ranges by the physiologists, because a temperature that triggers negative reaction in a person may not trigger negative reaction in another, thence, it is always encouraged that whatever value one would give for humans it should always be in ranges.
Table Showing Mineral Constituents of Coconut
Fresh coconut meat
Dried coconut meat
350 - 354
645 - 650
2.6 - 3 grams
7.0 - 7.5 grams
12 - 15 grams
22- 25 grams
8.5 - 9 grams
17.5 - 18 grams
32.5 - 33 grams
64.5 - 65 grams
70 - 75% of daily value (D.V)
132 - 137% of D.V.
19 - 22% of D. V
35 - 40% of D.V.
9 - 10% of D. V.
15 - 16% of D. V.
11 - 13% of D. V.
16 - 18% of D. V.
10 - 11% of D. V.
20 - 21% of D. V.
7.5 - 8% of D. V.
22.5 - 23% of D. V.
Most of the fat in coconut is in form of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
Human body metabolizes fats differently as it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the small intestine, thus they can rapidly be used for energy. It has been found to be of use in obese people for it can help in losing body fats when they are substituted with animal fats that are being eaten.
3. Helps in Controlling Blood Sugar
Since it is low in carbs and high in fiber and fat, it may help in stabilizing the blood sugar.
A study shows that it has antidiabetic effects perhaps due to its arginine content. Arginine is an amino acid that acts on pancreatic cells, aiding its functioning. Pancreas is a gland that releases hormones called insulin and glucagon for regulating the blood sugar level.
High fiber may help slow digestion and increase the duration of the food in the body system thence helping in the control of blood sugar level.
4. Acts as Antioxidant
It contains phenolic compounds which are powerful antioxidants protecting the cells from damages. Some of the phenol compounds are p-coumaric acid, Gallic acid, caffeic acid, and salicylic acid.
The polyphenols have been found to bind with the LDL (bad) cholesterol preventing it from forming plaques in the arterial walls.
The mineral called selenium that it contains is an important antioxidant that protects the cells of the body.
5. Adds Flavors to Diets
When added to diets, it has been found to add flavor to dishes.
It could be used in baking and in some instances as a substituents for flour.
7. Other Uses
For charcoal, for making soaps, for cosmetics, used by furniture and for decorating.
Because it is high in fiber it is also high in calories and it may promote weight gain thus it should be watched when being taken or when being added to diets. Some people have been found to be allergic to coconut and if you are allergic to it, you will be allergic to all its products and should avoid taken them.
References: Online Wikipedia and 5 Impressive Benefits of Coconut by Anne Danahy.