Health Benefits of Coconut: The Tropical Stone Fruit
While the coconut is a staple in Indian diet, it’s considered exotic in the western world. Coconuts have been used not only to produce fiber, fuel and musical instruments but also as a traditional Asian and Pacific Island folk remedy. Coconut water is also in rage right now for its ability to provide a healthy and glowing skin. But, what’s the big deal? Read on to know all about the health benefits of coconut!
Coconut (Cocos nucifera), a member of the palm family is an integral part of the Indian heritage. It is deeply rooted in the Indian culture and is considered pious, which is why it is used as an offering to God in Hinduism. India is the largest producer of coconuts in the world. The four South Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh account for roughly 90% of the country’s coconut production, with Kerala contributing the largest at well over 30%.
Coconut is botanically a drupe (stone fruit) and not a nut, unlike what the name suggests. They are of two types based on their morphology. Coconuts which are oblong, triangular in shape with plenty of fibrous husks are called “niukafa”. The ones which are round, bright coloured with a greater proportion of liquid are known as “niuvai”. Tender coconut contains a clear liquid known as the ‘coconut water’. Coconut milk is made from grated coconut meat that is soaked in a measured quantity of water.
Health benefits of Coconut
Coconuts contain an important saturated fatty acid called lauric acid. It is rich in dietary fibers, iron and is also a very good source of vitamin C and B vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and pyridoxine. The bioactive compound present in coconuts called cytokinin has anti-aging, anti-carcinogenic and anti-thrombotic effects. It also contains bio-enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, peroxidase and polymerase.
Coconut water contains 5 essential electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium which are useful to beat the tropical heat. Coconut oil contains capric and caprylic acid (medium-chain fatty acid) that has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. The kernel or copra (hard covering shell) of the mature coconut undegoes processing to extract oil from it.
Let’s look deeper into some of the health benefits of coconut.
Maintains Heart Health
Saturated fats are bad for health as it increases LDL level in the body. But saturated fat in coconut is not bad if you follow a strict diet. Much of the saturated fat content in coconuts is lauric acid. Lauric acid helps to boost HDL (good cholesterol) level in the body and reduces the risk of heart diseases. But, as coconut contains 90%v saturated fats, experts recommend that it should not be a part of your daily diet. Our body fails to utilize an excess amount of fat which then accumulates in the arteries, which is harmful for our health.
Promotes weight loss
Coconuts are rich in fiber which helps in weight loss when eaten in moderation. Fiber aids in the absorption of food slowly and efficiently in the intestine. This helps in keeping our hunger pangs in control and eventually leads to weight loss.
Increases haemoglobin in the blood
Iron present in coconut is important for the formation of haemoglobin. It is the protein in red blood cells (RBCs) and is responsible for carrying oxygen to each part of the body through blood. Without enough iron, body cells do not get sufficient oxygen which leads to weakness and fatigue.
Coconut is high in dietary fiber which helps in preventing diabetes. Coconut fiber slows down the release of glucose. It also aids in relieving stress on the pancreas and the enzyme system, which reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
Slows down aging
Bioactive compounds such as cytokinin are present in coconut, which have anti- thrombotic (reduces blood clotting) and anti-aging effects on the body. It maintains the pH of the skin, keeps it wrinkle free and also removes impurities from the blood.
Improves Digestion and metabolism
Coconuts contain bio-enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, peroxidase and polymerase, which together with bioactive compounds, simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals help in digestion and metabolism. Coconut meat is an excellent fiber source and along with coconut water promotes hydration and digestion.
Coconut water contains anti-bacterial properties that make the immune system strong. It also contains bio-enzymes, which along with the immune system kills harmful disease-causing pathogens and builds strong immunity.
Everyone loves coconut for its sweet and creamy flavour. Did you know that your favourite “Bounty” chocolates have a filling of desiccated coconut? People living in the coastal regions swear by sea-food dishes, majority of which contains coconut milk.
In spite of its rich flavour, coconuts can be unhealthy if eaten too much. The problem lies in its high sugar content which increases blood sugar levels. Coconuts contain good saturated fat which aids in solving several health problems but excess consumption can affect the heart. Let us now look how you can include coconut into your meals!
How to use coconut?
Coconut is not only used in kitchens for cooking, but it has a plethora of other uses in our day-to-day life.
Some popular uses of coconut are as follows:
- You can use coconut shavings in baking for natural sweetness, without the use of sugar. Coconut is also a part of a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes across the world.
- You can eat coconut milk even if you are lactose intolerant.
- Massage young babies with coconut oil, as it can keep their skin healthy.
- Coconut water has toning properties, which helps remove bacteria from the skin and tightens skin pores.
- The brown coir or coconut fiber obtained from the husk is useful for making doormats and mattresses.
- Coconut water can hydrate your body and prevent heat stroke. It is rich in simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals, which maintains the body temperature, hydrates the body and boosts metabolism to combat against sultry weathers.
- You can apply coconut milk in your hair and scalp and rinse after a few minutes. This will make the hair soft and shiny and improve its health by reducing hair fall.
- You can also add coconut milk in homemade face masks in place of water.
- The fruits help produce coconut flour, which is available in markets nowadays. People who follow a gluten-free diet can include coconut flour in their diet.
- The hard shell of the coconut is useful too. It is traditionally used in homes to steam food.
Thus, in spite of being heavy in calories, the health benefits of coconut have made it a miracle food. How do you enjoy eating coconut? Let us know in the comments below.
100g of Coconut provides 354 calories, Carbohydrates – 15g (Dietary Fibre – 9g, Sugar – 6g), Protein – 3.3g, Fat – 33g (Saturated fat-30g, PUFA – 0.4g, MUFA – 1.4g), Sodium – 20mg, Potassium – 356mg and percentage daily value of Vitamin C – 5%, Iron – 13%, Magnesium – 8%, Calcium – 1%, Vitamin B-6 – 5% (based on a 2,000 calorie diet)