Coconuts are considered one of the healthiest fruits in the world, and for good reason. They are packed with healthy fats, antioxidants and important micronutrients. Today, the coconut is used in a number of food products, including coconut oil, flour, milk and water. The fruit can be found in almost every aisle of a grocery store one way or another. The fruit is loaded with nutrients including medium chain triglycerides which have several health benefits. It is a quick source of energy for the body and it helps fight infections and chronic diseases.
Types of coconut products
There are several types of products made from coconut, all of which have different uses in cooking and personal care. Here is an overview of the forms of this fruit that you will find in your local store:
The flesh of the coconut: The inner white covering of the outer husk is the flesh. It is firm and can be scraped from the inside and eaten raw or used to make other coconut products, such as oil, milk and flour. Dried coconut meat is often used as a snack or added to baked goods, yogurt parfaits, etc.
Coconut oil: Obtained by pressing dried or fresh coconut flesh, coconut oil is made up of fats found in the fruit that become liquid when the temperature reaches around 25 degrees Celsius. Coconut oil for skin, hair and cooking is very popular due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
Coconut milk: The liquid (also called coconut cream) found inside the flesh of the mature coconut, coconut milk contains natural fatty acids and can be used in smoothies, ingredients and sauces for a creamy texture. It can be found in cans or cans at most grocery stores, but it can also be prepared at home. To make coconut milk, chop and blend the white flesh until you get a thick liquid, then strain it through a sieve.
Coconut Flour: Not really a “flour”, but is made from the flesh of coconuts ground and dried to create a flour-like texture that can be used in baking. Coconut flour is grain-free and popular with people on a gluten-free or paleo diet. It has become widely available in grocery stores and can be used to make pancakes, muffins, cookies, and other products that require a floury substance.
Coconut Water: The clear liquid found inside a young green coconut, coconut water contains vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Coconut water is consumed to replace electrolytes and aid detoxification.
Coconut butter: Coconut butter, which is not an ordinary butter, is obtained from the flesh of the fruit when it is crushed to obtain a consistency similar to that of butter. It can be used as a filling for baked goods or in recipes to achieve a creamy texture.
Coconut sugar: Although it does not come from the coconut shell, coconut sugar is made from the sap of the stem of the flower bud of the palm tree. The sap is boiled and dehydrated, leaving behind sugary brown-colored granules that can be used in baking and cooking.
Coconuts are rich in nutrients, especially medium-chain fatty acids. The three most abundant fatty acids are caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid. Unlike long-chain fatty acids found in vegetable oils, medium-chain fats are easier to digest, provide immediate energy, and are not easily stored as fat.
One cup (about 80 grams) of shredded raw coconut meat contains roughly the following:
12.2 grams of carbs
2.7 grams of protein
26.8 grams of fat
7.2 grams of fiber
1.2 milligrams of manganese (60% of the daily value)
0.3 milligrams of copper (17% of the daily value)
8.1 micrograms of selenium (12 percent DV)
1.9 milligrams of iron (11% DV)
90.4 milligrams of phosphorus (9 percent DV)
285 milligrams of potassium (8% DV)
0.9 milligrams of zinc (6 percent DV)
25.6 milligrams of magnesium (6% DV)
20.8 micrograms of folic acid (5% of daily intake)
0.1 milligrams of thiamin (4% DV)
2.6 milligrams of vitamin C (4 percent DV)
Nutritional Benefits of Coconut
Coconut is a versatile food that can be added to a variety of recipes, from breakfast to baked goods and sauces. In recent years, more and more food products are made from coconuts, especially as a healthy alternative to conventional products made from vegetable oils and wheat flour.
Here are some of the main benefits of coconut:
1. It provides healthy and energizing fats
The majority of the fats in this fruit are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized in the body differently than other types of fat. MCTs are an immediate source of energy that go through a three step process to be turned into fuel, unlike long chain fatty acids which go through a 26 step process. MCTs are easier to digest and their size is smaller, which facilitates cell permeability. These fats are not stored as fat. They are processed by the liver and immediately converted into energy. Additionally, these healthy fats help improve brain and memory function, reduce inflammation, and improve good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Recent research also suggests that consuming MCTs may reduce your calorie intake compared to the effects of consuming long-chain fatty acids.
2. Rich in manganese
Coconut is an excellent source of manganese, an essential mineral that is needed for several body functions. Studies indicate that manganese supports bone health, cognitive function and the respiratory system. It also helps maintain healthy iron levels, speeds wound healing and aids in weight loss.
3. Antibacterial effects
Coconut contains lauric acid, which has been shown to have antibacterial properties. Lauric acid is a special type of fatty acid that has impressive effects on the immune system. In the body, it is transformed into monolaurin, known to be a powerful antibacterial agent. For this reason, coconut is often used on hair, skin, and teeth to kill bacteria, and it can be eaten to inhibit bacterial infections, such as staph or food poisoning. Additionally, lauric acid and other fats help fight fungal and viral infections.
4. Provides fiber
Coconut is a good source of fiber, which helps regulate healthy digestion, lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and strengthen colon walls. Eating fiber-rich foods also promotes healthy blood sugar control and prevents insulin resistance.
5. Contains Powerful Antioxidants
Consuming coconuts has been proven to improve antioxidant status in humans, which means it helps prevent the oxidation of fats and proteins that can lead to disease. The main antioxidants found in coconuts are caffeic acid, salicylic acid and gallic acid. They help neutralize free radicals and protect cells from damage.
Risks and side effects
A coconut allergy is possible, but it is rare. If you experience allergy symptoms, such as itching, redness, swelling, or difficulty breathing, stop consuming coconuts immediately. Just because a product is made from coconuts doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Many products, including dried coconut and coconut oils, may be bleached, refined, chemically treated, or contain added ingredients, such as sugars and preservatives. Be sure to read the label carefully and choose products made with extra-virgin coconut oil whenever possible. This fruit is high in calories, so it should be consumed in moderation. A little coconut oil is enough to boost energy levels almost immediately, but don’t overeat foods that contain it.
How to open a coconut
Coconuts have a tough outer husk that protects the nutritious flesh of the fruit inside. It may seem almost impossible to open it, but there is a method that makes the task much easier.
A mature coconut has a hard shell with brown, hairy fibers on the outside. If you choose one to buy, make sure it has no cracks or moldy areas.
Here is the best way to open a coconut
To open it, start by drilling three holes in one end with a clean skewer or screwdriver. This is to evacuate the water. So you can place a cup underneath to empty the fruit.
Next, hold the coconut with a tea towel and, using a clean hammer or mallet, tap the equator of the fruit, working all the way around until it breaks into two. Then use the mallet to break the fruit into a few large pieces.
Finally, use a butter knife to peel the flesh from the shell. If any brown skin remains, use a peeler to remove it. You now have fresh coconut meat and water! The flesh can be grated or chopped to make a great garnish or snack.