One of the best parts about my recent trip to Brazil is the abundance of fresh coconuts. Not only was coconut water chilled and served, but the meat inside was also used as a snack and as part of many delicious dishes. Found throughout the tropic and subtropic parts of the world, coconuts grow on palm trees, which are appropriately referred to as the “The Tree of Life.” The coconut is known for its great versatility as a food and medicine because of its therapeutic, nutritional and cosmetic properties. I consider coconut a superfood and consume it as a staple in my diet. Wanna know what I love most?
Here are my top reasons:
Coconut contains a saturated fat called lauric acid, a type of medium chained fatty acid (MCFA’s). The body metabolizes the lauric acids, digests and absorbs it quickly and efficiently, turning it into an instant energy source. Studies also show that lauric acid increases the good HDL cholesterol in the blood. Coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid and the ONLY other abundant source found in nature is human breast milk. Pretty powerful stuff.
Coconut is naturally antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic.. Coconut is a potent cleanser of our digestive system and can be used to heal a range of digestive issues. It helps the body fight off infection so its best to consume when you begin feeling sick. Eating coconuts are also excellent for one’s immunity because they kill harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. It can help treat illnesses such as influenza, lice, throat infections, urinary tract infections, tapeworms, bronchitis, and numerous other ailments caused by microbials. Plus, coconut has been proven to have anti-cancer effects especially of the colon and breast because of its ability to protect the body from infection while simultaneously cleansing the system.
Whether you’re eating the meat, drinking the juice, or consuming it as oil, coconuts are a delicious and nutritious source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. This powerful superfood is especially rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, folate and vitamin C. It is loaded with electrolytes, which makes it a perfect post-workout drink to help you replenish lost fluids. In fact, coconut water is known to have the same electrolyte levels as human plasma, and has even been used for plasma transfusions. Move over gatorade, there is a new thirst quencher in town!
Eating coconuts also supports the development of strong, healthy bones and teeth. It does this by improving the body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium. It also prevents osteoporosis which weakens the bones and causes them to lose their density. This makes coconuts a good, healthy alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.
Coconut even benefits the skin when applied topically and has been found to have anti-aging, regenerative effects. The oil is excellent for keeping the skin supple and wrinkle-free. Its antioxidant properties slow down the aging process by protecting the body from harmful free radicals. Coconut oil is also known to treat skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. It also helps hair to become more healthy, shiny and lustrous.
Coconut also has been shown to help optimize body weight by boosting metabolic rate. Several studies have shown that MCFAs can enhance physical and athletic performance. They help your body use fat for energy, as opposed to storing it, so it can actually help you become leaner. Back in the 1940s, farmers discovered this effect accidentally when they tried using inexpensive coconut oil to fatten their livestock. It didn’t work! Instead, coconut oil made the animals lean, active and hungry.
Coconut is only one oil that is able to withstand the heat of cooking. It is stable at high heats retaining all of its benefits (unlike Olive oil) and it will leave the food with a delicious taste. Try stir-frying your veggies with a dollop of coconut oil. You may be surprised at the sweet, light and buttery flavor. Make sure to choose organic unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, since the hydrogenated kind contains trans fats.
Not sure how to incorporate coconut into your diet? There are so many different ways. Here are some of my favs:
Coconut milk is a manufactured product made from the flesh of a coconut. It is prepared by mixing water with grated coconut, squeezing and extracting the pulp, leaving only the liquid. Coconut milk is higher in fat than the coconut water, containing between 17 and 24 percent fat. Coconut milk resembles cow’s milk but better! It is pure white and is not sweet unless sugar is added. Available in most grocery and health food stores, you can enjoy coconut milk by the glass, use to replace cow’s milk, add to smoothies or pour over cereal or fresh fruit.
Coconut water is the thirst-quenching liquid found inside the coconut. It is usually clear or light pink, possibly cloudy and sweet tasting. It is best to drink it fresh straight from the coconut! Look for the young, white coconuts in your health food store, cut off the top, and pour this life elixir into your favorite glass. Coconut water is an amazing base for smoothies or consumed after a strenuous workout. I even like it as an afternoon treat! It is also the best hangover preventer and/or cure!
Coconut butter can be eaten straight, spread onto bread, blended into a salad dressing, mixed into a smoothie, or incorporated into raw food dishes. It can also be used as a skin lotion. It’s very effective against dry skin and ideal for massage. Most butters and oils are light sensitive so make sure it is in a dark container to insure no light penetrates which damages the oil. Always choose a raw, cold-pressed coconut butter, never heated please!
What’s your favorite way to consume coconut? Please comment and share below!