Coconut: benefits and harms

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Coconut history
Coconut is the fruit of the coconut tree, which can live up to 100 years and produce more than four hundred nuts per year. The fruit sometimes weighs 2.5 kilograms and is covered with a hard shell. Inside is white copra pulp and coconut water.

The name of the nut is translated from Portuguese as “monkey”. The ripe peeled fruit is brown in color with three dents, which resembles the face of a monkey. Some coconut gatherers train tame monkeys to climb palm trees and drop the fruit down.

Coconut palms have been mentioned as far back as the 4th century BC. For the first time, this plant was specially cultivated in Malaysia. Inhabitants of the Pacific coast value palm trees, wood is used for construction and heating, and fruits are constantly present in the diet. In honor of the newborn, many planted a new palm tree.

Coconut trees grow on sandy coasts. The fruits often fall into the water and thus spread to other islands. The peel of the walnut is very strong and is not damaged by seawater. Now coconuts grow in all tropical countries.

The benefits of coconut
Coconut is known primarily for its high content of various fatty acids. It is the pulp of coconut that is rich in oils, and the liquid inside the fruit contains many antioxidants and minerals. It is thanks to them that coconut water quenches thirst so well.

Coconut pulp is highly nutritious, rejuvenates, and relieves muscle fatigue. Pantothenic and folic acids and B vitamins are important in metabolic processes and for the functioning of the immune and nervous systems.

There is a lot of potassium, magnesium, and iodine in coconut. They support the heart and blood vessels, and iodine is essential for the endocrine glands.
Coconut pulp contains a lot of fiber and fatty acids, which are beneficial for intestinal flora. A small amount of this product relieves inflammation in stomach ulcers and intestinal colitis.

Vitamin E is considered a “beauty vitamin” and is good for the skin. Coconut oil nourishes and refreshes the skin, slows down the aging process, and fights minor inflammation. Lauric acid inhibits pathogenic microorganisms. Coconut oil also improves the condition of hair and nails.

Caloric content per 100 grams 354 kcal
Proteins 3.4 g
Fat 33.5 g
Carbohydrates 6, 2 g

Harm of coconut
Coconut is very high in calories, therefore it is contraindicated in obese people. Due to the high glycemic index in diabetes mellitus, it is better to eat coconut only with the permission of a doctor.

Coconut is high in fiber and is a natural laxative. In people prone to diarrhea, coconut, especially fresh coconut, can cause flare-ups. Also, it is better not to give such heavy food to children under 2 years of age. Allergy sufferers from coconut are at increased risk of allergic reactions.

Medical use of coconut
Coconut is recommended for all people who are involved in sports or strenuous physical work. To maintain strength, the pulp of the nut will not interfere with pregnant and lactating mothers.

Due to its high fiber content, coconut enhances intestinal motility and fights constipation. Oils envelop the inflamed mucous membranes and accelerate their healing, so coconut oil is recommended for stomach ulcers, gastritis, colitis.

Coconut oil is actively used in massage and cosmetology. Lauric, oleic, and caprylic acids are good for the skin. They maintain water balance, activate metabolic processes, and have healing properties. The skin is saturated with nutrients and becomes more hydrated. But oily skin is at high risk of clogged pores, so the oil is more suitable for dry skin. Coconut oil can also be used for hair, nails. Soaps, creams, and balms are made on their basis.

Vitamin E in the pulp strengthens the walls of blood vessels, reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, and generally improves the condition of the heart and blood vessels. You can eat no more than 100-200 grams of fresh coconut per day, and be sure to monitor the calorie content.

Coconut in cooking
In cooking, coconut pulp is most often used; in dried form, it can be found in confectionery departments in the form of shavings. Coconut water and milk are even more popular in Asian cuisine – they are added to soups, fish, and cereal dishes.

The taste of the pulp itself and the coconut water depends on the ripeness of the nut. The youngest has no pulp as such, the fruit is almost entirely filled with sweet and sour water. Gradually, the liquid thickens and becomes jelly-like. There is little water in ripe nuts; most of it hardens at the walls in the form of white coconut pulp. It is she who is used in its pure form in salads, desserts, and even soups.

Coconut oil is obtained from the pulp squeezed out under the press. It can be eaten like regular butter and has a sweet coconut flavor. Oil-based fillings are made in confectionery products, creams. Natural coconut oil thickens already at +24 degrees. To make it melt, it is enough to hold it for a short time in a water bath or reheat it in a frying pan.

When the grated pulp is soaked in water, the liquid becomes coconut milk. It is often added to soups such as the famous tom yam.

How to choose and store coconut?
Coconuts are sold in two states: green and overripe brown. The freshest, “straight from the tree” – green coconuts, are delivered as quickly as possible and are harvested while still young. But they are more difficult to clean, and they cost significantly more.

You can choose a good brown coconut – it is already peeled and you can see the fibers on it. Pay attention to the appearance – at the slightest damage, the nut quickly deteriorates, so the coconut should be free of cracks and punctures.

Shake the nut – you can hear the liquid splashing in the ripe fruit. The coconut should be heavy by weight. The shell should be dense, not squeezed or sagged from pressing with a finger. The lighter it is, the better.

After purchasing the coconut, it is better not to store it for a long time, but to open it and eat it. To do this, unfold the nut with three “eyes” towards you. Insert a thin knife or screwdriver into the central one, making a hole. Turn the nut over and drain the coconut water.

Next, you need to remove the shell. You can simply smash it with a hammer or forcefully throw the nut onto the floor. But there is a more accurate way: with a heavy knife or hammer, tap on the entire surface of the coconut, holding it in your hand. Periodically it needs to be turned by the other side. Gradually, the shell will begin to lag behind in pieces. They need to be removed, and the resulting peeled fruit should be cut with a knife. The inside will be white flesh, and the outer brown soft rind can be removed if desired.

Once opened, the coconut is stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a couple of days. For longer storage, grate and dry the pulp. It is stored at room temperature in a jar with a tight lid, otherwise, it will absorb all foreign odors.

If you buy ready-made coconut flakes, pay attention to the composition: the product should not contain any ingredients other than coconut.

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