Article by, Kavita Shah
The coconut, classed as a fruit and often mistaken for a nut, has received a lot of negative attention in the past, with claims being made that is it unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content.
In the Philippines, the coconut palm is known as the “tree of life” and in Sanskrit it literally means “the tree which provides all the necessities of life”, as all the parts of the coconut palm including the water, milk, oil, flesh and sugar can be used. Even the giant featherlike leaves can be used as materials for furnishing and decorating. In many Asian countries, the coconut has been used for thousands of years as a food source and in traditional medicine. Only recently has modern science discovered the many health benefits and uses of the coconut.
Coconut oil has several beneficial uses nutritionally, therapeutically and cosmetically. Although it is high in saturated fat, the type and structure of the saturated fat is different to that found in butter, cream and deep fried foods. The saturated fats in coconut oil are in the form of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which boost the metabolism and the body immediately converts them into energy rather than storing them as fat. This has made it a popular choice as a healthy oil to use for weight management.
Coconut oil is the perfect oil to use for high heat cooking like frying as it has a high smoke point, making it resistant to oxidation at high temperatures. Additionally, coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties due to the presence of Lauric Acid, Caprylic Acid and Myristic Acid. This has made it useful in the treatment of yeast/ fungal infections such as Candida, viral infections such as cold sores and bacterial infections such as Helicobacter Pylori.
The beauty industry uses coconut oil extensively in hair and skin care products owing to its emollient properties, which make it an excellent moisturizer for the skin and hair. Coconut oil is effective in treating dandruff, dry/ itchy scalps, Eczema, Psoriasis, Dermatitis and skin infections. When applied to the hair, coconut oil nourishes and protects dry and damaged hair, and when applied to the skin, it adds a protective layer helping the skin to retain moisture. Due to its anti-oxidant properties, coconut oil also has anti-aging effects on the skin. Coconut oil is also an effective lathering agent, often used by cosmetic and soap makers.
Other coconut products
Coconut water is low in calories, naturally fat and cholesterol free and has the same electrolyte balance as our blood (coincidence? I think not!). This makes it a great way to rehydrate the body and it has become a popular alternative sports drink for many professional athletes. Coconut milk is a great alternative for people who have milk allergies as it is lactose free. Similarly, coconut flour is a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.
There is a massive range of coconut products now available in health stores such as coconut oil, water, milk, flour, coconut palm sugar, coconut blossom syrup, desiccated coconut, coconut chips, and the list is endless. So let’s make coconut products a healthy addition to every household! Remember, if you are ever stranded on a desert island, you could actually survive on coconuts!