Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coconut: A Super Food

Let’s set the record straight regarding coconuts and coconut oil: They are, indeed, nourishing superfoods. If you are concerned about the fat content in them, guess what? The human body needs good fat, and this is one of the good guys you want. Don’t be deceived by the word “fat”; certain good fats are amazing assets for nutrition and optimal health. The fat in coconuts is used as an energy source as well as a cushion for organs and a conductor of electricity. That’s just a few things on the list of good fat deeds. Coconuts for life, son!

History: It remains uncertain where coconuts (Cocos nucifera) originated. Some say they might have come from the southwest Pacific, then introduced to East Africa. Written references have come from the “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea”, written about 60 A.D., as well as sanskrit mentions going back as early as the 4th Century B.C. The first English language reference to coconut was 1555. Coconuts were eaten in Egypt in the 6th century A.D. and Marco Polo gound them in India and other places in Asia. The coconut, due to its seed that floats, was able to travel the oceans (their fiber and oil were the ultimate botanical boat) and populate the warm climates of the globe. Today, the coconut is an important commercial crop in many tropical countries, including India, Indonesia, Thaliand, Malaysia, Sri Lank, Tanzania, The Philippines, and Brazil, contributing significantly to their economies.

Description: They all have a thick husk covering, and a hard shell that surrounds the rich coconut meat. Young green “thai” coconuts are green on the outside with white soft (sometimes slimy) coconut meat inside. Young coconuts contain more water then mature coconuts. Mature coconuts are soft of a medium wood tone on the outside with hard white coconut meat on the inside. Lower water content, more coconut meat.

Nutritional info: There is much nutritional value in the three parts of the coconut – the water, the oil and the meat, which can be transformed into coconut milk.

  • ✴ A cup of shredded coconut contains: 142 mg potassium, 13 mg of magnesium, 4 grams of fiber, less then 3 grams of sugar and 13 grams of healthy (MTC’s) fat.
  • ✴ Coconuts are mainly medium-chain fatty acids or MCT’s (medium-chain triglycerides), which are easier to metabolize (break down).
  • ✴ The body prefers medium-chain fatty acids for energy rather then to store them as fat around your hips. So, coconuts and coconut oils are better fat type to ingest for people who have trouble digesting fat.
  • ✴ These medium-chain fatty acids are mainly composed of a particular fat called lauric acid. Lauric acid is antiviral and antimicrobial – 50% of the fat in coconuts is lauric acid, and in the human body it turns into monolaurin, basically a bug killer.
  • ✴ A great thing about lauric acid is that, although it kills bad bacteria, it doesn’t kill the friendly intestinal microorganisms we need for healthy digestion.
  • ✴ Lauric acid is found in mother’s milk and protects infants from viral and bacterial infection.
  • ✴ Respected lipid biologist Mary Enig Ph.D. cleared up false believes regarding fear of saturated fat. Her studies on the effects of lauric acid and coconuts in general has shown positive effects on immunity.
  • ✴ About 7% of the fat in coconuts are an MCT called capric acid. The body turns capric acid into monocaprin, which has also been shown to have antiviral effects.
  • ✴ Supporting healthy gut ecology, MTC’s are also known to kill candida and other fungi in the intestinal tract.
  • ✴ The real sports drink, coconut water is a natural electrolyte (natural energy drink) source, very mineral-dense with 19 different amino acids.
  • ✴ Polynesian islanders who consume most of their fat calories from coconut oil have an exceedingly low rate of heart disease.
  • ✴ Studies have shown that coconut oil does not raise blood cholesterol.
  • ✴ Compared to other oils that easily oxidize by heating, coconut oil is 300 times more resistant to oxidation (high point of 450˚ F), which makes it a far better choice for cooking than refined oils and hydrogenated vegetable oils (margarine, canola).
  • ✴ Coconut oil has incredible antioxidant power and is an immune system supporter.
  • ✴ Some of the micronutrients in coconuts include: high mineral content of potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and iron. Phytonutrients like: galactomannan, pectin, shikimic acid, squalene, vanillin. Also traces of: B vitamins, some vitamin C and E.

Application: Drink the coconut water and eat the meat as is. The meat can be used to make coconut milk, raw desserts, vegan curries, musses and even vegan ice cream. You can add the water or meat to smoothies, use the coconut oil to saute veggies or pour over beans. If you buy the coconut oil, get it raw and extra virgin.

Sources: The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden PH.D., C.N.S., Healthy Healing by Linda Page Ph.D, Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M. Hass MD.

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