Delicious and rich in nutrients, coconut can be used to prepare a wide variety of ingredients, including coconut water, coconut butter, coconut milk, coconut oil, or coconut meat. Coconut products are commonly used to replace dairy in vegan dishes, thanks to their high healthy fat content.
The sap from coconut palm flower buds is used to produce a subtle sweetener that is rich in slow release sucrose, thus qualifying as a low glycemic index food. Coconut sugar is high in minerals, including potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc, but is also loaded with vitamins, primarily vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6. It is considered to be much healthier than brown sugar, and can also be safely consumed by diabetics. Coconut sugar has been used traditionally in South and South-East Asian cuisines for thousands of years, but it has recently become a common item in natural food stores around the world.
Potential health benefits of coconut oil
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of coconuts, usually by cold pressing. Because it is highly resistant to rancidity, it can keep for up to two years. Although widely regarded as a healthy source of fats by natural healing therapists, many mainstream health authorities mistakenly (arguably) recommend a reduced consumption of coconut oil, since they suggest the fats are saturated, which can elevate blood cholesterol levels. In this age, people said that notion has long since been debunked.
However, there is some controversy within the medical community with regards to the health benefits of coconut oil: medical professionals debate whether or not saturated fats from coconut oil are to be considered suitable for long term consumption. Part of this issue stems from the fact that coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid that is also found in human breast milk, and that possesses antimicrobial properties. Although it does increase total cholesterol levels, like the health authorities say, lauric acid actually does this by boosting HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”), which has been linked to a lower incidence of heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Coconut oil and butter
Because coconut oil tends to solidify at room temperature, the terms coconut oil and coconut butter are sometimes used interchangeably. Nevertheless, coconut butter is, by definition, a mixture of coconut oil and coconut solids (meat). The good news is that it can easily be prepared at home, using a food processor. To obtain natural coconut butter, simply process fresh shredded coconut until a homogenous paste forms, and then allow it to solidify at room temperature. Coconut oil and butter can be added to various dishes or used as moisturizer to manage dry skin, or even applied onto the hair, helping to reduce hair protein loss. High in vitamin E, coconut oil can support the skin’s natural healing process. Users have sometimes claimed that coconut oil also has sun-block properties, in addition to being an ideal addition to soothing massage therapies.
Some health enthusiasts have reported that coconut butter works well as a natural sex lubricant, although it could potentially damage latex condoms.
Going deeper into coconut nutrition
The water from coconuts is high in potassium and antioxidants, but also contains optimal amounts of sugars, making it an excellent natural energy drink. Coconut water is a great base for probiotic rich coconut water kefir, thus combining the best of two worlds – natural electrolytes from the coconut, and immunity boosting probiotics. Interestingly, because coconut water is sterile upon opening the fruit, it was used during World War II in blood transfusions, as a replacement for blood plasma. Consequently, sterile coconut water can serve as an emergency IV hydration fluid.
Coconut milk is obtained either by squeezing the liquid out of coconut meat, or by combining coconut meat with coconut water in a blender, until a thick, smooth liquid is formed. Coconut milk is a great substitute for cow’s milk in vegan diets. Rich in coconut oil and solids, the health benefits of coconut milk are similar to those of shredded coconut and coconut water. It can be consumed to fight dehydration symptoms, but also as a home remedy against ulcerations of the mouth and the stomach lining.
Autism friendly diets tend to exclude gluten and casein, two proteins that are difficult to digest and whose poor metabolism may have devastating effects on early human development. Casein, in particular, is found primarily in dairy products, including cheese and yoghurt.
Because children with autism may also be suffering from fungal overgrowth, which is best treated by dietary adjustments coupled with an increased consumption of probiotics, many parents have started experimenting with the healing properties of coconut kefir.
Free of casein, rich in nutrients and probiotics, coconut kefir is an ideal addition to autism friendly diets. The Internet abounds with numerous stories from parents who claim that they saw significant improvements in their children’s health, following the consumption of coconut kefir, including decreased gut inflammation markers and better overall health.
Coconut vinegar, obtained from fermented coconut water, is a staple of Southeast Asian cuisine, where it goes by name “suka ng niyog.” With its sharp acidic taste, coconut vinegar is used as a spice in salads, dips or sauces. Coconut “soy” sauce is a raw, vegan, soy-free, organic, low sodium soy sauce substitute made from coconut sap and mineral rich sea salt. It is marketed as “Coconut Aminos” and it tastes just like the real deal.
Coconut products have so many reported health benefits, that it is difficult to include all of them all in a single comprehensive list, without turning a simple blog post into a long essay. In fact, new health benefits of coconut are discovered all the time. Recently, for example, scientific evidence emerged showing that virgin coconut oil may have powerful anticancer properties. On top of that, coconut has been known to help benign prostatic hyperplasia, a condition that can lead to painful urination and urinary tract infections in men.
Rich in complex sugars, coconut can also help stabilize blood sugar levels, detoxify the body, lower “bad cholesterol,” enhance immunity, as well as suppress the growth of fungi, viruses and bacteria. Young coconut juice can help adjust hormone levels for postmenopausal women, boasting estrogen-like properties. Because of its anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties, coconut can be used in the treatment of various inflammatory disorders.
Shredded coconut blends the benefits of coconut oil with nutrient and fiber rich coconut meat. Paradoxically, although rich in saturated fats, coconut meat has been shown to enhance fat-burning processes in the human body. Medical experts explained that this is possible because fats from coconut oil tend to burn faster than other fats, a process which increases the body’s overall metabolic rate.
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