The brown, hairy, egg-shaped coconut sold in the grocery store is actually the seed of the fruit of the coconut palm tree (Cocos nucifera). The tree trunk is about 18 inches/45 centimeters in diameter, with numerous rings marking the places where former leaves have grown, and reaches a height of up to 100 feet/30 meters. At its summit, the tree is crowned with about twenty 10-to-15-foot/3—to-4 1/2-meter long blade—shaped leaves that droop downward.
Amid these leaves, the nuts grow in clusters of ten to twenty or more, each tree typically carrying ten to twelve clusters in varying stages of development. The oval-shaped coconuts, which have a pale green, thick, ﬁbrous outer husk and a dark brown, hard inner shell, grow to about 12 inches/30 centimeters in length when fully mature. Inside their hard outer shells, they are lined with a layer of rich white nutmeat that surrounds a hollow center ﬁlled with a thin, slightly sweet ﬂuid referred to as “coconut water” (rather than coconut milk which is made by squeezing grated coconut ﬂesh)
Like most other nuts, the coconut is quite high in fat, but unlike other nuts, virtually all its fat is saturated. In fact, coconut oil is the most highly saturated of all vegetable oils—a quality that makes this oil extremely stable, which is why it is so often used in sweets, baked goods, shortening, margarines, and deep-fat frying. The richness of coconut oil also makes it useful in soaps, lotions, shampoos, and detergents.
One of the oldest food plants, the coconut palm is thought to have originated somewhere in the Malayan archipelago but was soon dispersed throughout the tropics by man and nature, having been known to survive ﬂoating across entire oceans. Its name is recorded in Sanskrit in the Vedas, the oldest (circa 1500 B.C.E.) scriptures of Hinduism, in which the coconut is said to nourish the body, increase strength, and promote beautiful hair and skin.
In Ayurvedic medicine, coconut oil infused with herbs has been used medicinally for almost 4,000 years as an effective treatment for skin diseases caused by infestation with parasites, such as scabies and head lice. Today, about 20 billion coconuts are grown each year, and although the major producers are the Philippines, India, and Indonesia, virtually everywhere the coconut palm grows—in the tropical regions of Latin America and East Africa, as well as Asia, the Paciﬁc Islands, and the Philippines—coconut products serve as a dietary staple.
Coconut oil, which we now know contains immune-boosting medium-chain fatty acids, has long been thought to have a special healing power and is an important constituent not only of the cuisines of each of these countries, but also of their traditional medicines—a practice whose appropriateness is underscored by the fact that Thailand, where coconut appears in virtually every dish in the national cuisine, has the lowest cancer rate of the ﬁfty countries surveyed by the National Cancer Institute.
The importance of the coconut throughout the tropics is exempliﬁed by its many uses in the Philippines, where the coconut palm is called the “tree of life.” In these islands, virtually all parts of the tree are used medicinally, including its roots, bark, leaves, ﬂowers, and cabbage, as well as the husk, shell, water, endosperm, and oil provided by its fruit, the coconut. Medicinal uses are varied:
- The roots are used for dysentery and other intestinal complaints.
- A poultice made from the bark is used for toothaches and earaches, while ash of the bark is used as a dentifrice, as an antiseptic, and to treat scabies. –
- Nourishing and easily digested, the cabbage (actually the buds cut from the top of the tree), called ubod, is a cooling diuretic that is often served as a salad vegetable and is also used to make pickles (achara) and a native stew called gulay.
- The astringent ﬂowers are used in the treatment of dysentery, urinary infection, diabetes, and leprosy, while the unopened ﬂower stalks are distilled to produce a spirit called arrak. The ﬁbers of the trunk are used as a diuretic, in the treatment of tapeworm, and to soothe an inﬂamed throat. A native medicine made from burning the shell of the coconut in one receptacle while condensing the volatile products that separate out in another is used to treat a number of skin diseases and to relieve toothaches caused by dental caries.
- The milky liquid inside the coconut, called coconut water, is astringent and slightly acidic when fresh but soon loses its astringency. This ﬂuid, which is 95 percent water, holds in solution proteins, sugars, and salts and is used as a diuretic and a treatment for intestinal worms and urinary disorders.
- The sap of the coconut palm, called tuba or toddy, stimulates peristalsis and acts as a mild laxative. Externally, coconut oil is used as a vehicle for liniments in skin medicines, for strengthening the hair, and to make a shampoo in combination with the bark of a native tree, Entada phaseoloides, commonly called gogo, which is high in saponin and produces a lather that cleanses the scalp very effectively. The coconut has spawned an export industry that is vitally important to the Philippines, bringing in $1.2 billion annually and providing a livelihood for almost one third of the population.
- For the islanders, the coconut palm is a source of not merely income but timber; food; fermented and unfermented drink; alcohol; vinegar; thatching material; splints; strips and ﬁber for making baskets, mats, rope, hats, brushes, brooms, and other articles; fuel; caulking material; eating and cooking utensils; oil for food, cooking, illumination, soap, and ointments; feed for domestic animals; and fertilizer.
Coconut Nutritional Highlights
Like most nuts, coconuts contain signiﬁcant amounts of fat, but unlike other nuts, which contain mostly long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, coconuts provide fat that is almost all in the form of health-promoting medium-chain saturated fats. Fresh, mature coconut meat contains more than 50 percent water and approximately 35 percent coconut oil, 10 percent carbohydrates, and 3.5 percent protein. One cup of the nutmeat provides approximately 500 calories.
Fresh coconut milk provides about 600 calories per cup and is composed of 67 percent water, 25 percent coconut oil, 5 percent carbohydrates, and 3 percent protein. Dried or creamed coconut meat provides nearly 900 calories per cup and is composed of 65 percent fat, 23 percent carbohydrate, and 7 percent protein.
Coconuts are an excellent source of manganese, molybdenum, and copper. A 2-by-2- by—5-inch/5-by-5-by-10-centimeter piece provides 0.68 milligrams of manganese (38 percent of the recommended daily intake), 13.28 micro-grams of molybdenum (30 percent of the recommended daily intake), and 0.2 milligrams of copper (22 percent of the recommended daily intake).
Coconut is also a good source of selenium and zinc, with the same size piece of coconut meat containing 4.54 micro-grams of selenium (8 percent of the recommended daily intake) and 0.5 milligrams of zinc (6 percent of the recommended daily intake).
Coconut Health Benefits
Until the 1950’s, coconut oil was commonly used in the food industry in the United States and the U.K. until it was, as we now understand, mistakenly accused of contributing to the development of cardiovascular disease. Coconut oil was implicated in raising cholesterol levels along with the saturated fats found in meats when a researcher in Minnesota fed rats fully hydrogenated coconut oil and saw a dramatic rise in the rats’ cholesterol levels.
Although Harvard scientists later reviewed this study and concluded that the cholesterol-raising factor was not coconut oil per se but the fact that it had been fully hydrogenated and purposely altered to make it completely devoid of any essential fatty acids, coconut oil was labeled as an artery-clogging fat.
In addition to the now well-recognized harmful cardiovascular effects of hydrogenated fats, current research has shown that any diet that causes an essential fatty acid deﬁciency will also cause a signiﬁcant increase in blood cholesterol levels when fed to animals.
Yet despite the fact that the initial study generated misinformation about coconut oil and other studies in which fresh/raw coconut oil was used showed that natural coconut oil not only does not cause an increase in cholesterol but also increases levels of beneﬁcial HDL cholesterol, coconut oil continues to have a bad and undeserved reputation as an unhealthy saturated fat.
Approximately 50 percent of the signiﬁcant amount of fatty acids provided by coconut is in the form of a medium-chain (12-carbon) saturated fat called lauric acid, a health-promoting fat whose only other abundant source in nature is human breast milk. In the body, lauric acid is converted into a highly beneﬁcial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride that destroys a wide variety of disease-causing organisms.
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Studies have demonstrated that monolaurin eliminates lipid-coated viruses, such as Cytomegalo virus, herpes simplex 1, HIV, Hemophilus influenzae, measles, the Vesicular stomatitis virus, and the Visna virus. Pathogenic bacterh inactivated by monolaurin include Listeria monocytogenes; Staphylococcus aureus; Streptococcus agalactiae; Staphylococcus epidermidis; Groups A, F, and G streptococci; Group B gram-positive streptococcus; and Helicohacter pylori.
In addition, not only does monolaurin inactivate H. pylori, but the organism, which has become resistant to a number of antibiotic drugs, appears to be unable to develop resistance to coconut’s natural antimicrobials. Lauric acid and its derivative monolaurin also kill or inactivate a number of fungi, yeast, and protozoa, including several species of ringworm, Candida albicans, and Giardia lamblia.
Besides being 50 percent lauric acid, 6 to 7 percent of the fat in coconut is in the form of another beneﬁcial medium-chain fat called capric acid. Like lauric acid, capric acid is converted in the body to a highly beneﬁcial substance called monocaprin, which has been shown to have antiviral effects against sexually transmitted diseases, including Chlamydia trachomatis, herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2, Neisseria gonorhoeae, and HIV.
Many viruses, bacteria, and protozoa are enveloped by a protective membrane composed of lipids (fats). Current research indicates that the medium-chain fatty acids and the mono-glycerides produced from them in the body destroy these pathogens by dissolving the lipids and phospholipids in the fatty envelope surrounding them, causing them to disintegrate. Other recent studies suggest that monolaurin also kills bacteria by interfering with signal transduction, thus disrupting the bacteria’s ability to interact with the cells they are trying to infect. In addition, lauric acid has been shown to interfere with virus assembly and maturation.
The antiviral properties of the medium-chain fatty acids abundant in coconut have been found to be so potent that they are now being investigated as a treatment for AIDS patients. Studies recently conducted in the Philippines have demonstrated that coconut oil does indeed reduce viral load in AIDS patients.
In other studies demonstrating the antiviral potential of coconut against HIV, AIDS patients consumed 20 to 25 grams of lauric acid per day. Approximately 12 grams of lauric acid are provided in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of creamed coconut, 1/1 cup of canned whole coconut milk, or 1/2 cup of dried coconut meat.
Coconut oil also protects against heart disease and promotes weight loss. In one study in which coconut oil was used as part of a high-fat diet, researchers found not only that coconut oil did not increase body fat, but that the coconut oil-enriched diet actually produced a decrease in white fat stores. In another study, when genetically obese mice were given a diet high in either safﬂower oil or coconut oil and their number of fat cells was measured, those given coconut oil were found to have produced far fewer fat cells than those given safﬂower oil.
In addition, because coconut’s medium-chain fats are easily absorbed and preferentially used as an energy source, their burning actually increases the body’s metabolic rate. The result- as long as calories in excess of the body’s needs are not consumed—is that more calories are burned, a situation that encourages the burning of the long-chain fatty acids found in other fats as well. In one study, the thermogenic (fat-burning) effect of a high-calorie diet containing 40 percent fat as medium-chain fatty acids was compared to one containing 40 percent fat as long-chain fatty acids.
The thermogenic effect of the medium-chain-fat diet was almost twice that of the long-chain-fat diet—12O calories versus 66 calories—leading the researchers to conclude that the excess energy provided by medium-chain fats was not stored as fat but burned. In a follow-up study, medium-chain fats given over a six-day period increased diet-induced thermogenesis by 50 percent.
How To Select And Store Coconut
Mature coconuts are available in most super-markets. Store them in a dry, cool area if you purchase them whole to crack open yourself. Once a coconut is opened, its meat should be refrigerated and used within seven to ten days.
A number of prepared coconut products are available in many natural and whole-food markets, including dried coconut meat, creamed coconut (very ﬁnely ground dried coconut blended with coconut milk), canned coconut milk (either the ﬂuid found inside the coconut or milk made from the expressed juice of grated coconut), and coconut oil.
Dried coconut meat is often shredded and may be sweetened, toasted, and/ or creamed. Since shredded coconut is often sweetened with sugar and preserved with propylene glycol (a chemical used in antifreeze), we recommend that you read labels carefully to avoid such products or buy whole coconuts and prepare your own shredded coconut with the aid of a food processor. Store shredded coconut in an airtight container in a cool, dry place or a refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for about a month.
Creamed coconut is found in some supermarkets, the refrigerated foods section of Asian and Indian markets and in some whole-food markets and health food shops. Store it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for seven to ten days.
Canned coconut milk, a good substitute for creamed coconut, can be found in supermarkets. Be sure to buy whole, not low-fat, coconut milk (from which much of the beneﬁcial medium-chain fat has been removed), and choose a brand that contains no additives. Once opened, canned coconut milk should be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep for seven to ten days.
Coconut oil of high quality is odorless and tasteless, a white semisolid in cool weather and a creamy—colored oil in hot weather. Choose only food-grade oil and avoid any product that has been hydrogenated. Although coconut oil is quite stable and need not be refrigerated, it is best used within one month after opening.
Tips For Preparing Coconut
Whole green coconuts, called buko in the Philippines, are harvested when the meat is soft and rubbery. Should you be able to buy these at your market, after removing the husk, poke two holes in the “eyes,” the soft spots at the bottom end of the coconut. Place eye side down in a small bowl, allow the liquid to drain out, and save for later use. Then crack open the shell and simply scoop the meat out with a spoon. Enjoy buko on its own or add it along with the coconut liquid to smoothies, soups, curries, or baked goods for ﬂavor.
Mature coconuts are harvested after the shell is quite hard and the meat is ﬁrm. To prepare mature coconuts, drain them as described above for buko. Their liquid, called coconut water, can be used by itself as a beverage or ﬂavoring agent, or combined with mature coconut meat to produce coconut milk. To remove mature coconut meat, break open the drained coconut by striking it with a hammer or put it in a 350 degree F./180 degrees C./ gas 4 oven until the shell cracks open, then use a sharp knife to separate the meat from the shell.
Remove the dark outer layer and cut the white coconut meat into small, 1/4-inch/1/2 centimeter chunks. The meat is now ready to be eaten on its own, diced and used in fruit salads or baked goods, ground in a food processor for use in making coconut milk, or shredded and dried to produce homemade dried coconut.
To make coconut milk, place 1 cup of ‘/4- inch/1/2 centimeter chunks of coconut meat in a blender or food processor and process until thoroughly broken up. Add 1 cup warm water and process again until ﬂuffy. Line a sieve with cheesecloth, put the processed meat into the sieve, and place it over a glass container. Drain the coconut milk, pressing out all the liquid with the ﬂat back of a large wooden spoon, or with your hands. Freshly made coconut milk should be used immediately or refrigerated and used within two days.
Quick Serving Ideas for Coconut
• Sprinkle unsweetened, dried shredded coconut over sweet or spicy soups, fruit salads, or tossed greens. Use as a topping for desserts. Add to granola and other cereals, biscuits, cakes, and mufﬁns. For a beautiful presentation and tropical taste, garnish any grilled ﬁsh with slices of lime and shredded coconut. Add blocks of creamed coconut to heated sauces, curries, stocks, soups, and desserts to impart the velvety texture and rich creamy taste of coconut. Use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk in virtually any recipe. Try coconut milk in smoothies and blender drinks. Substitute coconut milk for cow’s milk in your next batch of mufﬁns, pancakes, or chocolate pudding.
• For Haitian ﬂair, add coconut milk and jerk spices to black bean soup. Warm up a truly healing bowl of chicken soup by adding coconut milk and freshly ground black pepper.
• The ﬂavor of any creamed soup recipe will be dramatically enhanced by the addition of coconut milk. Try it in tomato soup, clam chowder, or vichyssoise.
• For a tropical variation on bouillabaisse, add coconut milk, lemongrass, and ginger along with canned tomatoes, basil, and lots of freshly ground black pepper to your next ﬁsh stew.
• Mix coconut milk with red or green curry for a cooking liquid that will add a Thai accent to your next stir-fry. Before your next sports competition, try this energizing pasta: Toss cooked and drained pasta with a sauce made from coconut milk combined with 1 to 2 tablespoons of nut butter, such as peanut or almond, a little curry spice, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce.
Coconut Oil Health Benefits and Uses
This tropical oil is beneficial in many ways:
Coconut Oil for Hair Care
Do you know the reason for long and shining hair of women in tropical coastal regions? Yes, it is coconut oil. Women in tropical coastal regions of the world use this oil for their hair almost daily. This thick butter-like oil helps in a healthy growth of your hair and gives a shine to those strands. It is also highly effective in reducing protein loss, which if unchecked can lead to various unhealthy qualities in your hair. This is the reason why it is used as a hair care oil, and in the manufacturing of various conditioners and dandruff relief creams. Now you must be thinking how to use coconut oil for your hair? Just apply it topically to your hair or use a coconut oil hair mask.
Worried about damaged hair? Again coconut oil is the solution. It is an excellent conditioner and helps the re-growth process of damaged hair. It also provides the essential proteins required for nourishing and healing damaged hair. Research studies indicate that it provides better protection to hair from damage caused by hygral fatigue.
By regularly massaging your head with coconut oil, you can ensure that your scalp is dandruff free, even if your scalp is chronically dry. It also helps in keeping your hair and scalp free from lice and lice eggs (yes, some people do get lice in their hair).
To Moisturize and Nourish Skin
Did you know that coconut oil works great for skin? Coconut oil is an excellent massage oil that acts as an effective moisturizer for all types of skin, including dry skin. Unlike mineral oil, there is no chance of having any adverse side effects on the skin from the application of this oil. Therefore, it has been safely used for thousands of years for preventing dryness and flaking of skin. Yes, you read it right – thousands of years! Coconut oil usage could be considered a recent fad, but it has been around for ages.
It also helps in treating various skin problems, including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, and other skin infections. For this exact reason, coconut oil forms the base ingredient of various body care products like soaps, lotions, and creams that are used for skin care. What more? It also delays the appearance of wrinkles and sagging of skin, which normally accompany aging. The credit to this benefit goes to its well-known antioxidant properties.
Coconut oil helps improve the digestive system, and thus, prevents various stomach and digestion-related problems including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The saturated fats present in it have antimicrobial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion. It also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Great Source of Healthy Fats– Over 50% of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid. In fact, coconut oil is the richest source of lauric acid after breastmilk.
Mental Boost– Studies show MCTs may contribute to focus and mental performance.
Hormone Support– Getting the wrong kinds of fats can create havoc on hormones. Coconut oil contains specific fats that support the body’s natural hormone production.
Coconut oil is also good for improving your immunity. It strengthens the immune system because it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid, which have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which research has supported as an effective way to deal with viruses and bacteria that cause diseases like herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. Coconut oil helps in fighting harmful bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes and Helicobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as Giardia lamblia.
Great fat for cooking: Coconut oil is a stable oil that doesn’t break down easily at high temperatures like other oils do. It doesn’t go rancid easily and has amazing nutritional properties. It is great for cooking eggs, stir fries, grain free baked goods, and practically any other cooking use.
Coconut oil is a super food with a powerhouse of uses in cooking, beauty recipes, natural remedies and around the home.
Coconut Oil For Weight Loss
Coconut oil is useful for weight loss too. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. Research suggests that it helps reduce abdominal obesity in women. It is also easy to digest as compared to other edible oils and helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and endocrine system. Further, it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby, burning more energy and helping obese and overweight people lose weight. Hence, people living in tropical coastal areas, who use coconut oil every day as their primary cooking oil, are normally not fat, obese or overweight. Several people focus on exercises to lose weight, from using indoor machines like leg press machines to outdoor exercises like running and playing sports. While this is a good approach to lose weight, including products like coconut oil enhances your weight loss efforts.
Speeds Up Healing
When applied to infected areas, coconut oil forms a chemical layer that protects the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. It is highly effective on bruises because it speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues.
Calcium is an important component of our teeth. Since coconut oil facilitates the absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in developing strong teeth. It also stops tooth decay. Recent research suggests that it is also beneficial in reducing plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis.
Candida, also known as systemic candidiasis, is a tragic disease caused by an excessive and uncontrolled growth of yeast called Candida albicans in the stomach. Coconut provides relief from the inflammation caused by candida, both externally and internally. Its high moisture retaining capacity keeps the skin from cracking or peeling off. Capric acid, caprylic acid, caproic acid, myristic acid, and lauric acid found in coconut oil help in eliminating Candida albicans.
Further, unlike other pharmaceutical treatments for candida, the effect of coconut oil is gradual and not drastic or sudden, which gives the patient an appropriate amount of time to get used to the withdrawal symptoms or Herxheimer reactions (the name given to the symptoms accompanying body’s rejection of toxins generated during elimination of these fungi). But in the treatment of this condition, people should systematically and gradually increase their dosages of coconut oil, and shouldn’t initially start with a large quantity.
Keeping Organs Healthy
The presence of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids in coconut oil helps in preventing liver diseases. This is because those substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver, thus reducing its workload and also preventing accumulation of fat. It also helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases and helps dissolve kidney stones. Coconut oil is also believed to be useful in keeping the pancreas healthy by treating pancreatitis.
Helps in AIDS & Cancer Treatment
It is believed that coconut oil plays an instrumental role in reducing the viral susceptibility of HIV and cancer patients. Preliminary research has shown an indication of this effect of coconut oil on reducing the viral load of HIV patients.
Boosts Heart Health
This is a controversial topic. There is enough research to prove that coconut oil is not good for the heart due to the presence of saturated fats. While there is also research that shows that coconut oil is good for the heart. The lauric acid present in coconut oil helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Coconut oil does not lead to increase in LDL cholesterol levels, and it reduces the incidence of injury and damage to arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis. A study suggests that intake of coconut oil may help in maintaining healthy lipid profiles in pre-menopausal women. So, finally, is coconut oil good or bad for the heart?
Well, if you are using it for edible purposes, check your cholesterol levels regularly. If you find them increasing, it is better to stop the intake. In any case, do consult a professional medical practitioner before you start consuming coconut oil. Never play with your (and someone else’s) heart!
According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil kills the viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS, and other serious health risks. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhea. Finally, coconut oil is also effective in the elimination of fungi and yeast that cause ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, and diaper rash.
Coconut oil is strongly recommended for a number of other benefits that are explained below. Using this oil has been shown to mildly help the following:
- Stress relief: Coconut oil is very soothing, and hence it helps in removing stress. Applying it to the head, followed by a gentle massage, helps eliminate mental fatigue. According to research, virgin coconut oil gives relief from stress and has antioxidant properties
- Diabetes: Coconut oil helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also promotes the effective utilization of blood glucose, thereby, preventing and treating diabetes
- Bones: As mentioned earlier, coconut oil improves the ability of our body to absorb important minerals. These include calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for the development of bones. Thus, it is very useful for women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age
- Boosts Energy: Coconut oil is often used by athletes, bodybuilders and by those who are dieting. The reason behind this is that it contains fewer calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy, and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries. It helps boost energy and endurance and enhances the performance of athletes
- Coconut oil and Alzheimer’s disease: The research conducted by Dr. Newport states that the oil is useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Apart from this, there is no scientific evidence or traditional knowledge of coconut oil being used for treating Alzheimer’s. In fact, traditionally it wasn’t believed to boost the functioning of the brain in any form. The NIH has sponsored a study to check this claim
Coconut Oil Uses
This versatile oil has hundreds of uses in the home, in beauty recipes and in cooking. They include:
Uses for Coconut Oil in Cooking and Recipes
- A great cooking oil with a high smoke point. Great for baking, stir-frys or as a dairy free replacement to butter.
- Try adding to foods or smoothies daily for energy
- Or emulsify into coffee for a homemade coffee creamer (The only way I’ll drink coffee)
- In homemade Mayo without the high PUFA vegetable oils
- To season cast iron skillets
- It’s high Lauric acid and MCFA content helps boost metabolism when used in foods
- In healthy brain boosting snack for kids like Coconut Clusters
- Add to a filling and energy boosting Brain Power Smoothie
- Mix a tablespoon with a tablespoon of chia seeds for an all-day energy boost (do NOT take this at night!)
- Use as a replacement for vegetable oils in any recipe or in cooking
- Or try your hand at making coconut based grain free granola recipes
- My kids love these homemade meltaways (like candy)
- Use it as an anti-aging facial moisturizer
- Or make coconut cream concentrate for a brain boosting snack
Coconut Oil Health Benefits and Uses
- It has been shown to increase absorption of calcium and magnesium
- Internally as part of the protocol to help remineralize teeth
- Is an immediate source of energy when eaten that isn’t stored as fat
- Can help speed weight loss when consumed daily
- It can help improve sleep when taken daily
- When used in food, it may support healthy thyroid function
- Some studies show that it can help improve insulin levels when consumed regularly
- Topically, it help skin heal faster after injury or infection because of its beneficial fats
- When used consistently on skin it can help get rid of cellulite
- Some evidence shows that the beneficial fats in coconut oil can help with depression and anxiety
- When taken regularly, it can boost hormone production
- Can relieve the pain of hemorrhoids when used topically
- Some studies show it can boost circulation and help those who often feel cold
- Internally during pregnancy to help provide baby necessary fats for development (especially when taken with Fermented Cod Liver Oil)
- There are entire books dedicated to the potential of saturated fats like coconut oil to help avoid Alzheimer’s
Coconut Oil Beauty Uses
The same properties that make it beneficial in cooking and recipes make coconut oil beneficial for hair and skin:
- On the skin as a basic lotion
- With other oils as part of an oil cleansing regimen for beautiful skin
- Whipped with shea-butter for a soothing body balm
- In homemade lotion bars with other beneficial ingredients like shea butter
- In homemade deodorant– its natural antibacterial properties make it helpful in fighting odor.
- Coconut oil makes an excellent eye-makeup remover on its own
- It may help lighten age spots when rubbed directly on the skin
- To help increase sun tolerance and avoid burning when used internally
- As a naturally low SPF sunscreen on its own when used topically
- In basic homemade lotion recipes
- Add a couple drops of a favorite essential oil to make a delicious massage oil
- Mixed with equal parts sugar for a smoothing body scrub (use in the shower)
- Rubbed on lips as a natural lip balm or used in lip balm recipes
- In homemade slow cooker soap
- To make natural Homemade Sunscreen recipes with other protective ingredients
- As a natural personal lubricant that won’t disturb vaginal flora
- As a natural shave cream and after shave lotion
- Use it alone as a great tanning oil
- Mix with seal salt to remove dry skin on feet
- In natural homemade diaper cream
- Use it alone or with baking soda as a natural deodorant
- By itself or with baking soda as a naturally whitening toothpaste
- Make homemade peppermint lip balm
- Or make magnesium body butter
- Rub on cuticles to help nails grow
- Rub into elbows daily to help alleviate dry, flaky elbows
- To help avoid chlorine exposure when swimming
- As a completely natural baby lotion
Coconut Oil For Hair
- Rub into scalp daily to stimulate hair growth
- Or use in homemade shampoo bars
- A tiny dab rubbed on your hands and then through hair makes a great anti-frizz treatment
- As an incredibly intensive natural conditioner- Rub into dry hair, put a shower cap on and leave
for several hours before washing out with several rounds of shampoo
Coconut Oil Uses Around the Home
- In homemade soap for laundry
- In Homemade Natural Bug-Off Lotion Bars
- To make a simple homemade soap
- Or make a clay and charcoal soothing soap
- Rub a small amount into real leather to soften and condition (shiny leather only… test a small area first)
- And use a small amount to dilute essential oils for use on skin
- For pets struggling with skin issues when used externally
- In coconut oil dog treats
- On hands after doing dishes to avoid dry skin
- Mixed with catnip, rosemary, or mint essential oils as a natural bug repellent
Natural Remedies for Coconut Oil
- In coconut oil pulling chews and oil pulling for oral health
- Rubbed on the inside of your nose it may help alleviate allergy symptoms
- The antimicrobial and antibacterial properties make it helpful topically to kill yeast or yeast infections
- The antimicrobial properties and beneficial fats make coconut oil a powerhouse in remineralizing
- Can help sooth psoriasis or eczema
- Oil pulling with coconut oil and a drop of oregano oil helps improve gum health
- Can help improve cholesterol ratios
- Can help reduce appearance of varicose veins when used topically
- After initial heat is gone, can help speed healing of sunburn
- Blend a tablespoon into hot tea to help speed recovery from cold or flu
- It’s anti-inflammatory properties can help lessen arthritis
- Can reduce the itch of mosquito bites
- Can help resolve acne when used regularly
- A tablespoon melted into a cup of warm tea can help sooth a sore throat
- In homemade vapor rub
- Can be used internally and externally to speed recovery from UTIs
- In a salve for cracked heels
- One reader swears by using coconut oil to treat yeast infection. She suggests soaking a tampon in it and inserting the tampon for a few hours.
- Naturally clears up cold sores
- Ingesting coconut oil daily can help with allergy symptoms
- Some people say ingesting coconut oil daily can increase mental alertness
Coconut Oil for Pregnancies, Babies and Children
- As a cloth diaper safe diaper cream (just rub on baby’s bottom)
- Help speed ear infection healing
- In place of Lanolin cream on nursing nipples to sooth irritation (also great for baby!)
- Nursing moms can take a couple tablespoons a day (and Vitamin D) to increase milk supply and nutrients
- To help sooth the itch of chicken pox or poison ivy
- Use on skin to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy
- Used directly on the perineum to help heal after birth
- To get rid of cradle cap on baby- just massage in to head, leave on for a few minutes and gently rinse with a warm wash cloth
- With apple cider vinegar as a natural treatment for lice that actually works
You can also check out my recipe list for many more recipes that use coconut oil!
Types of Coconut Oil
There are several choices when it comes to using this healthful fat.
Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil
Considered the gold standard. This type of oil offers the most of the benefits listed above. It is extracted from fresh coconut using a wet-milled fermentation process that protects the beneficial properties of the coconut. This type of coconut oil has been found to have the highest antioxidant levels. This process does use heat but studies show that it does not harm the oil or reduce nutrient levels. In fact, the heat may be beneficial and create a higher quality oil.
“Extra Virgin” Oil
The gold standard for olive oil but not coconut oil. This is produced by cold-pressing the oil and does not preserve the antioxidants as well:
In 2013, a study that compared “cold extracted virgin coconut oil” (CEVCO) with “hot extracted virgin coconut oil” (HEVCO) and standard refined coconut oil (CCO) was conducted in India, and published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology. This study, like many others, showed that virgin coconut oils actually lower LDL cholesterol, while raising the “good” HDL cholesterol.
This study also confirmed that virgin coconut oil produced with heat produced the highest amounts of antioxidants: “The antioxidant activity in the HEVCO group was 80-87%, 65-70% in CEVCO, and 35-45% in CCO.” The researchers went on to comment why heat is necessary to produce the highest amounts of antioxidants in virgin coconut oil. (source)
Refined Coconut Oils
Refined coconut oil is often tasteless and has no coconut smell. It is usually heated, bleached and deodorized. Healthy options are available but many refined coconut oils do not have the benefits of unrefined.
Fractionated Oil or MCT Oil
Fractionated oil or MCT oil is a liquid oil that does not get solid below 76 degrees like unrefined oil does. It doesn’t contain all of the beneficial properties of unrefined coconut oil but is higher in brain-boosting fats.
Nutritional Profile of Coconut Oil
Most of the fats in coconut oil are saturated but they are in the form of MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides, also called MCFAs), which affect the body differently than short and long chain fats. The MCTs are composed of:
- Lauric Acid– This beneficial fat makes up 40% of the total fat composition, making it one of nature’s highest natural sources. The body converts lauric acid to monolaurin, which is beneficial for immune function.
- Caprylic Acid– Another healthy fat with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
- Capric Acid– This converts to monocaprin in the body and has immune boosting and antimicrobial properties.
Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs)
Most of the fats we consume are long chain fatty acids that must be broken down before they can be absorbed. Coconut oil is high in short and medium chain fatty acids, which are easily digested and sent right to the liver for energy production.
Because MCFAs are sent right to the liver for digestion, no bile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion, making coconut oil a healthy food even for those with diabetes or those who have gallbladder problems.
MCFAs can help increase metabolism since they are sent directly to the liver and give the body an instant source of energy. Most of the MCFAs in coconut oil are the highly beneficial Lauric Acid.
Benefits of MCFAs (MCTs)
All of these MCTs are beneficial to the body. They are metabolized differently than longer chain fats, going straight from the digestive system to the liver. This provides a quick source of energy and brain fuel.
These rare oils are naturally free of cholesterol and hard to find in nature.
This may be part of the reason that coconut oil is so beneficial to the brain and for weight loss. It isn’t digested or stored in the same was as other fats and is more quickly available for use.
Coconut oil is also a decent source of several fat soluble vitamins (mainly A and K) as well as healthy polyphenols.
Lauric acid is found in abundance in human breast milk and converts to a substance called monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin has been shown to be useful in increasing immunity and fighting viruses and disease.
One study combined lauric acid-rich coconut oil with oregano oil, and found it effective in fighting the staph bacteria than antibiotics. It has also been shown to be preventative against some cancers. Coconut Oil is over 40% lauric acid, the richest source naturally available.
More than 90% of coconut oil consists of saturated fats (Don’t panic! It’s not as bad as it sounds, read until the end of this and your opinion may change), along with traces of a few unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Virgin coconut oil is no different from this.
- Saturated fatty acids: Most of them are medium chain triglycerides, which are supposed to assimilate well into the body’s systems.
- Lauric acid: It is the chief contributor, representing more than 40% of the total, followed by capric acid, caprylic acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid. The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin. Lauric acid is helpful in dealing with viruses and diseases.
- Capric acid: It reacts with certain enzymes secreted by other bacteria, which subsequently converts it into a powerful antimicrobial agent, monocaprin.
- Caprylic acid, caproic acid, and myristic acid: They are rich in antimicrobial and antifungal properties
- Unsaturated fatty acids: Polyunsaturated fatty acids- linoleic acid, monounsaturated fatty acids- oleic acid
- Poly-phenols: Coconut contains gallic acid, which is also known as phenolic acid. These polyphenols are responsible for the fragrance and the taste of coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is rich in these polyphenols.
- Derivatives of fatty acid: Betaines, ethanolamide, ethoxylates, fatty esters, fatty polysorbates, monoglycerides and polyol esters.
- Derivatives of fatty alcohols: Fatty chlorides, fatty alcohol sulfate, and fatty alcohol ether sulfate
- Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin E, vitamin K, and minerals such as iron.
Use as Carrier Oil
Carrier oils are those oils, which easily penetrate or absorb into the skin, facilitating seepage or absorption of other oils (such as essential oils) and herbal extracts when mixed into it. It is easily absorbed through the skin’s pores and thus is used as a carrier oil. Furthermore, being one of the most stable oils, it doesn’t go rancid, nor does it let the other oils, herbal extracts, or medicines spoil inside of it. It does not alter the properties of the oils and herbs mixed with it. It also protects the herbs and oils from microbial or fungal interactions. Coconut oil is expensive in several countries; however, in tropical countries, its cost is low enough to make it affordable as a carrier oil.
How to Use and Store Coconut Oil
Unlike most other oils, coconut oil has a high melting point – about 24 to 25 degrees Celsius or 76-78 Fahrenheit. Therefore, it is solid at room temperature and melts only when the temperature rises considerably. It is often in this form and is not supposed to be kept it in the refrigerator.
If you are using coconut oil for topical purposes, especially hair care, just melt the oil (if it is solid) by keeping the bottle in the sun or soaking it in warm water. You can also take some oil out and put it in a small bowl and heat the bowl over a flame (don’t use a microwave). Then, take the oil on your palm and apply it to your hair. If you want to use it for internal consumption, simply replace butter or vegetable oils with coconut oil in your recipes. Remember, you don’t need to completely switch to coconut oil because then you will lose other benefits of more traditional oils and dairy products.
In colder countries, coconut oil comes in good, broad containers. However, if you get it in a pack (tetra-pack or plastic pouch), after opening the pack, be sure to keep the oil in containers with a tight lid and broad mouth. This will help you scoop it out with a spoon if it solidifies. Keeping it sealed or lidded is necessary because there are other admirers of coconut oil too (ants, cockroaches, other insects and rodents just love it!).
Negative Effects of Coconut Oil
It is indeed unexpected – to even get to know that coconut oil has side effects. But it does. And sometimes, the side effects can get dangerous. Which is why knowing about them is vital. Keep reading to know some of the unexpected side effects of coconut oil. But, before that, let’s take a glance at its benefits.
Can coconut oil cause diarrhea? Well, coconut oil is usually taken orally to fight internal bacterial infection. This process of destroying the bacteria can lead to certain short-term side effects. And one of them is diarrhea. There could be other related symptoms too. To minimize the symptoms, you need to first consume the oil in smaller amounts – and gradually work your way up to the required quantity.
2. Acne Breakout
This is more likely to happen to individuals with excessively oily skin. The lauric acid in coconut usually helps in killing the acne-causing bacteria. But this is in the case of skin that is not very oily. Otherwise, there could be a problem. What you can instead do is use coconut oil as a carrier oil. Use other skin-friendly essential oils, along with coconut oil, to get relief from acne.
3. High Cholesterol Levels
As per a report by the Harvard Medical School, coconut oil may not be as healthy as other vegetable oils (like olive oil or soybean oil) with regard to cholesterol levels. Though coconut oil can boost good cholesterol levels, it may not be preferred to other healthy vegetable oils. The increase in coconut oil intake was linked to a rise in total cholesterol levels as well as that of LDL (the bad cholesterol) .
The saturated fat content in coconut oil is higher than other fats or oils (butter or olive oil) . And it has been found that high levels of saturated fat lead to an increase in bad cholesterol, which can eventually result in health complications.
4. Intestinal Distress
Individuals with fructose malabsorption are particularly susceptible to this. This is basically when someone has trouble absorbing fructose, which results in digestive issues – including intestinal distress. Though coconut oil does not contain fructose, all other products made from it do. If you suffer from any intestinal distress or related issues post the consumption of products containing coconut oil, you know what to do – consult your doctor.
Numerous food products based on coconut oil also contain fructans that are made of a small chain of fructose. Fructans can also cause gastrointestinal problems.
Individuals experiencing digestive distress post the consumption of such foods also often react to broccoli, garlic, onions, wheat, and Brussels sprouts.
Certain compounds called sulphites are present in desiccated coconut (if not in coconut oil) that can also cause digestive issues. The best solution could be to eliminate all forms of coconut from your diet and see if the symptoms improve. If not, visit your doctor.
Though not as prevalent as other forms of allergies, coconut oil does cause allergies if one is sensitive to it. Some of the allergic reactions include nausea, rashes, eczema, hives, vomiting, and anaphylaxis (a lethal emergency that involves troubled breathing).
According to a Boston study, children having peanut allergies (or allergic to tree nuts) are less likely to be allergic to coconut oil (as coconut is not basically a nut, but a fruit). Still, if your child has any of these allergies, it is better to consult your doctor before letting them try coconut oil.
Here’s what you might need to avoid if you are allergic to coconut oil (or any form of coconut) – chocolates, cakes, and the popcorn that they sell at movie theaters.
If you are suspicious of having allergic reactions to coconut oil, it is better to keep track of your symptoms in a food diary. Post which, you can visit your health care specialist. This helps you get an insight into the allergy.
In rare cases, one might even develop severe allergy symptoms – these can include rapid heart rate, facial swelling, and lightheadedness. If you are experiencing any of these, visit your doctor immediately.
There is one substance called coconut diethanolamide, manufactured from coconut oil, which is used as an agent in hand washing liquids. As per a Finnish study, certain individuals experienced allergies after using products containing this agent.
6. Allergic Reactions In Children
Though coconut oil is good for children, there are certain aspects to be kept in mind. And the most important of those aspects is a malfunctioning thyroid. If your child has hypothyroidism, refrain from using coconut oil (or related products) before consulting the doctor. This is because the oil might aggravate the condition and even cause allergic reactions in some children.
7. Might Harm The Heart
According to the American Heart Association, eating fewer saturated fats and more of unsaturated fats is the best way to prevent heart disease. And coconut oil, being higher in saturated fats, could harm the heart.
Though coconut oil also contains unsaturated fat, there is no research that shows it to mitigate the ill effects of saturated fat.
One report says that coconut oil contains more bad fat than beef or butter. And as per another New Zealand study, coconut oil increases bad cholesterol to a greater extent than unsaturated plant oils.
In fact, even pure virgin coconut oil was found to have 92% saturated fat – which is the highest amount of saturated fat in any fat.
Individuals undertaking detoxification using coconut oil (for yeast infections, especially) often experience headaches. This happens when the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil break down the yeast cells (that cause the infection), thereby releasing a wave of fungal toxins into the bloodstream.
The belief that coconut oil can cure an under active thyroid is just that, a belief. And not a fact. This is because there is insufficient evidence as to how effective coconut oil can be in enhancing thyroid health.
10. Problems With Oil Pulling
If you are sensitive to coconut oil, using it for oil pulling could be a bad idea. You can instead use sunflower or sesame oil for this purpose as they also can help kill the harmful bacteria.
One important point to note with respect to oil pulling alone is that it is not a replacement to brushing. Nothing can remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth better than brushing your teeth daily.
11. Problems With Use As A Lubricant
Yes, coconut oil (the virgin coconut oil, we mean) could be natural. But it sure might have ingredients whose safety and efficacy are not known yet. Which is why using the oil as a personal lubricant may not be a safe option.
Coconut oil is also known to alter the pH of the vagina, causing yeast infections. It can also degrade the latex in latex condoms and cause serious issues. Hence, one must not use any kind of oil-based lubricant with latex condoms.
Though coconut oil can help treat Candida, what is of particular concern are the die-off symptoms. These occur as a result of the toxins released by the dying Candida.
13. Liver Damage
The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are transported to the liver, where they are converted into energy. As per certain experts, the speed at which these MCFAs are brought to the liver can cause a problem. This might put stress on the liver and even harm the organ over time. If you have any liver disease or diabetes, it is advised to avoid coconut oil or any other food containing MCFAs.
But then, the entire theory is speculative. However, it is always better to stay on the safer side, isn’t it?
The negative side effects of coconut oil, though not many, could be bothersome. Which is why you must exercise caution if you are allergic to coconut oil
Coconut juice comes from the belly of young coconuts. Sometimes referred to as coconut water, coconut juice provides an impressive amount of nutrition and benefits your overall health. The best source of coconut juice is young coconuts. In the packaged varieties, pasteurization kills harmful microorganisms and helps preserve the coconut juice, but it also destroys many of the health properties and essential enzymes.
In most tropical countries with long coastlines where coconut palms grow in abundance, coconut water has always been used as a refreshing drink and a health enhancer. The people of the Pacific Islands respect the coconut and use all of its parts for food and medicine.
It is only recently that this humble natural beverage has started receiving the attention it clearly deserves in North America. If you are not familiar with this drink, coconut water is the nearly colorless liquid contained within a coconut. Although it used to be referred to as the milk of coconut, or coconut milk, earlier, it is not to be confused with the white milky liquid extracted from coconut meat.
In its natural form, coconut water is a light, mildly sweet drink with a very slight nutty taste and astringent feel. It cannot compete with sodas or sports drinks in sweetness, but this pure drink is surprisingly satisfying. Coconut water from fresh, tender coconuts is the best, but it is now available bottled, with or without added sugar and flavors. The best, of course, is the 100% natural, with no added sugar or other preservatives or coloring.
Benefits of drinking Coconut juice
Coconut Water Is A Clean Natural Drink
Coconuts are not nuts; they are the fruit of a tall palm Cocos nucifera with large, spreading fronds. The actual edible part is the seed kernel inside the fibrous fruit. What is unique about this seed is the large quantity of edible liquid contained within the kernel. What’s more: it is hermetically sealed in several protective layers that keep moisture, mold and bacteria from contaminating this nature’s bounty. The people of Hawaii call it “neolani” for good reason. It literally translates to “dew from the heavens.”
The tops of fresh tender coconuts are usually cut open with a sharp machete to access the goodness inside, which includes both the water and the jelly-like meat. But did you know that there’s another way to get the coconut water? When a machete is not available, native islanders remove the outer husk by hitting the coconut on a rock to loosen it off the inner shell.
This hard shell of the coconut has three eyes, and the largest among them is softer than the others. You can actually poke a hole in this eye with a stick and then upturn the shell over your mouth or insert a straw to suck up the water. It looks like nature designed this soft eye specifically for accommodating a drinking straw. Actually, it is to help the baby plant come out easily when a mature coconut sprouts.
When you drink coconut water directly from a freshly cut coconut, It is as clean and pure a drink as you can get. It does not contain any artificial preservatives, nor does it need any additives to make it palatable. It is a far cry from the sodas and juices your palate is familiar with, but most people who get to taste fresh coconut water fall in love with it. Although mild in taste, it satisfies thirst and refreshes the body.
When you cannot get fresh coconuts, the next best thing could be bottled coconut water, but always remember to check the label. Get the brand that gives pure, organic coconut water without additives.
It Rehydrates You Very Quickly
Coconut water has the ability to rehydrate you very quickly because it is readily absorbed into the body. In fact, coconut water is recognized as more hydrating than pure water. Coconut water is identical to human blood plasma and was used for transfusions during World War ll.
In places with hot and humid climates where coconut trees naturally grow, people get dehydrated very often due to heavy sweating. Locals and tourists alike find that coconut water is more hydrating than plain water or fruit juices ( which are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients). In addition, the mineral salts naturally occurring in coconut water speed up the absorption of water through the gut wall.
People who have lost a lot of blood are given coconut water, so are those who are dehydrated because of frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Coconut water is usually well-tolerated by people who suffer from nausea and aversion to food due to metallic taste in the mouth. It is often given to women who cannot keep down any food during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is also common for those who undertake severe fasting for extended periods to break it with a drink of coconut water.
Coconut Water Resolves Dyspepsia (Upset Stomach)
An upset stomach is often thought to result from indigestion, but it can be caused by any number of things, including mild gastrointestinal infections and food allergies. Whatever the reason for the upset stomach, the lining of the stomach is inflamed, and this can cause common symptoms such as nausea, bloating, uneasy feeling and loss of appetite. Coconut water works in a variety of ways to soothe the stomach lining.
An inflamed stomach lining cannot absorb even water and sugars from food. It is often accompanied by loss of essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Coconut water contains tannins, which are known to reduce inflammation.
‘Brat,’ (which stands for banana, rice, applesauce and toast) has been a traditional remedy for upset stomach. Coconut water can take its place as it contains more potassium than bananas. It also provides other minerals, vitamins, and some natural sugar in an absorbable form.
Coconut water can even handle mild infections. It contains lauric acid which is abundant in human breast milk. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a compound with proven antimicrobial properties. If a stomach problem is the result of bacterial or protozoan infections or stomach flu, frequent drinks of coconut water can help. The tannins in the water also have antibacterial properties.
Coconut Water Is Great For Replenishing Electrolytes
Electrolytes are essential minerals and mineral salts that regulate muscle and nerve function in our body. Blood pressure and blood pH are also regulated by electrolytes. Sodium (Na+), Potassium (K+), Magnesium (Mg++), Calcium (Ca++), Chloride (Cl-), Phosphate (HPO4–) and Bicarbonate (HCO3-) are the seven major electrolytes in the body. The positive and negative charges carried by these ions are responsible for the electrical activity within muscle fibers and nerve cells.
The body gets these important substances from food and employs different mechanisms to maintain them at optimum levels. But excessive sweating, bleeding, and loss of bodily fluids from the gastrointestinal tract can cause imbalances and deficiencies, throwing the normal functions like heartbeat, and muscle contraction out of gear. For example, deficiency of potassium and magnesium affects muscle contraction and causes muscle cramps. This is why high potassium foods like bananas are recommended after bouts of exercise and sports practice.
A cup of coconut water not only has more than 600 mg of potassium, which is one and a half times of what you get from a banana, but has over 250 mg sodium, about 60 mg magnesium, 58 mg calcium and 48 mg phosphorus. So whenever there’s a possibility of developing electrolyte imbalance, coconut water is what you can turn to for a quick fill up.
Coconut Water Is A Great Post-Workout Drink
As mentioned earlier, strenuous activities that require constant muscular movement use up minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. It is important to replace them as early as possible to avoid muscle breakdown and electrolyte imbalance. This is the reason why people always reach for mineral-rich foods and health drinks right after workouts. We know that coconut water has these minerals to offer. But what makes it even more special is that its composition and salt concentration are very similar to that of tissue fluids. Therefore, coconut water is readily absorbed into the body.
Some people point out that our body requires a lot more of sodium than what coconut water provides. This is true only if too much sodium has been flushed away through excess perspiration. Nevertheless, this can be easily remedied by adding a pinch or two of sea salt to your coconut water drink.
A lot of water is also lost as a result of profuse sweating during workouts. Every tissue and organ in the body requires minimum levels of hydration for their proper functioning. Severe dehydration can have far-reaching consequences, including dangerous drops in blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. Coconut water can quickly restore fluid volume in the blood as well as in the tissues due to its isotonicity with interstitial fluid and blood plasma.
According to John Isner who successfully played the longest match ever in the history of professional tennis, it is coconut water that kept him going and prevented muscle cramps all through the three days that saw him play a total of 11 hours of intense tennis.
Coconut Water Promotes Regularity of Bowel Movements
According to the traditional wisdom of ancient yoga practitioners, bowel regularity is the foundation of physical health. Food entering the body contains many indigestible and undesirable elements, including toxins. They should be eliminated as soon as possible.
Any obstruction in this natural process can result in the accumulation of these toxic substances in the digestive tract. The origin of most diseases can be traced back to our gut. The soluble fiber in coconut water helps regulate bowel movements. In fact, many yogis (practitioners of the traditional health system of yoga) start their day with fresh coconut water.
It Promotes Weight Loss/Maintenance
The weight loss claim of coconut water is under the radar, not because of any doubt regarding its efficacy, but because of apprehensions about how it is achieved. To state it more clearly, some people think that coconut water consumption leads to weight loss by causing diarrhea.
It is highly probable that one would get loose/frequent motions if coconut water, or almost any food for that matter, is taken in excess. It just an example of how “too much of a good thing can be bad” for you. When it comes to weight loss diet, people tend to overdo it.
Coconut water is a low-calorie thirst quencher that is both highly filling and satiating. Merely replacing your regular high-sugar drinks with coconut water makes it a valuable weight loss tool. Coconut water contains fiber that keeps you feeling full for longer periods. If you have a glass of it half an hour before a meal, you will eat less. The diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut water also may be responsible since they both reduce water retention and bloating.
Coconut Water Helps Kidney Function
Most diets are high in sodium and low in potassium. Sodium puts a lot of stress on the kidneys because it promotes fluid retention. When sodium is high, kidneys have to work harder to eliminate excess water. On the other hand, potassium acts as a diuretic, helping the kidneys flush out water.
A single cup of coconut water can provide enough potassium to keep the kidneys in good health. Its diuretic effect is beneficial in preventing kidney stones. The arginine in coconut water increases blood circulation to all organs including kidneys.
Coconut Water Helps Reduce Blood Pressure
When you think about the blood pressure lowering capacity of coconut water, what comes to mind first is its high potassium content. This natural drink indeed is an excellent source of potassium; you get over 600 mg of this mineral from an 11 oz. can of coconut water. Compare that to the 400 mg potassium that you get from a banana. This mineral balances out the sodium content in the body that causes water retention. When water accumulates in the body, it increases blood volume and raises blood pressure. As we discussed earlier, when your diet has more potassium, it acts as a diuretic, helping the kidneys flush out excess water, thus reducing blood pressure.
However, potassium is not the only blood pressure lowering agent in coconut water. It also contains arginine which is known to relax blood vessels and improve blood circulation. This is the result of a slight increase in nitrous oxide levels brought about by the action of this amino acid. Some people take arginine supplements for its cardiovascular benefits. However, it is always best to turn to whole food/drinks for the vitamins and minerals we need.
Every cup of coconut water contains about 0.283 mg. of arginine. It is not a lot, but still sufficient for an appreciable reduction in blood pressure when you regularly drink one or two glasses. Even if you do not have hypertension, it is a great idea to drink a glass of coconut water before bed to improve your blood circulation while you sleep.
Coconut Water Is A Health Enhancer
Coconut water is an excellent general health tonic. It is treated as such in countries where it is available locally. Young children suffering malnutrition, pregnant and lactating mothers who require extra nutritional inputs, elderly people and convalescents who cannot derive sufficient nutrition from food, all benefit from coconut water. It is not just because it contains minerals, B-complex vitamins, amino acids, cytokines and many other beneficial phytochemicals. The bioavailability of all these substances makes this natural health drink far better than any other health drink formula around.
Even if you don’t have a specific condition, you should consider adding pure coconut water to your daily diet for improved overall health and energy. It is truly a gift from nature that should be respected.
Negative Effects of Taking Too Much Coconut Water
Coconut water, also known as coconut juice, is the fluid that is naturally found inside young, still green, coconuts. You can find the juice in many grocery stores and health food stores, and it is widely consumed for its health properties. While coconut juice is low in calories, it is also high in sugar and saturated fat, which may offset its potential weight-loss benefits if it is not consumed in moderation.
Calorie Content and Weight Loss
A 1-cup serving of coconut water has only 46 calories, making it a relatively low-calorie drink that can be substituted for other sweet beverages. Drinking coconut water in place of a high-calorie drink, like flavored soda, can help you lose weight over time because you’ll be consuming fewer calories in total. As 1 pound of body weight equals 3,500 calories, drinking coconut water once a week in place of a lemon-lime soda, which has 151 calories per 12-ounce can, can help you lose 1.6 pounds of body weight over the course of a year.
High in Sugar
While coconut water is fairly low in calories, it is high in sugars, with 6.3 grams per 1-cup serving. While the sugars are natural, a diet high in sugar can increase your chance of weight gain and obesity, according to the American Heart Association. As well, some commercially produced coconut water drinks may include added sugar, which can further raise the sugar level. The association suggests limiting your total calories per day from added sugar to a maximum of 100 for women and 150 for men. A 1-cup serving of coconut water has a little over 25 calories from sugar per serving, a high amount, especially considering the small serving size.
The fat content of coconut water is a little under 0.5 gram per cup, but most of it — 0.4 gram or 88 percent of the total fat content — is saturated fat. The American Heart Association suggests limiting your saturated fat intake to a maximum of 5 percent to 6 percent of your total calories. For a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, that is roughly 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat. While coconut water only provides 3 percent to 4 percent of the total saturated fat recommendation, it is a high quantity given the small serving size. In some cases, you may drink more than 1 cup of coconut water, which will further raise your saturated fat intake. Eating a diet high in fat can make it harder for you to safely lose weight, and a diet high in saturated fat increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
A 2006 issue of the “Journal of Medicinal Food” published an animal study on the benefits of coconut water and cholesterol levels. Scientists found that rats fed coconut water at a ratio of 4 milliliters per 100 grams of body weight showed lower overall “bad” cholesterol levels, namely low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides. In turn, the rats’ healthy or “good” cholesterol — high-density lipoprotein — increased on the coconut water diet. While the results were promising, the amount consumed was significantly higher than the amount of coconut water consumed by most people, and scientists concluded that further long-term study on humans was needed, particularly research that took into consideration the practical consumption habits of coconut water.
How To Buy The Best Coconut Water
There’s nothing better than drinking fresh coconut water directly from the shell of young coconuts, but unfortunately that’s not possible for all of us.
To ensure you are drinking the finest quality bottled coconut water, here are some things you should avoid:
- Using a concentrate instead of fresh juice
- Taking water from mature coconuts
- Adding “natural flavors” or sweeteners
- Pasteurizing it with heat
- Dipping whole coconuts in formaldehyde or sodium metabisulphite
- Harmless Harvest Coconut Water is widely regarded as the closest thing to sipping coconut water from a fresh coconut. It is sometimes available from this page on Amazon or can be found at Whole Foods.
See more here
Coconut Negative Effects
The rich flavor of coconut conjures up visions of tropical islands and warm weather. While coconut can have a number of health benefits, eating too much can be bad for your health. In addition to being high in saturated fat and calories, some varieties of coconut contain added sugar, which is considered less healthy than sugar that occurs naturally in foods.
Whether you choose sweetened or unsweetened coconut, you’ll consume an unexpectedly high amount of sugar in a small serving. While a 1-ounce serving of dried, unsweetened coconut has 2.1 grams of sugar, the same serving of sweetened coconut has 10.4 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association states that a diet high in added sugar contributes to obesity and recommends limiting your daily added sugar intake for overall health, making unsweetened coconut a healthier choice. The association recommends limiting added sugar to 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men.
Higher Blood Cholesterol Levels
Coconut is also naturally high in saturated fat, which makes up nearly 90 percent of the total fat per serving. A 1-ounce serving of unsweetened dried coconut has 18.3 grams of total fat, 16.2 grams of which are saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat make up no more than 7 percent of your total calories, which is around 16 grams for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet. A single serving of dried coconut provides more than 100 percent of the recommended upper limit. A diet high in saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol levels, putting you at greater risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. But coconut oil, while high in saturated fat, also contains medium-chain triglycerides, which can help raise levels of high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol.
Potential Weight Gain
In addition to being high in fat, coconut is also high in calories. A 1-ounce serving of dried, unsweetened coconut contains 187 calories per serving, and a 1-ounce serving of sweetened coconut contains 129 calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this provides 6.5 percent to 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. As it takes 3,500 calories to make up 1 pound of body weight, eating a lot of coconut, or eating it regularly, without decreasing your calorie consumption elsewhere or increasing your physical activity, can lead to weight gain. While coconut can be part of a healthy diet, you need to be aware of its high calorie content, especially if you include it regularly at your meals.
Coconut is naturally high in dietary fiber, which, while often a benefit because the American diet is frequently low in dietary fiber, can potentially cause digestive complications. A 1-ounce serving of dried, unsweetened coconut has 4.6 grams of dietary fiber, which is 12 percent to 18 percent of the recommended dietary intake of fiber for all adults. Rapidly increasing your dietary fiber consumption, especially if your diet is normally low in dietary fiber, can lead to diarrhea and gas, as your digestive tract is not used to processing that much fiber. Gradually increasing your fiber or coconut consumption can reduce the risk of side effects.
Products containing hydrogenated coconut oil should be avoided since consumption of hydrogenated coconut oil has been shown to cause a signiﬁcant increase in blood cholesterol levels, thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
When purchasing shredded coconut, read labels carefully and avoid products sweetened with sugar and/ or preserved with propylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze.
Coconut contains small amounts of oxalate.
Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid over consuming this food.