Coconut is a mature fruit of the Cocos nucifera palm. It is one of very versatile and indispensable food item for millions of inhabitants of South and South-East Asia and Pacific islands. It is one of the most sought-after ingredients in the kitchen since it employed in almost each and every recipe prepared in these parts of the world.
Health benefits of coconut
- Coconut is a very versatile and indispensable food item for most people under the tropical belt. It is a complete food rich in calories, vitamins, and minerals. A medium-sized nut carrying 400 g edible meat and some 30-150 ml of water may provide almost all the daily-required essential minerals, vitamins, and energy of an average-sized individual.
- 100 g kernel holds 354 calories. Much of this comes from the fats and protein. Although its meat is disproportionately high in saturated fats in comparison to other common edible nuts, coconut has many health promoting bioactive compounds.
- The important saturated fatty acid in the coconut is lauric acid (1:12 carbon fatty acid). Lauric acid increases good-HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. HDL is a high-density lipoprotein, which has beneficial effects on the coronary arteries by preventing vessel blockage (atherosclerosis). Physicians recommend high HDL to total cholesterol levels in the blood for the same reason.
- Coconut water is a very refreshing drink to beat tropical summer thirst. The juice is packed with simple sugar, electrolytes, minerals, and bioactive compounds such as cytokinin, and enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, peroxidase, polymerases, etc. Altogether, these enzymes aid in digestion and metabolism.
- Coconut oil extracted from the dry kernel (copra) is an excellent emollient agent. It is used in cooking, applied over scalp as hair nourishment, employed in pharmacy and medicines.
- Research studies suggest that cytokinins (e.g., kinetin and trans-zeatin) in coconut water showed significant anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects.
- The kernel is an excellent source of minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc.
- It is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.
- Coconut meat and water contain a good amount of potassium. 100 g of fresh meat contains 356 mg or 7.5% of daily required levels of potassium.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Skin care: Coconut oil is an excellent massage oil that acts as an effective moisturizer on 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 coconut oil. Therefore, it is a safe solution for preventing dryness and flaking of skin. It also delays the appearance of wrinkles and sagging of skin, which normally accompany aging.
It helps in preventing degenerative diseases like premature aging due to its well-known antioxidant properties. It also helps in treating various skin problems, including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. For that exact reason, coconut oil forms the base ingredient of various body care products like soaps, lotions, and creams that are used for skin care.
Hair care: Coconut oil helps in healthy growth of hair and gives your hair a shiny quality. It is also highly effective in reducing protein loss, which can lead to various unattractive or unhealthy qualities in your hair. It is used as hair care oil and is used in manufacturing various conditioners and dandruff relief creams. It is normally applied topically for hair care.
Coconut oil is extensively used in the Indian sub-continent for hair care. 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 coconut oil 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 free of dandruff, even if your scalp is chronically dry. It also helps in keeping your hair and scalp free from lice and lice eggs.
Heart diseases: There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for heart health. This is because it contains a large quantity of saturated fats. In reality, it is quite beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Coconut oil does not lead to increase in LDL levels, and it reduces the incidence of injury and damage to arteries, and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis. Study suggests that intake of coconut oil may help in maintaining healthy lipid profiles in pre-menopausal women.
Weight loss: Coconut oil is very useful for weight loss. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. Research suggests that coconut oil helps to reduce abdominal obesity in women. It is also easy to digest and it 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 exercise 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.
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.
Digestion: Internal functions of coconut oil occur primarily due to it being used as cooking oil. It helps to improve the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion-related problems including irritable bowel syndrome. The saturated fats present in coconut oil 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.
Dental care: Calcium is an important component of our teeth. Since coconut oil facilitates absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in developing strong teeth. It also stops tooth decay. Recent research suggests that coconut oil is beneficial in reducing plaque formation and plaque induced gingivitis.
Candida: Candida, also known as Systemic Candidiasis, is a tragic disease caused from 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.
Healing and Infections: 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. Coconut oil is highly effective on bruises because it speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues.
Keeping Organs Healthy: The presence of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids in coconut oil helps in preventing liver diseases because those substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver, thus reducing the work load of the liver and also preventing accumulation of fat. It also helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases and helps to dissolve kidney stones. Coconut oil is also believed to be useful in keeping pancreas healthy by treating pancreatitis.
HIV and cancer: It is believed that coconut oil plays an instrumental role in reducing viral susceptibility for HIV and cancer patients. Preliminary research has shown an indication of this effect of coconut oil on reducing the viral load of HIV patients.
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 gonorrhoea. 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 coconut oils 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 to eliminate mental fatigue. According to research virgin coconut oil gives relief from stress and has antioxidant properties.
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 to women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age.
Boosts Energy: Coconut oil is often used by athletes, body builders and by those who are dieting. The reason behind this being that it contains less 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. Coconut oil helps boost energy and endurance, and generally 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, it is not traditionally thought that the oil helps in boosting the function of the brain in any form.