The coconut is the fruit of a palm tree, known as “Cocos nucifera”, native to the tropical regions of the world. The scientific name of the coconut palm is derived from 16th century Portuguese and Spanish “cocos”, meaning “grinning face” or “monkey face” because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey or human. The Latin “nucifera” means “nut-bearing.”
The coconut is actually not a tree nut, but belongs to a class of fruits called known as “drupes“. Some common examples of flowering plants that produce drupes are coffee, mango, most palms (including date and oil palms), pistachio, almond, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum.
Cultures that co-evolved with indigenous populations of coconut trees learned to use this fruit to treat a number of conditions such as: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.
More and more of this indigenous knowledge has been confirmed as of late by western medicine. The Coconut Research Center has done an excellent job of compiling relevant scholarly articles on this matter.
Five Reasons to Eat More Coconut
Coconut Water: Some people may call this coconut juice or even coconut milk. Coconut water is actually the clear, watery liquid found within a young coconut. Coconut milk is juice extracted from the coconut meat. Coconut milk is roughly the consistency of dairy milk, is filled with fats and actually has a cream that will rise to the top. If you happen to live near an Asian market you’re likely to find both canned coconut water (or synonymously “coconut juice”) and coconut milk on the shelves if you’re curious to experience the difference for yourself.
Coconut water is just as effective as sports drinks at re-hydrating the body with the added benefit of being straight from nature. Coconut water is mostly H2O, simple sugar and electrolytes (in the form of Potassium 356mg and Sodium 20mg per 100g serving). The best way to get your coconut water is directly from young coconuts themselves. They can be fairly inexpensive if you know where to look (around $1.50 each at many Asian markets in San Diego) and you can use the kernel to make bac’un!
Weight Loss: Coconut kernel and oil are rich in saturated fats, which may sound a little scary because we all know diets rich in saturated fat are known to cause health problems. However, not all saturated fats are created equal. There are short, medium, long and very-long chain fatty acids (or triglycerides). Over half of the saturated fat in coconut comes from medium chain triglycerides which have been linked with an increase in energy expenditure and fat oxidation. This is all a very fancy way of saying that the fat profile of coconut can actually help you lose weight!
Immunity: The majority of fatty acids in coconut come from Lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride that is also found in human breast milk. Lauric acid is converted to monolaurin by the digestive process. Monolaurin is a powerful germ-fighting agent that helps protect us from a variety of bacterial and viral infections.
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