Monday, May 10, 2010

The Mighty and Often Misunderstood Coconut

I have long been a lover of coconut. I remember when I was little my folks would buy us a whole coconut as a special treat every now and then. Dad would use an ice pick to punch a hole in it and drain out the milk inside so we could drink it. Then, he would crack the coconut and we'd dig out the white meat and gobble that up.

From what I have read about coconut meat, milk and oil, it's a pretty awesome food.
I have cooked with coconut oil and it takes a little getting used to because it has a lower "flash point" temperature than, say, Crisco, has. So you can cook on lower heats.

In one of my blogs, I had posted here, I told you that canned coconut milk would make your hair shiny when put directly on the hair after shampooing. And, it did do that when I tried it. Unfortunately, it also looked, to me, like I had a severe case of the "greasies". It took about 5 washings to get it out of my hair. However, during that event of putting it on my hair, some of the coconut milk ran down over my back. I had always, as long as I can remember, had a "dry patch" on my back that itched every now and again. But, after that milk poured over it... it was gone.... and a year later it still hasn't come back. So, it was very beneficial for that.

The website tells us that the coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. On many islands of the world, the coconut is a staple for it's nutrition and health benefits.

In traditional medicine around the world, coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems from asthma to baldness to colds to toothaches to STD's. In modern medicine, published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another, kills viruses, bacteria, fungi and yeasts (that cause things like flu, Hepatitis C, Aids, uclers, UTI's, STD's, ringworm, athletes foot and others). Additionally, in the studies, it says the coconut boosts energy and endurance, improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients, improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose, reduces inflammation, helps prevent liver disease, supports thyroid function, and the list goes on and on.

The vast majority of fats and oils in our diets, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plats, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). The coconut is predominately composed of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). Our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size. The MCFA do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help protect against heart disease. They help to lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease. There are only a few good dietary sources of MCFA, the best sources are coconut and palm kernel oils.

In Health Benefits of Coconut, it says that to coconut is rich in protein and very good in destroying intestinal parasites we get from eating infected foods. The coconut water (milk) is good for kidney and urinary bladder problems. The coconut has Vitamins A, B (Thiamine), C, and Riboflavin, Niacin, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, and Protein.

The site Coconut Milk Health Benefits, states that the saturated fat in coconut is made up of short and medium chain fatty acids that the body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. Therefore, although high in saturated fat, coconut can aid in weight loss. The lauric acid in coconut milk is an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal, helping to boost the immune system and fight off illness and disease. It also says that coconut milk is used in skin care products to moisturize the skin and relieve dry skin rashes... which I know by my own experience actually works!

In addition to the information above, Coconut Benefits, says that Dr. Enig suggest a rich lauric acid diet would contain about 24 gr of lauric acid daily for the average adult. Her calculations are based on the amount of lauric acid found in human mother's milk. The daily amount could be found in 3.5 Tablespoons of coconut oil, 10 oz of pure coconut milk or 7 ounces of raw coconut daily. If you are allergic to coconut, you can still use coconut oil. The allergy is caused by proteins in the coconut, not the oil. The webmaster also notes that the raw young coconuts from an Asian market are sweeter than the traditional brown hairy coconuts we find in our supermarkets.

The coconut meat is an excellent source of dietary fiber. At Earth in Common, it says that the average person gets on 15 grams of the recommended 20 - 35 grams of dietary fiber we should get per day. Seventy-five percent of the total carbohydrate content is fiber in a coconut, compared to 30% fiber in green beans, 18% in corn and okra has only 25% to cite a few. Coconut dietary fiber is available as a dietary supplement also. It is made from the finely ground, dried, and defatted coconut meat. It contains four times as much fiber as oat bran and twice as much fiber as wheat bran or flax seed meal. A tablespoon or two of coconut dietary fiber can be added to beverages, baked goods, casseroles, etc. The coconut is beneficial to Intestinal health, Diabetes issues, and mineral absorption, among other benefits.

Now, a bit about buying Coconut oil for cooking. When I first bought some, I didn't really read up on it, I just wanted to try it out. So, you can imagine my surprise when the steak I cooked in it came out with tropical flavor. I was not a happy camper and wrote to the company about it all because had I known it would make my food taste like coconut, I wouldn't have fried my steak in it, I would have, however, cooked chicken or fish in it!

Well, turns out that there is a process that takes the flavor out of the oil and that is what I will buy next time. I buy my oil from Tropical Traditions. And had I read their website more thoroughly, I would have learned that their "expeller-pressed" coconut oil doesn't have the odor and taste of the coconut. Expeller-Pressed coconut oil is a refined coconut oil and is missing some of the nutrients and anti-oxidants properties that are in the virgin oil. But, since some things are better without the taste of coconut added, I think I will get some of that. I also noted in their website that they have distributors in the US (none near me) and have added several products for skin care, household goods and pet products that I don't remember seeing the last time I looked at the site.

So, that's it for the Coconut. It's benefits appear to be many. There's more websites and research out there on the Internet, but it all seems to be in favor of the coconut and dispels that pesky "it has fat" issue.

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