First off… how did the coconut get its name? Well, legend has it that the sailors aboard Vasco de Gama’s ship came up with the name originally. The word coco has several meanings such as the face of a goblin or grinning face – because of the appearance of the bottom of the coconut. So the crew named this tropical fruit “coco”. Nut was added later.
Coconuts are among the most useful and nutritious fruits on the planet. They are great for skin care, creating natural fibers and can even be used in art.
Coconuts are one of the best fruits in terms of nutrition. Although they have been an integral part of the diet of many island and Asian cultures for centuries, coconuts are often underutilized in Western countries. Take a look at how jam-packed with nutrition this odd fruit is and you may wonder why we don’t take advantage of it more fully.
Here are the minerals contained in one cup of raw coconut, shredded.
- Dietary Fiber, 7.2 grams
- Protein, 2.66 grams
- Calcium 11 mg
- Copper 0.348 mg
- Iron 1.94 mg
- Magnesium 26 mg
- Manganese 1.2 mg
- Phosphorus 90 mg
- Potassium 285 mg
- Selenium 8.1 mcg
- Sodium 16 mg
- Zinc 0.88 mg
Coconuts have a distinct, and many would agree, delicious flavor. They add variety and a ton of nutrients to your diet. Lauric acid, found in coconuts, is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal. It also boosts the immune system, which can prevent illnesses.
It is hard to find a better source of electrolytes than coconut juice, which can be used to prevent dehydration in cases of strenuous exercise or severe diarrhea. Coconut juice makes a great substitute for the sugary sports drinks that now flood the market.
Some remote areas inject coconut juice intravenously, to help hydrate in emergency situations.
Other health benefits of coconuts and coconut oil include:
- Weight loss or maintenance of healthy weight
- Improvement of chronic fatigue and diabetes-related health issues
- Abatement of symptoms for Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive disorders.
- Prevention of disease and illness due to agents that work as antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal regimes.
- Decreased risk of heart disease
- Increased metabolic rate that improves thyroid function
- Boost in energy levels with daily consumption
- Skin rejuvenation and wrinkle prevention
How to Select a Raw Coconut
Fresh coconuts can be young or mature. Young coconuts have a green shell and a white husk once the outer shell is removed. Meanwhile, mature coconuts are brown with a hairy husk. Young coconuts yield more liquid and the meat is gelatinous. The meat in mature coconuts is firmer, and they have less water.
Which Type of Coconut is Best?
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether young or mature coconuts are the way to go for your specific needs. Most people can eat coconuts without any health risks. Your metabolic rate is a big factor when choosing which type of coconut to consume.
Young coconuts are especially good for people with a metabolic rate that centers around carbs. Mature coconuts have more proteins and more complex proteins. Carb-oriented people will likely prefer the juice, while those looking for protein will prefer the meat and coconut milk of mature coconuts.
How to Open a Coconut
Now that you understand what can be gained from consuming coconuts, let’s talk about how to get them open. Yes, you really do need the hammer, but it is worth the effort. Opening coconuts is a task that takes some practice and a bit of courage. However, once you have done it once or twice, you will be happy to crack open a coconut and eat it from the comfort of your own home.
Gather these items prior to continuing.
- Airtight containers
- Baking dish
- Ice pick or hammer and a nail
- Medium-size bowl
- Paring knife
- Place a coconut on a flat surface on top of a towel. Hold the coconut with the soft spots face up and pierce the soft spots using a hammer and nail.
- Turn the coconut over in order to pour the coconut juice out. For best results, pour the juice through a strainer into a bowl. This will remove any husk or shell.
- When all the milk has been removed, put the coconut back on the towel. Using the hammer, tap sharply around the middle of the shell until it cracks. Keep tapping all the way around the shell until it opens.
- Remove all the meat from the coconut shell. For mature coconuts, take a sharp knife and slide it between the shell and the meat, which then lifts easily from the shell. For young fruit, you can use a spoon to remove the jellylike meat.
- Although eating the coconut right away gives you the best flavor, it is useful to store it for use throughout the week. Place the juice and coconut meat in airtight containers and store them in the refrigerator.
Firm pieces of mature coconuts can stay fresh for up to 10 days. Soft coconut meat from young coconuts must be used within 24 hours.
Toasting Shredded Coconut
If you find you have more coconut that you need right away, shred and toast the extras.
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread the shredded coconut on a thin baking sheet before placing it in the pre-heated oven. The flakes will toast in 5 to 10 minutes, so watch them carefully so they don’t burn.
- Stir the coconuts after a few minutes to get an even color. Toasting raw coconut will take longer than toasting pre-packaged shredded coconut.
Coconut Milk, Juice and Oil
Coconut milk is not the liquid inside the coconut, although that is a common misconception. Pressing the coconut meat, after it has been shredded, yields coconut milk, while the clear juice within the coconut is called coconut water. Coconut cream comes from pressing coconut meat and often has sugar added. Coconut milk is the juice of grated coconut meat mixed with water.
Coconut oil is a fatty oil derived from the coconut meat. It’s important to note that coconut oils on the market vary dramatically in terms of quality. Lower quality coconut oils should be avoided, because they are processed through chemical extraction that uses solvent extracts. This process has higher yields and is quicker and less expensive. However, it ends in oils that have chemicals or that might be hydrogenated, bleached and deodorized.
High-quality coconut oil is a completely different product and is truly the healthiest oil you can consume. It is safer than other popular oils such as canola oil, where most of its omega-3s are transformed into trans-fats during the deodorization process, which increases the dangers of chronic diseases.
Buying organic coconuts ensures that you will get virgin coconut oil that is not genetically modified and does not include GMO ingredients. Organic coconut water and milk have not been bleached, hydrogenated or refined. Research to find a brand that uses fresh coconuts. If the ingredients specify “copra,” or dried coconuts, it originated in the rural Philippines, in an area untouched by urban pollution.
Coconut Shell Art
People use coconut shells to make cups, candle holders and a variety of crafts. This environmentally friendly recycling is worth trying on your own or as a family project that provides many teachable moments. Coconut shell containers can serve a variety of purposes.
What is a pipa? Well, at our locations in Costa Rica, you may often hear someone walking along the beach and calling out: Pipa! Pipa! Pipa is the name the Ticos have given to coconuts. We haven’t yet determined how this name came to be but it’s a popular one. A fresh cold pipa on a hot day is a great way to rejuvenate your body after a day of surfing.
For those of you who buy coconut water from the store, try to find a brand that doesn’t add sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Drinking coconut water straight from the coconut while in the tropics is the recommended method, but you may have to wait for your next vacation to try that out.
Coconuts are versatile plants and can be used in food, makeup and other products. They are used in cosmetics to soften and cleanse the skin naturally. This is one of the healthiest and most versatile fruits that has ever been discovered!
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