Coconut was named by the Spanish, who called it coco, which means “monkey face”, from the three small holes on the coconut shell that resemble the head and face of a monkey. They provide highly nutritious meat, milk, water and oil and are part of the daily diet in most tropical areas.
Health Benefits of Coconut
Coconut water contains sugar, fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and is consumed as a refreshing drink. It can be fermented to produce coconut vinegar.
Coconut milk contains folates, potassium, phosphorus, and has a fat content of 24%. The fat is 88% saturated and about half of it is lauric acid, which has been shown by research to be highly protective for the heart. Lauric acid is contained in human milk.
Coconut oil has healing properties and is extensively used in traditional medicine throughout Asia and the Pacific regions to treat respiratory infections, skin infections, wounds, and many other conditions.
Modern medical science has only recently discovered the secrets of coconut’s healing powers in its various forms. Studies show that coconut may help kill viruses, bacteria, fungi and yeasts, parasites, as well as provide a good source of quick energy, improve digestion, calcium absorption, insulin secretion, and relieve symptoms associated with several diseases.
Coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain fatty acids. It contains 86% of saturated fat, and 47% lauric acid. Medium-chain fatty acids, unlike long-chain fatty acids, do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help to protect against heart disease. This is why we say that lauric acid protects the heart.
Buying and Storing Coconut
You can buy whole coconuts and process them by yourself, but the most convenient way to use coconut is to buy coconut milk, oil and meat that have already been extracted.
To buy coconut oil, prefer organic brands that process coconuts naturally, without refining the oil. For coconut milk, find a brand that doesn’t add any other ingredient to the milk (check labels).
Coconut oil can be kept at room temperature; it will be liquid in summer and solid in other seasons, unless you live in a tropical climate.
Coconut milk is usually canned; once opened, it can be kept for a few days in a glass container in the refrigerator, but should be used quickly.
Coconut oil is very good for cooking because it is saturated and doesn’t oxidize. It can stand high cooking temperatures and can be used for frying. By the way, vegetable oils should never be used for frying, as their high polyunsaturated fat content makes them highly prone to oxidizing, which is bad for our health.
Coconut milk can be added to curries or soups, and can replace cream in sauces.
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