The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is a member of the palm tree family (Arecaceae) and the only living species of the genus Cocos. The term “coconut” (or the archaic “cocoanut”) can refer to the whole coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which botanically is a drupe, not a nut. The name comes from the old Portuguese and Spanish word coco, meaning ‘head’s or ‘skull’ after the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features. They are ubiquitous in coastal tropical regions, and are a cultural icon of the tropics.
It is one of the most useful trees in the world, and it often referred to as the “tree of life.” It provides food, fuel, cosmetics, folk medicine and building materials, among many other uses. The inner flesh of the mature seed, as well as the coconut milk extracted from it, forms a regular part of the diets of many people in the tropics and subtropics. Coconuts are distinct from other fruits because their endosperm contains a large quantity of clear liquid, called coconut water or coconut juice.
Mature, ripe coconuts can be used as edible seeds, or processed for oil and plant milk from the flesh, charcoal from the hard shell, and coir from the fibrous husk. Dried coconut flesh is called cobra, and the oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking – frying in particular – as well as in soap and cosmetics. The hard shells, fibrous husks and long pinnate leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishings and decoration.
The coconut has cultural and religious significance in certain societies, particularly in India, where it is used in Hindu rituals. It forms the basis of weeding and worship rituals in Hinduism, a coconut religion in Vietnam, and features in the origin myth of several societies. The falling nature of their mature fruit has led to preoccupation with death by coconut.
Coconuts have been used by humans for thousands of years, and may have spread to their present range because of Pacific island settlers. The evolutionary origin of the coconut is under dispute, with theories stating that it may have evolved in Asia, South America, or an islands in the Pacific. Trees grow up to 30 m (98 ft) tall and can yield up to 75 fruits per year, though less than 30 is more typical. Plants are intolerant of cold weather and prefer copious precipitation, as well as full sunlight. Many insects pests and diseases affect the species, and are a nuisance for commercial production. About 74% of the world’s supply of coconut derived from Indonesia, the Philippines, and India combined.
Coconut meat is high in fat and calories while moderate in carbs and protein.
The nutritional facts for 1 cup (80 grams) of fresh, shredded coconut meat are:
●Protein: 3 grams
●Carbs: 10 grams
●Fat: 27 grams
●Sugar: 5 grams
●Fiber: 7 grams
●Manganese: 60% of the Daily Value (DV)
●Selenium: 15% of the DV
●Copper: 44% of the DV
●Phosphorus: 13% of the DV
●Potassium: 6% of the DV
●Iron: 11% of the DV
●Zinc: 10% of the DV
Coconut meat is rich in several important minerals, especially manganese and copper. While manganese supports enzyme function and fat metabolism, copper assists bone formation and heart health.
Coconut is a unique fruit because of it’s high fat content. Around 89% of the fat in its meat is saturated.
Just 1 cup (80 grams) of shredded coconut provides 7 grams of fiber, which is over 20% of the DV.
Most of this fiber is insoluble, meaning that it doesn’t get digested. Instead, it works to move food through your digestive system and aids bowel health.
Coconut meat is particularly high in calories, saturated fat, and fiber. It also contains a variety of minerals, including manganese, copper, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron
HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT MEAT
Coconut meat may benefit you health in a number of ways.
Much of the research on the benefits of this tropical fruit is focused on its fat content.
■ MAY BOOST HEART HEALTH
Coconut meat contains oil, which may boost HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Improvements in these markers may reduce your risk of heart disease.
One 4-week study gave 91 people 1.6 ounces (50 ml) of either extract virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or unsalted butter daily. Those in the coconut-oil group showed a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol, compared with those given butter or olive oil.
An 8-week study in 35 healthy adults showed similar results, finding that 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of coconut oil taken twice daily led to a significant increase in HDL cholesterol, compared with the control group.
Another 8-week study noted that people who consumed 7 ounces (200 grams) of porridge made with coconut milk had significant reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases in HDL (good) cholesterol compared with those who ate porridge made with soy milk.
■ MAY SUPPORT WEIGHT LOSS
Coconut meat may aid weight loss
Studies suggest that the MCTs in this fruits may promote feelings of fullness, calorie, burning, and fat burning, all of which may support weight loss.
Additionally, the high fiber content of coconut meat can boost fullness, which may help prevent overeating.
A 90-day study in 8 adults found that supplementing a standard diet with 1.3 cups (100 grams) of fresh coconut daily caused significant weight loss, compared with supplementing with the same amount of peanut or peanut oil.
Keep in mind that these studies use very large amounts of coconut and MCT oil, or it’s unclear if eating smaller amounts of coconut meat would have the same effects.
■ MAY AID DIGESTIVE HEALTH
Coconuts are high in fiber, which helps bulk up your stool and supports bowel regularity, keeping your digestive system healthy.
Since these fruits are likewise high in fat, they can help your body absorb water-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Additionally, the MCTs in coconut meat have been shown to strengthen your gut bacteria, which may protect against inflammation and conditions like metabolic syndrome.
What’s more, coconut oil may reduce the growth of harmful yeast, such as candida Albicans, which can cause serious infections.
Eating coconut meat may have other benefits, including the following:
■ May stabilize blood sugar. This fruit may lower your fasting blood sugar and alter your gut bacteria to aid blood sugar control.
■ May improve immunity. Manganese and antioxidants in coconut may help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. This fruit’s MCTs may also have antiviral, antifungal, and tumor-suppressing properties.
■ May benefits your brain. The MCTs in coconut oil provide an alternative fuel source to glucose, which may aid people with impaired memory or brain function, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease.
The MCTs and fiber in coconut meat may benefit weight loss, heart health, digestion, brain health, blood sugar levels, and immunity.
~ Coconut are high is saturated fat, a controversial fat that may be harmful if consumed in high amounts. What’s more, coconut meat packs quite a few calories, and some people may be allergic to it.
~ both fresh and dried coconut meat can be used in a variety of dishes, such as cooked grains, smoothies, and oatmeal. Look for unsweetened or raw products to minimize your sugar intake.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Coconut milk is the white flesh of coconuts and is edible fresh or dried.
Rich in fiber and MCTs, it may offer a number of benefits, including improved heart health, weight loss, and digestion. Yet, it’s high in calories and saturated fat, so you should eat it in moderation.
Overall, unsweetened coconut meat makes a great addition to a balanced diet.