Coconut: the Properties and Benefits of this Tropical Fruit

We know all the properties of coconut and coconut water that benefit our organism
Find out all about the properties and benefits of coconut and coconut water | iSTOCK

Over the last few years, coconut has become increasingly popular as a fruit but also given its derivatives. This food is tasty, refreshing, and, moreover, a number of properties and benefits for our organism are attributed to it.

A coconut has many important nutrients, so if we introduce it into our diet it can supplement the amount of minerals that we have to consume a day.

Its versatility is wide and besides being able to consume it as a fruit, we can also acquire a coconut in the form of oil, water, milk, butter and flour. 

In this article we’re telling you about what coconut is and where we may obtain it, its properties and how to open a coconut in an easy way.

What's a coconut?

The coconut is a tropical fruit that comes from the coconut palm, the most cultivated palm around the world. Although its origin is established in South Asia, nowadays coconuts palms are also cultivated in Brazil, Mexico and Oceania.

This fruit is hard and green on the outside. After this layer we find the brown and fluffy shell so characteristic of this fruit. Once open, we have the outer part of the seed, also brown, and then the white layer of flesh, the seed and the water.

But we not only consume a coconut as a fresh fruit. Rather, we also cook with coconut oil, we grate it to add it to cakes and to oatmeal, we add frozen pieces to shakes, we drink coconut water to hydrate ourselves and we spread coconut oil on our hair and skin.

What’s it for? Properties and benefits

Coconut is a fruit rich in nutrients and minerals, most of them concentrated in the flesh. Moreover, research has shown that the consumption of this fruit may be beneficial for our organism given its nutritional value. In the following we specify some of these benefits and the properties that they enjoy:

1. Fiber

Coconut flesh is a great source of dietetic fiber, which helps us keep out metabolism healthy. A helping of 100 grams of coconut flesh contains 10 grams of fiber, more than wheat does. This high content of fiber can help us with digestive problems and improve the regularity of the bowel movements. However, more studies should be conducted to bear out this theory.

2. Potassium

According to some research, most types of coconuts contain high levels of potassium. This is a very important mineral for our health, since it keeps blood pressure down and it also helps to balance water and regulate the sodium in our body.

This is one of the reasons why potassium is considered especially important before or after doing exercise. A helping of 100 gm contains 285 gr of potassium, an important source of this mineral for our body.

3. Protein

Another of the properties of coconut is that it’s a relevant source of proteins. Even though it doesn’t supply complete proteins, it provides a great amount of the 17 out of the key 20 amino acids that we need for our organism to function properly.

A coconut is a particularly good source of threonine, which makes it the second plant with the highest level of this substance in the world. Threonine intervenes in the formation of collagen in the body, thereby assisting in the construction of connective tissue and joints. It also provides hepatic and cardiovascular support, strong tooth enamel, and facilitates skin healing.

4. Iron

No one associates coconut with an important source of iron, but 100 gm of coconut flesh contain 11% of the recommended daily intake of iron. This helps to oxygenate the blood and carry oxygen to the rest of the body, thereby raising the levels of energy and helping to develop our muscles. 

5. Folate

A serving of 100 gr of coconut contains 20%, almost a fourth, of the recommend daily intake of folate. This vitamin B9 is necessary for the good functioning of red blood cells, of mental development and our metabolism. We can also find it in other foodstuffs such as bananas, asparaguses and spinach.

6. It may have benefits against diabetes

Research has shown that coconut water may keep down our blood sugar levels on trials undertaken on diabetic animals. Moreover, it’s been also demonstrated that these animals exhibited lower levels of A1c hemoglobin, which signals a good control of blood sugar in the long run.

Although controlled studies are necessary to confirm these effects on humans, with its 3 gr of fiber and a content of digestible carbohydrates of only 6 gr for 250 ml, coconut water can easily adjust to a diet for people with diabetes.

7. It may have antioxidant properties

Research conducted on animals exposed to toxins has shown that coconut water contains antioxidants that alter free radicals so that these cannot do harm.

A study found that animals with hepatic failure exhibited a significant improvement on the oxidative stress when they were treated with coconut water vis-à-vis those that didn’t receive treatment.

So far, no studies have delved into this antioxidant activity on humans, which means that we can only rely on studies undertaken on laboratory animals.

8. Benefits after prolonged exercise

Coconut water may be the perfect drink to restore hydration and replenish the electrolytes lost while doing exercise. These are minerals that carry out various important functions in our body, including that of keeping the right balance of liquids.

Two studies carried out on sportspeople found that coconut water restored hydration after exercise better than water does and just as effectively as sports drinks rich in electrolytes do. Moreover, it emerged that coconut water produced fewer nauseas and stomach pain than the remaining drinks.

How to open a coconut?

Contrary to what many believe, opening a coconut is a quite easy task and it doesn’t require sophisticated tools. To this end we only need a corkscrew, a hammer and a butter knife.

First of all, we have to look for the three dark ‘eyes’ on the upper part of the fruit. Once spotted, we put the corkscrew into the biggest eye and we take out a closure of flesh (is it indeed as if it were a wine closure).

Next, we can insert a straw to drink the water or put the coconut upside down on top of a glass to remove all the water.

Once we have emptied the water, we hold the coconut on our hand (with its eyes on one side and our hand on the lower part). We hit hard in the middle a number of times. We then slightly turn the coconut and we keep hitting hard some more times.

After some 8 o 10 hard thuds, the coconut will start splitting in the middle and we’ll be able to break it into two halves with our hands without much effort.

To remove the flesh, we hit each half with the hammer to split it into forths. Smoothy but firmly, we insert the butter knife between the shell and the flesh to remove the pulp.

If we want, we may remove the thin layer of brown shell with a grater or eat the pulp directly with the brown layer.

This article may be of your interest: What are the uses of coconut oil? Uses and benefits.

References:

  • Agyemang-Yeboah, F. (2011). Health benefits of coconut (Cocos nucifera Linn.) seeds and coconut consumption. In Nuts and Seeds in Health and Disease Prevention (pp. 361-367). Academic Press.

  • Amarasiri, W. A., & Dissanayake, A. S. (2006). Coconut fats. The Ceylon medical journal, 51(2), 47-51.

  • Prado, F. C., Lindner, J. D. D., Inaba, J., Thomaz-Soccol, V., Brar, S. K., & Soccol, C. R. (2015). Development and evaluation of a fermented coconut water beverage with potential health benefits. Journal of functional foods, 12, 489-497.

"Amaranth: Benefits, Nutrition Facts And Recipes" "Nestea: Definition, Calories And Varieties Of This Iced Tea"