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 term is derived from the 16th-century Portuguese and Spanish word coco meaning “head” or “skull” after the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features.
Coconuts are known for their versatility of uses, ranging from food to cosmetics. The inner flesh of the mature seed 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 milk” in the literature, and when immature, may be harvested for their potable “coconut water”, also called “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 copra, and the oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking – frying in particular – as well as in soaps and cosmetics. The hard shells, fibrous husks and long pinnate leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decorating. The coconut also has cultural and religious significance in certain societies, particularly in India, where it is used in Hindu rituals.
One of the earliest mentions of the coconut dates back to the “One Thousand and One Nights” story of Sinbad the Sailor; he is known to have bought and sold coconut during his fifth voyage. Thenga, its Malayalam name, was used in the detailed description of coconut found in Itinerario by Ludovico di Varthema published in 1510 and also in the later Hortus Indicus Malabaricus. Even earlier, it was called nux indica, a name used by Marco Polo in 1280 while in Sumatra, taken from the Arabs who called it jawz hindī, translating to “Indian nut”. In the earliest description of the coconut palm known, given by Cosmos of Alexandria in his Topographia Christiana written around 545, there is a reference to the argell tree and its drupe.
In March 1521, a description of the coconut was given by Antonio Pigafetta writing in Italian and using the words “cocho”/”cochi”, as recorded in his journal after the first European crossing of the Pacific Ocean during the Magellan circumnavigation and meeting the inhabitants of what would become known as Guam and the Philippines. He explained how at Guam “they eat coconuts” (“mangiano cochi”) and that the natives there also “anoint the body and the hair with coconut and beniseed oil” (“ongieno el corpo et li capili co oleo de cocho et de giongioli”).
Thirty Amazing Benefits of Coconut
Coconut is high in dietary fibre and provides a whopping 61% of fibre. Coconut fibre slows down the release of glucose and transports it to the cell were it is converted into energy. It assists in relieving stress on the pancreas and enzyme systems which reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
Coconut improves the insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose. It controls diabetes by positively affecting the hormones for blood sugar control. This slows down the rise in blood sugar level and helps to reduce glycemic cravings. Coconut benefits quick digestion and other symptoms associated with digestive and bowel disorders. It supports absorption of nutrients and minerals while providing dietary fibre. It also reduces vomiting and nausea.
Cytokinins, kinetin and trans-zeatin present in coconut have anti thrombotic, anti-carcinogenic and anti-ageing effects on the body.
Treats abdominal fats:
Coconut is also beneficial in treating dangerous fats in the abdominal cavity. Abdominal fats are the most dangerous of all the fats and are associated with various diseases. A 200 grams of coconut serving daily can lead to significant reduction in both BMI and waist circumference in just 12 weeks.
Research has proven that people who consume coconut daily are healthier when compared to those who don’t. In some countries it is a dietary fibre that people have thrived on for many generations.
Coconut helps to increase energy by burning fat. The triglycerides found in coconut oil increase 24 hours of energy expenditure by 5% leading to weight loss in the long run. It is also known to reduce hunger pangs. This is directly related to the way fatty acids in the body are metabolized as ketone as appetite reducing effect. People who consistently use coconut products have a stronger ability to go without eating for several hours with no effects of hypoglycaemia. It also promotes healthy thyroid function and helps to relieve the symptom of chronic fatigue.
A ketogenic diet is a low carb diet which is used to treat various disorders. Its best known application is treating epilepsy in children. The diet involves eating little carbs and large amounts of fat which can lead to increased concentrations of ketone bodies in the blood. This diet can dramatically reduce the rate of seizures in epileptic children.
Coconut nutrition has also proven to have anti-cancer properties. It is especially beneficial to treat colon and breast cancer.
Keeps you hydrated:
Coconut water contains crucial electrolytes that help in maintaining hydration. People involved in easy workouts and other strenuous activities should include as much coconut water as they can in their diet. Coconut water replaces the lost electrolytes, provides hydration and increases immune response. It is a better alternative to water as it is tastier than plain water and is loaded with nutrition.
Nutritious and healthy:
Coconut water is considered to be more nutritious and healthier than whole milk. It contains lauric acid which is considered equivalent to mother’s milk. It is naturally sterile as it permeates through the filtering husk. It also cures hangover. Coconut water has a natural isotonic beverage in the same level as that in the blood.
Prevents urinary tract infection:
The natural diuretic property of coconut treats urinary tract infections. It improves the flow of urine to get rid of the infection naturally.
Improves blood cholesterol:
Coconut helps to improve blood cholesterol levels in the body and lowers the risk of heart diseases. The saturated fats in coconut raise the good cholesterol in the body and control the LDL to a benign subtype. This improvement in cardiovascular risk factors theoretically leads to reducing risk of developing heart diseases.
Controls acidity and heart burn:
Coconut water can also help to alleviate acidity and heart burn problems.
Extremely beneficial during pregnancy:
Coconut water is sterile and is very good for pregnant ladies. It improves the immunity and health of the mother and baby and prevents infection and other diseases. It also boosts the levels of amniotic fluid to improve the overall health of the fetus.
Coconut contains high content of monolaurin and lauric acid which helps to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi and keeps infections at bay.
Good for oral hygiene:
Coconut water can also be used as an out rinse to kill mouth bacteria, reduce bad breath and improve the overall dental health.
Healthy bones and teeth:
Eating coconuts regularly supports the development of healthy bones and teeth. It improves the body’s ability to absorb calcium and manganese which aid bone development. It also prevents osteoporosis, a condition which makes the bones thin and fragile and loses its density. Thus it is a healthy alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.
Coconut oil, if used on skin prevents dryness and flakiness and keeps it moisturised and supple. It also supports the skin and works to repair the damage it has acquired over time. It eases a common skin condition called neurosis, which is characterized by dry, rough and flaky skin. It also reduces the severity of atopic dermatitis which is prone to infections like Staphylococcus aurous.
Use of coconut cleanses and neutralizes the toxins, fungi and bacteria on the outer layers of the skin which not only detoxifies but also builds the skin’s natural immune system and protection.
Effective on dry hands:
Extra virgin coconut oil can also be used to treat dry and parched hands. Regular dish washing often dries out the skin and makes them unsightly. Instead of using expensive chemical laden cosmetics, apply virgin coconut oil on the hands to get beautiful and smooth hands.
Prevents skin cancer:
It improves the moisture and lipid content in the skin and prevents skin cancer by blocking 20% of harsh Ultra Violet rays. It can be used as a body and skin moisturiser as it hydrates the skin by replenishing the natural oils. Coconut oil can also be used to clean the face by rubbing it in circular motions.
Coconut oil is excellent for keeping the skin young and beautiful. Its antioxidant property slows down the ageing process by protecting the body from harmful free radicals. Massaging a few drops of coconut oil daily will keep it healthy and smooth. Apply it onto the skin before showering. This will open the pores while showering and will allow the oil to absorb through the skin more efficiently.
Eating coconut hydrates the skin and makes it youthful and supple. Take a teaspoon of raw, uncooked coconut oil and massage the skin with it. This will minimise the outbreaks of skin, rashes and irritations and will beautify the skin from inside when taken internally.
Promotes blood circulation:
Eating coconut regularly boosts oxygen in the skin and promotes blood circulation. Our cells need adequate amount of oxygen which can only be made possible by proper circulation in the body that carries oxygen. This allows proper breathing of the skin and promotes healthy and flawless complexion.
Reverses effects of tanning:
Coconut water can also help to reverse tanning. Mix fullers earth with coconut water and apply it all over the skin. Leave it for 20 minutes and then wash it off with cold water. Apply this face pack twice weekly to get a tan free skin.
Treats oily skin:
Coconut water can also be used to treat oily skin. It washes away excess oil from the skin and keeps the skin tone more even. Coconut water is also very effective on acne, black spots and blemishes. Make a face pack by mixing half a teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of sandalwood powder and coconut water. Apply it on the face thrice weekly to get clear and glowing skin.
Removes eye makeup:
Coconut oil can also be used to remove eye makeup. Put a few drops of coconut oil on a cotton ball and wipe your eyes with it. It effectively removes the tough eye makeup by breaking down the ingredients in the eye makeup. It keeps the skin hydrated too.
Coconut can also be used as a body scrub. Mix some coconut oil and a cup of brown sugar and stir well. Finally scrape some coconut shell, add a few drops of essential oil and mix it. Your scrub is ready to use. You can also mix 1 tablespoon of coconut water and lentils to make a paste. Rub it gently on the face for 2 minutes and then wash off.
Prevent scalp infections:
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of coconut protect the scalp from dandruff, lice and itchy scalp which often slows down the hair growth.
Coconut can also help you to get shiny and silky hair.
The Vitamin K and iron content in coconut maintain the health of the hair and impart shine to it.