Nuts about Coconuts: Why we go Loco over Coco

The coconut nut is a giant nut
If you eat too much, you’ll get very fat
Now, the coconut nut is a big, big nut
But its delicious nut is not a nut. 

A coconut which has been stripped of its husk....
A coconut which has been stripped of its husk. The top has been hacked off and it is shown here as served in a hawker centre in Singapore, with a straw with which to drink the coconut water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember hearing and singing this song when I was a child as the tune is very catchy. Contrary to popular jokes,  a coconut is not a nut. It is, botanically, a drupe, and not a nut.  Usually called a stone fruit, a drupe is a fleshy fruit that usually has a single hard stone that encloses a seed, as with the case with peaches, plums, cherries and olives. With a coconut, the husk surrounds the shell, with the edible white portion inside.

The term coco is derived from cocos, which means” grinning face” in Portuguese and Spanish, from the three small holes on its shell found at the base that resemble human facial features.

I see a coconut and I am often reminded of  my idle times and lounging on a hammock by the beach. But coconuts do not only denote a “good life”, they actually provide “the good life.” They ain’t’ called the tree of life for nothing.

Open a tender, green, healthy, and undamaged coconut and  enjoy the wonders the coconut water could bring. Break it in half and you’ll find its edible white meat as enticing as well.

Coconut water is better than your regular sports drink. It is promoted as nature’s sports drink. It is rich in electrolyte potassium and packs twice the potassium content of a banana. An 11 oz serving of pure coconut contains about 750 mg of potassium and 315 mg of sodium. Together, these electrolytes help replenish what we lose when sweating or when there’s electrolyte deficiency in the body due to diarrhea. Recent studies have also pegged potassium as a key nutrient for controlling blood pressure.

Coconut is also rich in protein and can provide quick and lasting boosts of energy. The coconut is absorbed by the body to actually produce energy rather than to store it as body fat. It promotes improved endurance during physical and athletic performances. It also helps in healthy thyroid function and relieves the symptoms of chronic fatigue.

It has much better composition of minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc than some of the fruits like orange.

Coconut water and its meat help in digestion and metabolism as it is composed of many naturally occurring bioactive enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, diastase, peroxidase and RNA-polymerases, among others.  Eating coconut can help fight gas, constipation, ulcers, and other digestive and stomach ailments.

It is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folates. These vitamins are essential in the sense that the human body requires them from external sources to replenish.

Coconut water also contains cytokinins, (e.g., kinetin and trans-zeatin) which according to research, has showed significant anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects

Coconut water also contains antioxidants – a small amount of vitamin-C, and provides  about 2.4 mg or 4% of RDA.

Its water contains lauric acid which provides its antiviral and antibacterial properties, beneficial in fighting off infection.

It is very good for diabetics because its fiber slows down the release of glucose, thus requiring less insulin  to use and transport into the cells when converting it to energy. The healthy fat in coconuts slows down any rise in blood sugar and helps reduce hypoglycemic cravings.

When coconuts are harvested at  a young and slightly immature age (5-7 months) ,you’ll enjoy  its water and meat. Any coconut younger than five months of age tend to be bitter in taste and devoid of nutrients. In contrast, mature coconut contain less water, and their endosperm thickens quickly to white edible meat.

How to tell if it’s a good coconut? The greener the better. The husk of a young coconut is green and turns yellow to dark tan as it ripens. Press your thumb gently against the three “eyes” at its base. They should feel dry and slightly soft compared to the hard shell. Hold the coconut to your ear, shake it, and watch out for a sloshing sound. The more liquid, the fresher it is.

Web References:

http://www.drgranny.com/2011/05/05/benefits-of-coconut-milk/

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/coconut-water.html

http://www.coconutsecret.com/coconuthealthsecrets2.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_8634815_tell-coconut-ripe.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut

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