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Coconut decoded: Answering burning questions

Coconut (Cocus Nucifera) has submerged itself in our daily lives in such a way that we use it in almost everything. From an auspicious offering to deities, a key ingredient in foods, to a powerhouse of health and wellness, coconut is omnipresent in our homes somehow. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that coconut is indispensable in several regions of our country. Especially, in the coastal and southern areas, where coconut is found in abundance, it is a staple for the local inhabitants. This nut filled with white meat has been around for over 4500 years and has gained a high reputation owing to its taste, aroma, culinary uses, and range of health benefits.

The coconut is a fibrous one-seeded pod, also known as a dry drupe, that can be called a fruit, nut, or seed. Now, one might think, what is a drupe? Well, a drupe is basically a fruit that has a hardcover. The cover works as an enclosure for the seed. Like all other drupes, a coconut also comprises three layers—the outer layer also known as exocarp; the middle layer, known as the mesocarp; and the hard layer that protects the seed, which is the endocarp. Normally, the coconut that is bought from the store is very much different from what we see on, say, a tree. The ones sold in the market, are cleaned and the outer layers are chopped off. What is sold is the endocarp, that is, the seed and its cover. Coconut has water dispersing property too. Coconut water is vastly consumed as a refreshment in India and is full of electrolytes that rejuvenate you.

Now that we know the nut, let’s look at its various applications and derived benefits in our daily lives. We all have consumed coconut in some form or the other, be its water, milk, oil, or meat. In the south of India, curries are cooked with edible coconut oil, while the dried white meat is often ground and used to flavour and thicken gravies. That’s just a snippet on how it’s used, for the why, let’s ask a deeper question.

What are the health benefits of coconuts?

Nutritive value

In comparison to the other fruits that serve carbs, the coconut replenishes fat. It also offers protein and certain minerals and vitamins from the B family. Although the coconut is not a significant wellspring of vitamins, the minerals found in it are quite important for the body. Coconut is rich in manganese, a mineral essential for bone health and nutritional metabolism. Also rich in copper and iron, it aids in the formation of red blood cells and its selenium content helps in protecting the cells. The fat content in the coconut comes in the form of medium-chain triglycerides. These MCTs are rapidly absorbed by the body and converted into energy.

Heart health

Coconut meat is known to promote a healthy heart. The reason being that high usage of coconut meat elevates HDL levels (good cholesterol) and reduces your vulnerability to heart issues. For that matter, coconut oil also plays a remarkable role in reducing belly fat. We all are aware of the risks belly fat poses to the heart.

Blood sugar control

The low carbs, and high fats and fibre found in the coconut helps in stabilizing blood sugar. Coconut’s antidiabetic effect, due to the presence of arginine, helps the pancreas function properly. The pancreas, therefore, releases insulin that keeps a check on blood sugar levels.

Packed with antioxidants

The phenolic compounds in the coconut, act as antioxidants that safeguard the cells from oxidative damage. Research has proved that these antioxidants protect the cells from vigorous treatments like radiation and chemotherapy too.

And while we are on the mission of answering all the right questions, here’s are a few more important ones:

How does the humble coconut benefit skin?

For generations, Indian households have used coconut oil for skin care. Let’s find out why.

  1. Coconut oil is full of antioxidants that slow down aging. A daily face massage with coconut oil keeps the skin radiant and glowing. That’s one of the reasons why it is a key ingredient in many skincare products.
  2. Coconuts are robust with nourishing water that helps in reducing tanning. Simply mix the coconut water with multani mitti creating a pack. Apply and wash off after 15 minutes for gorgeous and healthy skin.
  3. Coconut water also helps in keeping the skin’s oiliness in check. It works well in reducing blemishes and acne too.
  4. Coconut oil makes for a wonderful exfoliant. Mix it with a granular substance like sugar or sea salt and massage it over the face and body.
  5. Coconut oil also functions as an amazing makeup remover. Wet a cotton ball with the oil and gently wipe makeup off effortless. This natural ingredient not only nourishes your skin but also gives it an incredible glow.
  6. Its oil also does wonders for your scalp health. Simply apply coconut oil a night before washing your hair for a nourished and healthy scalp.

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How much coconut can you consume in a day?

It’s important to know how much is too much coconut. While consuming coconuts do keep in mind that along with being a powerhouse of nutrients it is also high in calories. Hence, you should eat it in moderation. When it comes to drinking coconut water, one coconut per day provides all that you need. And as far as coconut oil is concerned, two tablespoons a day is recommended.

Is eating raw coconut good for you?

Hell yes! Eating raw coconut is more beneficial for your health. It’s filled with vitamins, minerals, and fibre. It offers the same benefits of lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, and fighting diabetes, except the effects are manifold. Tender coconut meat is found in the younger, green coconut and it’s a deliciously rich snack. Sun-dried coconuts also offer the same benefits. So, in whatever form you find it, you must eat coconuts!

On this World Coconut Day, make good use of this wonder fruit and soak in its slew of benefits.

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