Wonder Foods: Why you must turn to coconuts

Coconuts are one of the wonder foods on earth that amply provide for all human needs and have multiple health benefits.

Coconuts are one of the wonder foods on earth that amply provide for all human needs and have multiple health benefits.

Coconut is a mature fruit of the cocos nucifera palm. Since the ancient times, the nut holds a unique place among the millions of inhabitants living in South-East Asia and Pacific Islands. It is one of the most sought-after ingredients in the kitchen as it found its place in almost each and every diet prepared in these parts of the world.

Referred to as kalpa vriksha (Sanskrit for “the tree that supplies all that is needed to live”) in ancient India, the coconut palm has been recognised as a top immune booster, antifungal, antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial remedy for thousands of years.

Cocos nucifera belongs to the large Palmaceae family of palm trees. Cocoa palm grows well under tropical climates. The palm requires moist, sandy, well-drained soil and flourishes well all along the saline-rich coastal regions. It is considered one of the most treasured foods of all time.

Coconut products, including coconut flesh, coconut water, coconut oil, and coconut cream, each delivers superb health benefits.

Coconut oil, for instance, is considered the best and safest oil to use for cooking, even superior to extra virgin olive oil when it comes to giving the body what it needs for optimum health.

Unlike other fats and oils that are typically used for cooking and baking, coconut oil does not form polymerised oils or dangerous trans fatty acids which can raise cholesterol levels; clog arteries and even make skin sag and wrinkle. Plus, this ultra-safe oil can give the body important antioxidants that can help build stronger cells and improve overall health and well-being.

The Pacific Islanders believe that it is the cure for all illness, which is why the palm tree (from which coconuts are grown) is known as “The Tree of Life.” Coconut oil is thought to possess healing properties above and beyond that of any other dietary oils.

In a season, a single coconut palm may produce 20-150 mature nuts. The fruit is almost spherical to oval in shape and measure between five to 10 inches in width. Its rough outer husk is light green, and turns gray as the nut matures.

The husk is about one to two inches in thickness and made of tough fibers. Underneath the husk, there is a woody shell enclosing inner edible kernel.

Just harvested mature fruits contain some amount of sweet water inside its central hollow cavity surrounded by the white flesh (endosperm).

The fruit with its shell, kernel, and water together constitutes a “coconut” at the commercial level.

Alexis Mucumbitsi, in charge of nutrition at the Ministry of Health, says: “Coconut is a rare fruit in Rwanda, and it’s mostly seen in the Western and Asian countries. But it’s a very vital fruit and it has numerous benefits to one’s health. It has a lot of minerals especially potassium, iron, phosphorous, and zinc.”

He says besides being beneficial nutrition-wise, coconut can be used as a refreshing drink since its water is secreted.

“The other thing inside of it there is a white layer which is like groundnuts, that is also edible or it can be smashed into powder form and used in food or used in making chocolates, it can also be used as an ingredient in food,” Mucumbitsi says.

“Coconut oil can be used for cooking and its cream can be used to make skin products. Apart from its nutrition benefits, it can also increase revenue for a country having them as exports.”

Mucumbitsi adds that coconuts are not grown in Rwanda but are mostly imported from Burundi and Tanzania, that’s why they are a bit expensive. People have also not yet discovered much of their importance but coconut is a fruit with multiple benefits. 

Benefits of coconut

Used for blood transfusion

Coconut is a natural water filter. It takes almost nine months for a coconut to filter every quart of water stored within its shell. This makes the resulting coconut water completely pure and sterile, which is one reason why it can be used for blood transfusions.

Source of hydration

Another benefit of coconut water is the fact that it has the highest concentration of electrolytes than anything else found in nature. This makes it an excellent source of hydration.

Protects teeth from bacteria

Another great benefit of coconut oil is in protecting your teeth from the bacteria that can cause cavities and disease. Simply rubbing a little fresh coconut oil on your gums and teeth can keep them stronger and healthier than virtually any other dental treatment.

Skin treatment

Coconut cream is the best skin treatment product one can use to achieve flawless skin. Unlike traditional skin creams which can actually introduce fats and oils to the skin that will break it down over time, making it look older, creams derived from the coconut can actually replenish the skin, giving it a more youthful and healthy glow than most other skin care products on the market.

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