Eating Coconut Helps You to Stay Healthy
By Amy Levendusky
Eating coconuts (Cocos nucifera) has long helped Pacific people to stay healthy. For example, people who are sick with diarrhea drink young coconut water to get fluids and minerals back that may have been lost. In emergencies, doctors have used coconut water as an intravenous fluid. Fermented coconut is a good food for pregnant women because it supplies the vitamins they need. Coconut cream is an energy food and it is also a good addition to baby foods because a small amount supplies a lot of energy.
Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Coconuts are both an energy food and a protective food. The mature coconut is an energy food because it contains a lot of fat. The young or green coconuts are health or protective foods because they contain large amounts of some vitamins and minerals that are necessary for good health. Vitamin C is found in coconuts ands keeps the body tissues strong, helps the body use iron, and aids in chemical actions in the body. The mineral iron is also found in coconuts and makes the blood strong.
While coconut possesses many health benefits due to its fiber and nutritional content, it's the oil that makes it a truly remarkable food and medicine. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called "The Tree of Life." Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers.
In traditional medicine around the world coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems including the following: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.
Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties. It is now gaining long overdue recognition worldwide as a nutritious health food.
Coconut oil has been described as "the healthiest oil on earth." That's quite a remarkable statement. What makes coconut oil so good? What makes it different from all other oils, especially other saturated fats?
The difference is in the fat molecule. All fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. Fatty acids consist of long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached. In this system you have short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). The vast majority of fats and oils in our diets coming from animals or plants, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Some 98 to 100% of all the fatty acids you consume are LCFA.
The size of the fatty acid is extremely important. Why? Because our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size. The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are predominately medium-chain fatty acids. Both the saturated and unsaturated fat found in meat, milk, eggs, and plants (including most all vegetable oils) are composed of LCFA.
MCFA are very different from LCFA. MCFA do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help to protect against heart disease. MCFA, the fat found in coconuts, help to lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is primarily due to the MCFA in coconut oil that makes it so special and so beneficial.
The following website http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/ and the South Pacific Commission (SPC) Leaflet #8 on South Pacific Foods entitled Coconut are acknowledged for providing the information for this article.