By Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai
When The Almighty created the world, he made available abundant food especially fruits and vegetable meant to sustain us, animals and other living things on earth. Of all these foods coconut stands out as one of the most useful to us. Over the years’, research by many technocrats have shown all there is to know about it. If you are in Ghana or in other nations in the tropics, you may find young men and women selling loads of coconuts on street sides. Instead of patronizing those, most of us rely on bottled and canned minerals , and energy drinks whose medical health are uncertain. After reading this article you would get to know what you are missing by ignoring coconuts and other fruits.
Coconut (Cocos nucifera) belongs to the Palm family (Arecaceae).it is grown in abundance in Malaysia, Polynesia, southern Asia and Africa, especially in the coastal areas. Spanish explorers named the cocos - meaning 'grinning face', because of the three little eyes on the base which they thought resembled a monkey.
Classed as a fruit and frequently confused for being a nut, the coconut is actually a one-seeded “drupe”. In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as kalpa vriksha - 'tree which gives all that is necessary for living' because nearly all parts can be used, the water, milk, flesh, sugar and oil. Even the husks and leaves are used as materials in furnishings and decoration. Palm trees produce coconuts up to 13 times a year and although it takes a year for the coconuts to mature, a fully blossomed tree can produce between 60-180 coconuts in a single harvest.
...Watch your head! Although coconuts are good for mankind they can be dangerous to those who fail to take care of their heads especially when being harvested. Coconut is so heavy that it is capable of inflicting injuries to people when it drops accidentally on them.
Rumour has it 150 people worldwide die each year from falling coconuts! However this has not been verified it is enough warning for us to stay clear from areas where they can fall on us in farms.
Coconuts are highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. Unlike cow's milk, coconut milk is lactose free so can be used as a milk substitute by those with lactose intolerance. It is a popular choice with vegans and makes a great base for smoothies, milkshakes or as a dairy alternative in baking.
The only proven anti HIV?
Though it is not made known widely, coconut milk is said to work against HIV by eliminating the antigen from the body but it has other important useful properties in it
Vitamins and Minerals
As said earlier it contains Vitamins C, E and many B vitamins are abundant in coconut milk. Vitamins C and E help to boost the immune system, and B vitamins are responsible for providing energy to the cells. Coconut milk is also rich in magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and iron. Magnesium is responsible for many biochemical functions in the body, including regulating the heart’s rhythm and supporting the function of nerve cells. Potassium maintains the tissues of the heart, kidneys, brain and muscles. Phosphorus keeps teeth and bones strong, and iron creates red blood cells and carries oxygen throughout your body. Add coconut milk to your cereal and baked goods, or drink a glass or two each day to receive these benefits.
"Ceylon Medical Journal" notes that coconut milk is rich in antioxidants, which prevents free radical damage. Free radicals are associated with the development of many diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and age-related dementia. Antioxidants can help reverse previous damage and delay the aging process. Drink a glass of coconut milk while eating other antioxidant-rich foods, such as pecans, raisins and cranberries. Energy-producing snacks that are rich in antioxidants will boost your immunity while rebuilding the damaged cells in your body.
Coconut milk is rich in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that is abundant in mother’s milk. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, lauric acid has many germ-fighting, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties that are very effective at ridding the body of viruses, bacteria and countless illnesses. Lauric acid may also reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which lowers heart disease and stroke risks. There are only a few foods that are rich in lauric acid, so drink coconut milk regularly to benefit from this nutrient.
According to "Ceylon Medical Journal," coconut fats do not contain trans-fatty acids. The fats that are present in coconuts are less likely to clog arteries, which makes coconut milk a healthy alternative to cow’s milk when it comes to preserving your heart’s health. Coconut meat contains mono-glycerides, which the body absorbs and uses as energy shortly after it is consumed. Because the body does not store coconut fats, there is less chance that your arteries or blood vessels will clog, which lowers your risk of heart disease.
Coconuts are one of those foods that oscillate between the 'good' food and 'bad' food camps. Coconut milk, especially the lower fat variety, can be used in moderation (1-2 times per week). However, The British Heart Foundation recommends avoiding the use of coconut oil for cooking.
Coconuts contain significant amounts of fat, but unlike other nuts, they provide fat that is mostly in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs) in particular, one called lauric acid. Lauric acid is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease causing organisms. It is therefore now thought that consumption of coconut milk may help protect the body from infections and viruses.
MCFAs are rapidly metabolized into energy in the liver. It is thought that unlike other saturated fats, MCFAs are used up more quickly by the body and are less likely to be stored as fat. This does not exempt them from contributing to heart disease - they are still a fat - but they have a different effect than saturated fats.
The link between excessive consumption of dietary saturated fats and coronary heart disease (CHD) is well established. Because of coconut milk's high content of saturated fatty acids, it is still seen as a food that should be consumed in moderation.
How it's made
Creamed coconut and coconut milk are made in a way surprisingly akin to their dairy counterparts. Coconut flesh (the white part) is grated and soaked in hot water. The coconut cream rises to the top and can be skimmed off. The remaining liquid is squeezed through a cheese cloth to extract a white liquid that is coconut milk. By repeating this process, the coconut milk becomes thinner. The thicker version is used for desserts and rich sauces. Thin coconut milk is used for cooking curries and soups. In the UK, fresh coconut milk is unavailable and coconut milk is bought in cans.
A note on coconut water...
Coconut milk is different from coconut water. The latter has received a great deal of attention for its perceived health benefits, and is an important treatment for acute diarrhea in the developing world. Research suggests the clear liquid has the same electrolyte balance found in isotonic drinks, proving useful for rehydration or after long periods of intensive exercise.
Coconut milk is a creamy, rich liquid made from the meat of mature coconuts. It is a popular beverage in the Philippines, the Caribbean and anyplace where coconut trees are abundant. Coconut milk has the scent of a coconut and a slightly sweet taste. It is an excellent substitute for cow’s milk because it is easy to digest, simple to make and contains an abundance of nutrients. You can drink it plain, use it for cooking or blend it with smoothies to benefit from its nutritional value.
What are the other benefits of Coconut Milk Benefits?
Coconut milk is a healthy addition to your diet because:
1. Coconut milk is easier to digest because the body uses 3 less enzymes to digest it as opposed to cow’s milk.
2. It contains a high level of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats along with high amounts of amino acids. In and of itself it makes a perfect meal because it has an excellent combination of fats and amino acids.
3. The high level of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats and protein in this milk are more bio-available to humans compared to all other animal fats and most vegetable fats. This bio-availability results in the body’s ability to assimilate all its nutrients.
4. It’s very healing to the digestive tract and even heals damage done to the system in cases of IBS, Crohn’s disease and severe malnutrition.
5. It’s a healthy and dairy free food. Especially helpful for people who want to avoid dairy, are lactose intolerant, or have dairy allergies.
6. Helps build strong bones because it contains phosphorus. Phosphorus is a nutrient that is needed along with calcium to prevent bone loss and which supplies the body with phosphates. Phosphates are key for the building of bone.
7. Helps maintain balanced blood sugar levels by being a good source of manganese. This mineral is usually deficient in people with blood sugar issues.
8. Helps to reduce inflammation in joints by controlling the amount of free radicals in the system. As a result, arthritis sufferers can feel relief.
9. Aids in lowering blood pressure levels because of its high level of potassium.
10. Keeps the immune system strong and healthy by providing an optimal level of Vitamin C.
11. Helps prevent anemia. Iron deficient anemia is a very common ailment among people throughout the world. One (1) cup of this milk can provide nearly a quarter of your daily iron needs.
12. Helps nerves and muscles relax because it has an abundance of magnesium. This mineral counteracts the hyperactivity of nerves caused by too much calcium and relieves muscle pain and soreness. The B vitamins in coconut milk also benefit nerves by calming them.
13. Promotes prostate health because it contains the mineral, zinc. Zinc helps to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
14. Helpful for weight management because when you consume this milk you feel fuller sooner due to its level of fiber.
Benefits of Coconut Milk for Skin
• Helps blood vessels and skin stay elastic and flexible. In order for the body to carry out many of its functions, the mineral copper is necessary. Copper works hand in hand with vitamin C to keep skin and blood vessels staying flexible and elastic.
• Is an effective skin cleanser and exfoliator.
How to select and store
If you are able to get fresh coconut milk be aware that it goes bad very quickly and should be used the same day as pressing. The canned variety is a useful store cupboard ingredient and can be stored at room temperature for a long time. Be careful to check the use by dates and look out for damage or dents in the cans. Once opened, transfer the contents to a resealable container and refrigerate. Use within a few days. The high oil content makes coconut quickly turn rancid if not stored under proper conditions.
...DIY coconut milk (from desiccated coconut)
Try making your own with just water and unsweetened coconut flakes. Heat the water (make sure it doesn't boil), add the flakes and blend. Pour through a colander to filter out the coconut pulp, and then squeeze through a cheese cloth to filter out the smaller pieces of coconut. Use immediately or store in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Coconut milk has become a highlight of many cuisines in the tropical and subtropical countries where they are grown. Coconut milk is a fantastic dairy free alternative, popular in curry dishes.
The benefits of coconut oil
Coconut oil has been around for centuries and it has long been used as a homeopathic remedy to treat a number of aliments. However, modern medicine is just now beginning to understand and fully realize the benefits of this amazing oil, and many are now saying it may be one of the healthiest and most versatile natural oil on the market. Cultures that live in areas where coconut oil is a common part of their diet, people seem to be healthier, have better looking skin, hair, and nails, and feel more energetic. Pure coconut oil is a wonderful natural source of medicinal aid for the entire body. It is one of the great gifts that nature gives us and it is also one that offers extraordinary benefits.
Here are nine of the best health benefits you can enjoy from adding this natural oil to your diet routine:
Supports the thyroid and improves hormone balance
Having coconut oil as part of your regular diet helps to restores thyroid function and health. It does this by assisting the cells and the systems of the body that help produce, regulate, and move the hormones throughout the body. With proper hormone balance, you feel better and you will be healthier and happier for it too.
Tanya Brown staff writer and others
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