Highly nutritious, rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, coconut is a formidable fruit for athletes and non-athletes, able to reduce pressure, improve cholesterol levels and facilitate weight loss.
The coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), an arboreal plant belonging to the Arecaceae family, defined as the “tree of life” by the inhabitants of the producing countries as all its parts can be used: water, the milk, the pulp, the sugar, the oil, but also the shell and the leaves which are used as furnishing and decoration materials.
Currently cultivated in all tropical countries, as well as in Asia, Central and South America and Africa, the coconut palm has managed to spread in a natural way, transported by sea currents, above all thanks to its ability to maintain its germinability for a long time.
It was the Spanish explorers who coined the name coconut (monkey face) because, according to them, the three notches on the walnut with a hairy background, resembled a little monkey.
Green coconut and brown coconut: what’s the difference?
We can generally distinguish two types of coconut: brown coconut and green coconut. It is the same fruit, however distinct from its ripeness.
The green coconut, in fact, is also known as young coconut (or young coconut in English) and is a not yet perfectly ripe coconut, more easily found in tropical countries. It is called this because its outer part is green in color and inside the pulp is thinner, softer and tastier.
Brown coconut, on the other hand, is the classic coconut that we are used to finding in our supermarkets. In this case the pulp is much thicker and harder. In any case, the nutritional and beneficial properties are quite similar between the two types of coconut. Now let’s see the properties of coconut in more detail.
Coconut: calories and nutritional properties
Coconut is a good source of minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, magnesium and iron; vitamins are present in lower proportions even if the most represented are: folates, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin B3.
It also contains a considerable amount of fats, represented in a good percentage by lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid with a medium chain and responsible for some of the beneficial properties of this fruit. With regard to energy intake, coconut is a more caloric fruit than the average due to its fat content: 100 grams of pulp, in fact, provide about 364 calories. The nutritional components of the coconut differ depending on whether they are present in the pulp (richer in fat) or in the water (richer in potassium and other minerals).
Nutritional values per 100g of coconut pulp (raw):
- Kcal: 364
- Proteins: 3.5g
- Carbohydrates: 9.4g
- of which sugars: 9.4g
- Fat: 35g
- of which total saturated: 30.93g
- Lauric acid: 16.18 g
- Myristic acid: 5.36 g
- Palmitic acid: 3.05 g
- Fibers: 12.2g
- Iron: 1.7 mg
- Potassium: 256 mg
- Vitamin B1: 0.05 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.02 mg
- Vitamin B3: 0.50 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.05 mg
- C vitamin: 3 mg
- Folate: 26 µg
- Vitamin E: 0.73 mg
Coconut: properties and health benefits
Now that we know what coconut is made of on a nutritional level, let’s see why it is good for you and how it should be taken.
As we said earlier, coconut water is an excellent drink with a moisturizing action thanks to the presence of vitamins, minerals (mainly potassium) and simple carbohydrates.
✓ Weight loss
As we anticipated above, coconut is rich in particular types of fats, medium-chain triglycerides, which our body metabolizes in a different way than the others: in fact these fats are sent directly to the liver through the digestive tract, where they are used for obtain energy or to be transformed into ketones (these are substances that perform a positive function on the brain, nourishing and protecting it and, moreover, helping to lose weight), rather than being stored in the form of fat. In addition to the ability to speed up the metabolism, medium chain triglycerides are able to reduce the sense of hunger thanks to the action of ketone bodies, and to increase the sense of satiety, thus facilitating weight control, eliminating extra pounds.
✓ Reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol
Several studies have shown that taking extra virgin coconut oil regularly helps reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), while increasing good cholesterol (HDL), which protects against cardiovascular disease. Coconut is also rich in fibers that have countless benefits on our health: they maintain gastrointestinal balance, reduce the risk of hemorrhoids, avoid blood sugar changes, lower blood pressure, satiate and strengthen the immune system.
✓ Brain health
The consumption of medium triglycerides, of which coconut is rich, improves brain function in patients with mild forms of Alzheimer’s disease, making these fats potential therapeutic agents in neurodegenerative diseases.
✓ Healing properties
In traditional medicine, coconut, thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, is used to treat a wide range of health problems such as abscesses, asthma, bruises, burns, colds, constipation and wounds.
✓ Beneficial for the intestine
Coconut is good for the intestine thanks to the fiber content that helps regulate its transit. In addition, coconut pulp has mild laxative properties and can help with constipation.
✓ Beneficial properties for the skin
Speaking of the benefits of coconut for health, we cannot fail to mention those for the skin. Coconut oil is in fact an excellent moisturizer for dry skin and fights damaged hair. It can be used as a facial cleanser, conditioner and make-up remover.
How much coconut to eat per day
Coconut is a somewhat peculiar and rather caloric fruit. For this reason, a standard serving of fresh coconut is about 40 grams or, more practically, about 1/10 of a coconut. This quantity is sufficient to guarantee us the benefits of this fruit without weighing too much on the overall caloric intake. As for the dehydrated coconut, however, the portion drops to 20/30 grams.
How to eat coconut
To eat the coconut, you must first open the nut and extract the pulp. Sometimes it is also possible to find fresh coconut already cut, so as to be consumed more easily. If you notice that the pulp is yellowish and the outer shell is grayish in color, it means that the coconut is no longer fresh.
Once the coconut has been opened, we can take the water to drink it or add it to fruit and vegetable extracts, to give an exotic touch to the recipe. Coconut pulp, on the other hand, can be eaten as a simple snack, for breakfast or as a snack. Furthermore, due to its energizing properties, it can also be used before a workout. Alternatively we can use coconut for the preparation of smoothies or smoothies, together with banana or berries for example.
If you are lucky enough to find the green coconut, you will notice that the pulp inside is much thinner and softer than the brown coconut, to the point that it can also be taken with a simple spoon. Green coconut water is also more transparent and thirst-quenching than brown coconut water.
Finally, the drink commonly known as “coconut milk” can be prepared from fresh coconut or coconut flour.
The benefits of coconut water
Coconut water is a highly refreshing liquid and represents a tasty alternative to energy and toning drinks, properties that make it the perfect food for sportsmen as it provides many minerals that are lost with sweating and must therefore be replenished, but it can also be taken daily for example as an ingredient in tasty smoothies! Each coconut can hold around 200-1000ml of water depending on the type and size.
A liter of coconut water provides 1500 mg of potassium versus just 300 mg of sports drinks, has similar amounts of magnesium and carbohydrates, but is also rich in antioxidants and is sold for a similar price compared to sports drinks.
Why take coconut water? Reduces blood pressure thanks to its potassium content; relieves gastric acidity; improves digestion and is an excellent natural energy drink.
Coconut Oil Saturated Fats
Coconut oil is known to have a high saturated fat content. So how can it be beneficial to health? The secret is that it contains a particular type of fat, medium-chain triglycerides, which our body metabolizes in a different way than the others and which, as numerous studies show, perform a beneficial activity in the body. To obtain benefits, however, it is important that the coconut oil is not refined and is cold pressed, otherwise it loses all its beneficial qualities.
Coconut: contraindications and side effects
Coconut, if consumed in the right quantities, has no particular contraindications. However, as coconut is naturally high in fiber, it can potentially cause digestive complications (such as diarrhea and flatulence) for those who don’t normally get enough fiber in their diet or for those who overuse coconut. If your diet is not particularly rich in fiber, you can start consuming small amounts, and then eventually gradually increase the consumption of coconut, in order to reduce the risk of these side effects. The consumption of this fruit should also be reduced in case of irritable colon since coconut is a moderately rich fruitfodmap.