A coconut a day keeps the doctor away? In Guadeloupe, I have traded my daily apple for coconuts. Coconuts have become quite a trendy food recently, for both health and beauty devotees. As someone who falls slightly into both categories, I made a little research about the health benefits of coconut, and here's what I found:
The Health Benefits of Coconut:
1) Coconut oil is high in "good fat." About half of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is converted into monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin is a monoglyceride that has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil is also a source of medium-chain fatty acids; in contrast to long-chain fatty acids, which are difficult to break down and stored as fat in the body, medium-chain fatty acids are broken down immediately into energy. They are said to increase your metabolism and help your body burn fat.
2) Coconut oil may help optimize body weight and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
3) Coconuts are good for your skin! You can use coconut oil, purchasable at grocery and health food stores (or you can find my favorite brand here), as a rich moisturizer; simply warm a small amount in the palms of your hands and lather onto skin. Coconut oil also makes a great hair mask; heat about two tablespoons in the microwave for 30 seconds, cool until warm to the touch, apply to ends of hair and leave for at least 20 minutes before washing it out. Coconut water, which you can find in an immature (green) coconut, is full of cytokinins (a type of plant hormone) and antioxidants, both of which have anti-aging properties. The antioxidants remove free radicals from the body, and thus help counter the negative effects of sun, pollution, and stress. You can drink coconut water straight from the fruit or purchase it (it is readily available from brands such as Vitacoco and Zico). I've also heard that some people apply coconut water directly to the skin with a cotton pad as a topical treatment.
4) Coconut water keeps you hydrated. Coconut water is high in electrolytes such as potassium, which keep fluid properly balanced in your body.
5) Coconut milk, which you can buy as a milk substitute in grocery or health food stores, is lower in calories than cow's milk (NB: the coconut milk I'm talking about is not the pure, rich coconut milk that you use to make curry; it's watered down coconut milk). I bought this brand when I lived in the UK; it was available at Sainsbury's (often on offer!) and most health food stores.
These are just a few of the many health benefits associated with coconuts. Of course, research is still in the works to discover just how miraculous this fruit is, but I think the fact that islanders have used it as a staple product for centuries is a good testament to its properties!
Sources, and for more information: