Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Use more coconuts

Published:Tuesday | November 1, 2016 | 11:00 AM

According to Dr Bruce Fife, an internationally recognised expert on coconuts, one-third of the world's population depends on coconuts, to a significant extent, for food. In these societies, the coconut is valued as a highly nutritious food rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. It is now classified as a 'functional food' as it is found to provide many health benefits beyond its basic nutritional content.

For thousands of years, coconut products have been valued in local folk medicine and used to treat a wide variety of health problems. Now, modern science confirms the medicinal usefulness of coconut.

COCONUT OIL

While the coconut meat is useful because of its nutritional content, the oil makes it a truly remarkable medicinal food. Once mistakenly condemned as unhealthy, the fat in coconut oil is now known to be uniquely beneficial and different from most other fats.

Fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. They are classified as short-chain fatty acids, medium-chain fatty acids, or long-chain fatty acids. More than 95 per cent of all the fats in the modern diet contain the not-so-healthy long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is composed mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). In fact, coconut oil and palm oil are the best dietary sources of MCT.

It is the special MCT in coconut oil that makes it so different from other fats. The MCT in coconut oil have lower calorie content than other fats and are used by the body to produce energy rather than being stored as body fat. MCT also support thyroid function and promote fat loss by increasing the metabolic rate. They provide a source of quick energy and enhance physical and athletic performance.

COCONUT OIL AND BRAIN HEALTH

A host of recent reports suggest that the regular consumption of coconut oil may improve brain health and may actually treat serious degenerative disease of the brain like Alzheimer's disease. Normally, brain cells get their energy exclusively from glucose (blood sugar), but in Alzheimer's disease, brain cells have difficulty absorbing glucose and die. But brain cells can get energy from another source: substances called ketones. The body can manufacture ketones from the MCT in coconut oil and help to heal the brain.

Research from Oxford University shows that sufferers from Alzheimer's disease and dementia have indeed seen short-term benefits after regularly taking coconut oil. Scientists are, however, questioning how long the benefits will last and more research is now being done. This research supports the theory that ketones produced by the breakdown of MCT play an important role in brain health and that boosting with ketones produced from coconut oil, cognitive function can improve.

There is nothing to lose by trying this safe and simple remedy. Experts suggest having one to two tablespoons of virgin coconut oil daily for better brain health.

OTHER BENEFITSOF COCONUT

The Coconut Research Center cites several reports that suggest an impressive list of health benefits from the coconut. These include:

n Improving the action of insulin in the body with better blood-glucose control, thus reducing the health risks associated with diabetes.

n Improving the ratio between 'good' and 'bad' cholesterol, reducing atherosclerosis and the risk of heart disease.

n Acting as a natural antibiotic, it destroys many viruses like influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, and HIV. It kills various bacteria that cause infections of the skin, throat, lungs, urinary tract, and gums. Coconut oil also displays activity against fungal infections like candidiasis, ringworm, and athlete's foot.

n It benefits osteoporosis by improving calcium and magnesium absorption, reduces inflammation, supports tissue healing, and aids immune system function.

n Coconut oil is found to improve symptoms associated with prostate enlargement and helps to prevent kidney and bladder infections and stones.

n Coconut oil is useful in skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis. Applied topically, it softens skin and helps relieve dryness, flaking, wrinkles, sagging skin, age spots, and promotes healthy-looking hair.

COCONUT WATER

Coconut water is the liquid inside the nut and is different from coconut milk, the juice extracted from the coconut meat. Coconut water is a unique beverage, with the same electrolyte balance as that of human blood. In fact, during World War II, in the Pacific, medical military personnel regularly used coconut water, siphoned directly from the nut, to give emergency transfusions to wounded soldiers.

Coconut water has advantages over cow's milk: less fat and no cholesterol. Coconut water is healthier than orange juice: much less sugar and fewer calories. Coconut water has more benefits than some processed baby feeds: contains healthy lauric acid, a key nutrient also present in mother's milk. Coconut water is naturally sterile, safe, and free of germs.

In a 100ml of coconut water, there is more potassium (almost 300mg) than most sports and energy drinks (around 120mg). There is less sodium (25mg) than sports drinks (around 40mg) and energy drinks (about 200mg). There is only 5mg of natural sugars, where sports and energy drinks range from 10-25mg of altered sugars.

Coconut water is best consumed fresh as once exposed to air, the liquid rapidly loses some of its nutritional benefits and begins to ferment. Because of this, bottled and canned coconut water has a short shelf life and requires preservatives and refrigeration.

So consume coconuts and coconut oil, drink fresh coconut water, and enjoy better health.

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Dr Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com

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