The Tree of Life: Coconut Palm
Coconuts provide a nutritious source of food, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished people around the world for generations. On many islands, coconuts are a staple in the diet and provides the majority of the food. Nearly one-third of the world’s population depends on coconuts to some degree for their food and their economy. Among these cultures, coconuts have a long and respected history. Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Coconuts are classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Wherever the coconut palm grows, the people have learned of its importance as an effective medicine.
Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm, botanically known as cocos nucifera, with nucifera meaning “nut-bearing.” The fruit-bearing palms are native to Malaysia, Polynesia and southern Asia, and are now also common in South America, India , the Pacific Islands , Hawaii and Florida. The light, fibrous husk allowed it to easily drift on the oceans to other areas to spread. In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as “tree which gives all that is necessary for living,” since nearly all parts of the tree can be used in some manner or another. The coconut itself has many culinary uses, including providing milk, meat, sugar and oil as well as functioning as its own dish and cup. The husk was also burned for fuel by natives, but today a seed fibre called coir is taken from the husk and used to make brushes, mats, fishnets, and rope. Coconut oil, a saturated fat made from dried coconut meat, is used for commercial frying and in candies and margarines, as well as in non-edible products such as soaps and cosmetics.
Although it takes up to a year for coconuts to mature, the trees bloom up to thirteen times a year, so fruit is constantly forming yielding a continuous harvest year-round. An average harvest from one tree runs about 60 coconuts, with some trees yielding three times that amount. The coconut’s name is a bit of a misnomer, since it is botanically classified as a drupe and not a nut. It is the largest seed known.
The nutritional composition and related health benefits of coconut changes as it grows. This change in composition is being studied by scientists in many places. But scholars knew many centuries ago that coconut has different properties at different stages of its life.
There are three basic types of coconuts:
Tender coconut: is 90 to 95 percent water. The liquid from this coconut is the purest and most healing. It is considered the best for its cooling properties. Tender coconut water hydrates the body and it repairs the gastrointestinal tract
Middle aged coconut: In addition to water, the coconut at this stage has some soft pulp. Middle aged coconuts have less water than tender ones, but more water than mature coconuts. The water is slightly milky at this age. The middle-aged coconut is said to be best because it has more carbohydrate, protein, minerals, phosphorus, vitamins A,B, C than the other two forms.
Mature coconut: is coconut with a hard pulp, and very little water. When a coconut becomes mature, it becomes heavy to digest, and it can cause metabolic issues. Mature coconuts can also interfere with digestion. If large quantities of this variety are consumed daily, then a person can suffer hyperacidity, and worse still, elevated cholesterol levels. Therefore, people who have low digestive power are not advised to eat mature coconut, unless it is combined with ingredients that balance its negative properties.
The fluid content of the green colored fruit is the best in taste and quality. The juice of tender coconut has been billed “the world’s safest natural soft drink,” for being a nutritious thirst-quencher. If you’ve ever opened a fresh coconut, you will have seen the thin, opaque almost clear coconut juice or water which has a slight almond flavor. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the coconut milk. The water is consumed fresh from the coconut by many, and it can also be used in cooking. It’s a natural isotonic beverage, with the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood. It’s the fluid of life, so to speak. In fact, during the Pacific War of 1941-45, both sides in the conflict regularly used coconut water, siphoned directly from the nut, to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers. Coconut water is a universal donor because it is identical to human blood plasma. Coconut water has saved lives in 3rd world countries through coconut water IV’s. Most coconut water is still consumed fresh in tropical coastal areas. Once exposed to air, the liquid rapidly loses most of its nutritional characteristics, and begins to ferment.
Coconut water is the very stuff of Nature, biologically pure, full of natural sugars, salts, and vitamins to ward off fatigue and should be the next wave of energy drinks… NATURAL. Coconut water is more nutritious than whole milk because it contains less fat and NO CHOLESTEROL. Coconut water is healthier than Orange Juice, and has much fewer calories. Coconut water is better than processed baby milk because it contains lauric acid, which is present in human mother’s milk. Coconut water is naturally sterile because water permeates though the filtering husk.
Coconut Water vs Sports & Energy Drinks
Coconut water contains more potassium than most sports drinks and most energy drinks. Coconut water has less sodium where sports drinks and energy drinks. Coconut water has 5mg of Natural Sugars where sports and energy drinks range from 10-25mg of Altered Sugars. Coconut water is very high in chloride compared to sports drinks. This data is based on a 100ml drink
You can drink the liquid that comes out of a coconut, but it may not be your best option when cooking. You can find good quality dried, grated coconut and coconut chips in natural food stores. Use the unsweetened type, which should be free of chemical ingredients. Store coconut in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to a year. Use coconut milk the same day. Make it fresh each time. Summertime is ripe for cooking and cooling with coconuts.
Coconut water is a rich nutrient supplements as it comprises of nutrients and minerals. It is rich in minerals such as calcium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and sodium. It is also rich in sugar and protein elements. Undoubtedly it can be consumed as a health drink and this beverage is ideal for people, who are health conscious as this is almost fat-free. The mineral content always remains constant, but the protein and the sugar concentrations increase with the growth of the nut simultaneously. Coconut water contains varied number of nutrient elements as well as minerals in trace amounts. These trace minerals are not found in other fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes coconut water is mistaken to be coconut milk, where as both the fluids are different. While the former one resembles normal water the later one looks alike milk and is thicker comparative to the former one.
To make coconut milk the juice inside the coconut is combined with the white flesh of the coconut. The result is a wonderful white milk that is full of super-healthy nutrients. Best of all, coconut milk is delicious and is non-fattening compared to cow’s milk. Making coconut milk at home is quick and easy once you know how, and no special apparatus is required. When you experience the cool, luxurious, super-delicious taste of coconut milk you will always want to have it.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. It is used as a vital source for food, health and general well-being. 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. New research is verifying these traditional beliefs that the coconut palm is “The Tree of Life” and that organic virgin coconut oil has the potential to cure many of the ailments that have manifested in our bodies through the highly refined diet of our modern society.
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. Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties. Coconut oil does not contain the trans fats that produce insulin-resistance, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Virgin coconut oil has not been refined, bleached, or deodorized. Although none of that processing is necessary, some manufacturers do it anyway, which produces the same problems as those associated with hydrogenated oils. Past research into coconut oil was usually based on hydrogenated coconut oil, rather than on the pure coconut oil squeezed from the white flesh. This gave the mistaken impression that coconut oil is saturated and is therefore bad for your health, but in fact this is not so. It is now gaining long overdue recognition as a nutritious health food.
Raw virgin coconut oil is cold-pressed immediately upon opening of the coconut. The oil is extracted before the fermentation process sets in. It is normally bottled or packed within 8 hours from the time the nut is opened. This is not bleached nor deodorized, maintaining the freshness and the sweet coconut scent It will also be clear as water in liquid form because no high heat was used in it’s processing. Coconut oil becomes a liquid at 76-degrees Fahrenheit. So on a warm day, it’s liquid in the jar. On cool days, however, it’s a white solid. Going from cool/white-solid to warm/clear-liquid does not adversely affect the oil. When it’s solid, it looks like one of those fats that might clog up your arteries and end up around your middle-section. But the difference becomes apparent when you pick up a little and rub it between your fingers. The fat “solid” turns into an oily liquid almost immediately. That reaction hints at how quickly it metabolizes and how quickly it breaks down to produce energy in your even warmer interior.
Do a smell and taste test. Not all Virgin coconut Oil are alike. Just like not all Coconuts are Organic. Not being subjected to heat (even if it is, it is subjected to very low heat), sunlight, being extracted from fresh (non-dried) coconuts with different process of extraction, it is certainly more beneficial than ordinary coconut oil. It is higher in vitamin content, anti-oxidants (which is nothing or negligible in ordinary coconut oil), minerals, medium chain fatty acids, taste, fragrance and even protein. The shelf life of virgin coconut oil is very long, much longer than any other edible oil and its own variant, the RBD (Refined Bleached Deodorized) coconut oil. It does not go rancid easily. The Virgin Coconut Oil extracted by cold compression method is considered better than that extracted by the fermentation method, since the oil extracted by fermentation has higher moisture content and goes rancid earlier. If you ever need to melt it during winter, do not put it to direct heat. Instead, put it in a little cup and put the cup in warm water.
Coconut Oil May Be The Healthiest Oil on Earth
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.
There are two methods of classifying fatty acids. The first you are probably familiar with, is based on saturation. You have saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Another system of classification is based on molecular size or length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid. 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), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCFA are very different from LCFA. They do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help to protect against heart disease. MCFA 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.There are only a very few good dietary sources of MCFA. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of these healthy MCFAs. The long-chain fats nearly always go to fat storage, while the MCFAs are burned for energy. About 50% of these MCFA’s are made up of lauric acid. This is the most important essential fatty acid in building and maintaining the body’s immune system. The only other rich dietary source of lauric acid apart from coconut oil is human milk.
Coconut as Medicine
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, 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.
Modern medical science is now confirming the use of coconut in treating many of the above conditions. Published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another, may provide a wide range of health benefits.
Viruses, Bactria, Fungi, Parasites
Coconut kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases. Furthermore, it kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections. Coconut also expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites. The amount of coconut oil used is important. The higher the dosage the more effective it is in deactivating the virus and other pathogenic organisms.
Energy & Metabolism & Athletic Performance
The ability of MCFAs to be easily digested, to help stimulate the metabolism and be turned into energy has entered the sports arena. Several studies have now shown that MCFAs enhance physical or athletic performance.
Coconut provides a nutritional source of quick energy, boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
Is lower in calories than all other fats. It improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It also improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth. It also functions as a protective antioxidant, and helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease. Coconut oil does not deplete the body’s antioxidant reserves like other oils do. It improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
It improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose. Coconut relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body. For instance, it reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis, helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes and reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis, helps protect against osteoporosis, helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease, relieves symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, improves digestion and bowel function, relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids and helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
There are times when your body fills up with heat-induced toxins. This causes the Ph levels in the deeper digestive system to fall, leading to severe hyperacidity. That is when coconut steps in to heal because it’s capable of getting all the toxins downward and helping to purify the digestive system. Coconut balances acid levels and cools the system. This makes it superior to other herbs and fruits which can cool down hyperacidic toxins, but do not flush it out of the system.
One of the remarkable things about coconut oil is that it can help you lose weight. Coconut milk also provides a really good source of nutrition for those following a weight loss regime because the saturated fat is composed of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids that are quickly and easily assimilated into the body. The fatty acids do not end up as fat in the body like the long-chain fatty acids in cow’s milk. It breaks down quickly and is burned for fuel long before it can be stored as fat. Since coconut oil helps to stimulate your metabolism, you may burn more calories each day, helping to accelerate weight loss and increase your activity and energy level. Human research studies have demonstrated that replacing LCFAs with MCFAs results in both decreased body weight and reduced fat deposition. So, by changing the fats in your diet from the unsaturated long-chain fatty acids found in vegetable or seed oils to the MCFAs in coconut oil, along with following an exercise plan, you may find yourself gradually losing those unnecessary pounds.
Supports and Aids Immune System Function
Coconut Oil reduces inflammation supports tissue healing and repair, helps protect the body from breast, colon and other cancers. Coconut is heart healthy; it improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease. It protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease. It also reduces epileptic seizures. Coconut oil helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections. It dissolves kidney stones, helps prevent liver disease and supports thyroid function.
Coconut Skin Care
Coconut oil is ideal for skin care. It helps protect your skin from the aging effects of free radicals, and can help improve the appearance of skin with its anti-aging benefits. Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection, reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis. Coconut oil supports the natural chemical balance of the skin, softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking. It prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots. Furthermore, it promotes healthy looking hair and complexion and helps control dandruff.
It can also be used as a natural sunscreen that provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding concerning monolaurin and coconut oil. Monolaurin is a dietary supplement derived from coconut oil. It is used to fight bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Monolaurin has gained popularity as an effective infection fighter. The most popular brand being Lauricidin®. The predominate fatty acids in coconut oil are “medium chain” fatty acids. There are three medium chain fatty acids (MCFA): lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid. There are also three monoglycerides formed during digestion: monolaurin, monocaprin, and monocaprylin. All three of the medium chain fatty acids and medium chain monoglycerides possess antimicrobial properties, triglycerides and diglycerides do not.
In general, monolaurin has demonstrated the strongest effect in killing many bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This has led manufacturers to start producing and marketing monolaurin as an antimicrobial dietary supplement. Some of these producers claim that when coconut oil is digested, only a small amount of the oil is converted into monolaurin, and therefore, monolaurin or Lauricidin® is more effective than coconut oil as an antimicrobial agent. In fact, some go so far to say that since coconut oil produces so little monolaurin that it is not really effective in fighting infections. This is not true.
Of the three medium chain fatty acids, lauric acid has shown to be more potent than capric and caprylic acids in killing many microorganisms. Monolaurin, likewise, has shown to be more effective than the other monoglycerides as well as the MCFA. But this is a broad generalization. There are certain organisms in which monolaurin is not the most effective, while the other monoglycerides or fatty acids work better. You would do better using monocaprin or capric acid on some microorganisms than you would monolaurin. The same is true with all the other fatty acids and monoglycerides.
Monolaurin is a single ingredient. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is a combination of 10 different fatty acids—short, medium, and long—and their monoglycerides, most all of which possess antimicrobial properties. Each one has its strengths and advantages. When combined together they work synergistically to enhance the effectiveness of the total. Therefore, coconut oil with its 10 fatty acids and 10 monoglycerides has greater potential for fighting infection. Coconut oil, as nature made it, is superior to monolaurin alone. As a food, it is safe and easy to use and much cheaper than a dietary supplement.
Finding a safe and effective yet affordable treatment is the only way to bring relief to the millions who suffer from HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, researchers may have now found a potential solution to this problem: coconut oil. Although coconut oil may appear to be an unlikely hero, recent medical research shows that it holds great promise in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Coconut oil is composed of a unique group of fats known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT). When eaten, our bodies transform MCT into medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) and monoglycerides both of which possess powerful antiviral properties. Knowledge of coconut oil’s effect on HIV has been circulating in the AIDS community ever since Icelandic researcher Halldor Thormar began publishing studies on this topic in the early 1990s. Since then, HIV-infected individuals have reported success lowering their viral loads and improving their overall health by adding coconut oil or coconut products into their diets. Viruses that are the most vulnerable to the killing action of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) in coconut oil are those which are encased in a lipid membrane. When MCFA come into contact with these viruses, they are absorbed into their outer membranes, destabilizing them to the point that the membrane disintegrates, killing the organism.HIV has a lipid coat, thus making it vulnerable to the action of MCFA. Studies have shown that when MCFA are added to human blood and semen infected with HIV, the virus is effectively killed.
The researchers add that they are “potent inactivators of sexually transmitted viruses.” Studies have shown that MCFA are not only effective at killing HIV but also a large number of lipid-coated viruses that cause a number of diseases, including the measles virus, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis C, stomatitis virus (VSV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). MCFA also kill lipid-coated bacteria as well as some fungi and parasites including, Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori, Candida albicans, and giardia.
Coconut oil is composed predominately of MCFA and also alleviates many of the opportunistic infections that commonly afflict AIDS patients. Unlike the drug cocktails used to treat HIV/AIDS, coconut oil is a completely harmless, natural product that has been used safely as food for thousands of years. It has no harmful side effects.
“TREE OF LIFE”
Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do. Has no harmful or discomforting side effects. Is completely non-toxic to humans. There is only one oil that is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage, while it also helps you promote heart health, maintain normal cholesterol levels and even supports weight loss — coconut oil.
So, whenever you need an oil to cook with, use coconut oil instead of butter, olive oil, vegetable oil, margarine, or any other type of oil called for in recipes. Even though I don’t fully recommend frying foods, if you must fry, by all means use coconut oil — it’s your smartest choice.
Coconuts are a tasty nutrient supplement and can be a valuable addition to a diet lacking nutrients. And it’s juice can serve as a vitamin and mineral drink to help keep us hydrated whether we’re just doing everyday chores or exercising. The demand of this natural health drink has ultimately led to the packaging of young fruit juice. These nutritious drinks can easily be included in the average diet. Places which are far from sea level do not usually bear these trees. But due to the heavy demand and improved technology, this coastal fruit is available all over the world, year round. Coconuts and their related products were once prevalent in western countries like the United States. Considering the nutritional state of Americans these days, it may be a wise decision for us to start utilizing the benefits that come from the fruit of the tree of life.