In recent years, coconuts have become quite popular due to their versatility and health benefits. Although commonly used today in our food and beauty regimens, coconuts used to have a bad reputation for being high in saturated and cholesterol. Coconuts are actually highly nutritious – rich in fiber, packed with micronutrients, and rich with antioxidants. Not to mention, they smell amazing, and add an exotic taste to our daily cuisine! Keep on reading to learn all of the reasons we are cuckoo for coconuts!
The coconut palm, also known as the “tree of life”, has been greatly valued by many cultures throughout history for it’s incredible versatility. Virtually every part of the coconut palm has a use for humans, for instance, the coconut water is a nutritious drink, the fiber left over from the production of coconut milk is used for livestock feed, the fiber from the husk can be used to make ropes, the leaves are used for roofing thatch, the wood is used for furniture and construction, the trunk for canoes, and the roots for medicine.
Through genetic testing, historians speculate that the coconut originated from India and Southeast Asia, and then were traded across continents to East Africa and Europe via seafaring traders and along the Silk Road. Later, coconuts were brought to the Americas and the Caribbean with colonialism and the slave trade. Portuguese traders gave the coconut it’s contemporary name, as they thought it resembled a cocuruto, or skull, with three holes for two eyes and a mouth, and coconut fibers for hair.
Around six years ago, the Western world’s professional athletes began drinking coconut water for the natural electrolytes. Realizing the coconut’s superfood properties, this catalyzed the rise in consumption of coconuts in many forms: coconut water, coconut oil, coconut chips, flavoring, and a dairy alternative in the form of milk, yogurt and ice cream. In turn, coconut production, export, and processing grew into a multibillion-dollar global industry. Since 2015, the export of fresh coconuts by the Philippines (the world’s largest producer of coconuts) has gone up more than 80%. Of course, in native geographies, consumption of coconuts in its many forms is nothing new – coconuts have long been a staple ingredient in their diets and play a major role within their cultures.
Is it a fruit or a nut?
A coconut is a fibrous, one-seeded drupe that comes from a coconut palm tree. A drupe is a fruit with a hard covering on the seed. Peaches, plums, and cherries are all part of the drupe family, but so are walnuts, almonds and pecans… so you can call a coconut whichever you prefer!
- High fiber content: ⅓ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes has about 14% of the daily recommended amount of dietary fiber for a 2,000 calorie diet. Fiber is important for digestion, and slows the absorption of fat and sugar in the bloodstream.
- Plant-based protein: Coconuts offer about half of the amount of protein of an equal serving portion of tofu, and a cup of coconut milk contains about 6 grams of protein.
- Low-carb: Low carb and high fat content in a coconut make it an ideal snack for those on a ketogenic diet plan or a low-carb diet.
- Micronutrients: Coconuts contain micronutrients such as manganese, copper, selenium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. They also offer vitamin B6.
- Antioxidant rich: Fatty acids in coconuts have lots of powerful antioxidants that can boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. Various studies suggest that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconuts contain antioxidant properties that can increase our metabolic rate, enhance fat burning, increase energy expenditure, and suppress appetite.
As you can see, coconuts have many health benefits and a variety of uses. We use coconut in one of our dips because it is reminiscent of Indian tradition and flavor. If you like coconut and want to incorporate the flavor into more of your recipes, try our Spicy Peanut Coconut Dip! For recipe inspiration, check out our recipe page.