Wonderful Things Wednesday! The Lovely, Yummy, Almighty COCONUT! (AKA nut-bearing monkey-face) Everything and more than you’ve ever wanted to know about Coconuts!

The Lovely, Yummy, Almighty COCONUT! (AKA nut-bearing monkey-face)

 I love coconuts.  Maybe I went to college in Hawaii because of my love for coconuts, or maybe my love for coconuts started in Hawaii.  I’m not really sure, but I do know that I love coconuts.  I also married a Polynesian so it would be acceptable to regularly incorporate coconuts into my daily fanfare.  Well, that’s not the only reason.  He also looked really hot in his baby-blue security guard shirt that he wore for his on-campus job.  And every time I heard him laugh, I couldn’t contain my happiness, and he laughs all the time.  I knew I would be forever happy and after almost 13 years of marriage, I’m happier than ever.  But back to the coconut.  Not the one I married, the other, smaller brown ball of happiness that makes ordinary meals become delightsome.  Have I told you I love coconuts?  I know, I know, I’ve already told you.  So, now let me tell you some of the reasons why I love coconuts.
My favorite coconut climbing a coconut tree.  Doesn't get much better than that :)

My favorite coconut climbing a coconut tree = LOVE…..<3…..<3….. Doesn’t get much better than that 🙂

The coconut is also known as Cocos Nucifera, at least in scientific communities.  None of my friends call it that; I must not hang out with a very scientific bunch.  My friends are more like the early Spanish explorers who when they saw coconuts for the first time, they called them “coco,” which means “monkey face.”  Not a bad description for the three-eyed, hairy little nut which does kind of resemble the head and face of a monkey.  Nucifera got added to the description because it means “nut-bearing.”

So, I am in love with a nut-bearing monkey-face. (Don’t tell my husband.)

The coconut palm is known as “The Tree of Life” among Pacific Islanders, who consider coconut oil to be a cure for most any ailment.  Their sentiment is not far from the truth.  Coconut oil, used in a variety of forms, can cure a wide variety of maladies.  It is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal.  Coconut oil is largely comprised of lauric acid.  Our bodies convert lauric acid into monolaurin, which is one of the healthiest fats on the planet.  The only other known source of monolaurin is human breast milk.  In Samoa, babies who fail to “fa su su” or breastfeed, are able to thrive on coconut water and coconut milk.

That leads me to another point.  What’s the difference between coconut water and coconut milk?  Many people falsely assume that the liquid you hear shake around inside a coconut is coconut milk.  But like all milks, coconut milk requires work and lots of squeezing to acquire.  The best coconut water is found in “niu” (sounds kind of like “nee-you”) coconuts (that’s the Samoan term, also called Young Coconuts).  Niu coconuts are large and green.  It is sweet and delicious and incredibly healthy.  My talented Polynesian family members can land a precise whack at the top of the coconut with a terrifying looking machete, kind of like this.  Then the sweet coconut water is ready to drink.  After you drink the coconut water, you can scrape out the soft, sweet meat inside the coconut.  When most people think of a coconut, they think of something more like this .  While still a coconut, I believe the difference is that the latter is the mature form of the nut.  The water inside is no longer as sweet as it once was.  The meat is no longer soft and sweet, but harder and more mild in flavor.  It still has many wonderful uses, but it is not the only useful stage of this great nut.

Coconut milk is made from the meat of the niu coconut.  The liquid, extracted through some form of squeezing the coconut meat, is what we call coconut milk.  The fats in this liquid separated even more are the fats that get used on their own for coconut cream.  Sometimes, if you purchase canned coconut milk, you will notice a separation in the can of the liquid and the cream.  You will usually want to mix this back together before use in your recipes, but it is not a sign of the coconut milk being bad or rancid.  It is natural for them to separate.  Or, if you’re making whipped cream with the coconut milk, you’ll only want to scoop out the solid part of the milk, none of the separated liquid.

Speaking of the fats in coconut milk, they have sometimes caused coconuts to get a bad rap.  They are known for their high saturated fat content, which makes most dieting people run screaming in horror.  The reason the saturated fat in coconut oil is good as opposed to the saturated fats found in most all other foods has to do with the differences in their fat molecules.  One system of classifying fat molecules is by the size or length of their chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms.  The options for classification under this system are SCFA (short-chain fatty acids), MCFA (medium-chain fatty acids), and LCFA (long-chain fatty-acids).  About 99% of saturated fats in our foods are LCFA and very difficult for our bodies to metabolize.  MCFA, however, is much more easily metabolized by our bodies and thus have many positive benefits.  Most of the saturated fatty acids in coconut milk are MCFA.

According to the Coconut Research Center, “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. By far the best sources are from coconut and palm kernel oils.”

Coconut palms also produce one of the healthiest forms of sugar on the planet.  Palm sugar is the crystal form, similar in appearance and flavor to brown sugar, but has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of any sugar.  There is also a coconut nectar, similar to agave nectar in appearance, but a healthier alternative than agave.

Another interesting fact about coconut oil is that it’s great for many skin conditions.  Even more interesting is that it is highly recommended as a sexual lubricant, especially for those who have sensitivities to the glycerin found in most lubricants.  Do not use coconut oil with latex condoms, however.  Latex condoms require water-based, not oil-based lubricants, to avoid breaking.  But coconut oil can be used, and as mentioned before is highly recommended, when used with non-latex condoms or when no condoms are used.

The Coconut Research Center also lists many recorded uses of coconut oil, which I will copy here. You can visit their website to research more about the coconut as well.  But here is some of what they list:

Coconut In Traditional Medicine

People from many diverse cultures, languages, religions, and races scattered around the globe have revered the coconut as a valuable source of both food and medicine. Wherever the coconut palm grows the people have learned of its importance as a effective medicine. For thousands of years coconut products have held a respected and valuable place in local folk 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, dropsy, 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.

Coconut In Modern Medicine

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. Some of these are summarized below:

  • Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
  • Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
  • Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
  • Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
  • Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
  • Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
  • Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
  • Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
  • Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
  • Reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
  • Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
  • Helps protect against osteoporosis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
  • Improves digestion and bowel function.
  • Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Supports tissue healing and repair.
  • Supports and aids immune system function.
  • Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers.
  • Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
  • Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.
  • Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.
  • Functions as a protective antioxidant.
  • Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
  • Does not deplete the body’s antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
  • Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement).
  • Reduces epileptic seizures.
  • Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
  • Dissolves kidney stones.
  • Helps prevent liver disease.
  • Is lower in calories than all other fats.
  • Supports thyroid function.
  • Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
  • Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
  • Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
  • Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
  • Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
  • Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
  • Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.
  • Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.
  • Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion.
  • Provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • Helps control dandruff.
  • 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.
    So, have I helped anyone love the coconut as much as I do?  It does so many wonderful things and you will see me using it in many of my recipes.  It has also allowed me to enjoy ice-cream again, since I gave up eating ice-cream on my 30th birthday.  Well, the day after my birthday.  So Delicious brand has some amazing ice-creams made with coconut milk.  Thank You So Delicious for really being sooooooo delicious!  And thank you, nut-bearing monkey-face, for being so wonderful!
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