Coconut: characteristics, beneficial effects and curiosities
During the exploration of the Indian Ocean led by Vasco da Gama , when the Portuguese found coconuts in front of them, they noticed that these fruits seemed to have a nose placed between two round eyes, bringing to mind the so-called "bogeyman". , that is, the " coco " of popular tradition, used by mothers to scare children in order to make them more obedient.
Therefore, they called it "coco" (head), hence coconut.
This exotic fruit, cultivated for over 4,500 years, is widespread in the subtropics, where it forms the basis for the nutrition of those populations.
In particular, two thirds of the world's crop are produced in India , Indonesia and the Philippines .
The part of the coconut that can be used for food and cosmetic purposes is the pulp , that is, the white part inside the nut, while coconut milk and cream are produced by crushing the raw and grated pulp.
Coconut oil is also extracted from the pulp, rich in natural antioxidants that block free radicals, which in turn cause aging.
Finally, coconut water , not to be confused with coconut milk, is the liquid present inside the coconut, is rich in magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and is an excellent hydrating drink.
Healing properties and effects on metabolism
- Dietary effects: 100 grams of coconut meat provide approximately 364 calories, mainly determined by medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which, absorbed directly in the intestine, rapidly develop energy or are transformed into ketones, which perform a nourishing and protective function on the brain . Due to these characteristics, coconut fats are able to reduce the sense of hunger, increase the sense of satiety and consequently facilitate weight control, helping to eliminate excess kilos.
- Mineral salts: coconut is a good source, being rich in potassium, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, magnesium, copper and iron (which help form red blood cells), selenium (which is an important antioxidant that protects cells ), of manganese which is essential for bone health, for strengthening the immune system and for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and cholesterol.
- Vitamins are present in lower proportions and the most relevant ones are: folates, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin B3.
- Cholesterol: regularly using extra virgin coconut oil helps reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), while increasing good cholesterol (HDL), i.e. the one that protects against cardiovascular diseases.
- Gastrointestinal system: being very rich in fibre, coconut maintains its balance, reduces the risk of hemorrhoids, avoids glycemic swings, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the immune system. Furthermore, low in carbohydrates and rich in amino acids, coconut is indicated for blood sugar control.
- Anti-inflammatory action: thanks to this peculiarity, coconut is used as an adjuvant to treat abscesses, asthma, bruises, burns, colds, constipation and wounds.
- Cosmetics: thanks to its hydrating properties it is a precious component for body creams, such as soothing for irritated or sensitive skin and to produce conditioners and masks for hair, to which it restores shine and softness, progressively reducing split ends and frizz.
In the kitchen
Thanks to its countless nutritional virtues and particular taste, coconut is used in many both sweet and savory recipes .
For example, flour is used to replace wheat flour so, being gluten-free, it is suitable for those (e.g. celiacs) who follow a diet or are intolerant to some substances.
As is well known, coconut is widely used for the preparation of tasty biscuits, desserts, bread, creams, ice creams and drinks.
Plus, as a heat-stable fat, coconut oil is great for baking and frying.