Coconut - Tropical Fruit For Energy And Mental Health
The coconut (Cocos nucifera Linn.) belongs to the family of palm trees. Coconuts are the kernels of the drupe. Therefore, from a botanical point of view, it is not a true nut. The green outer skin (epicarp) and fibrous layer (mesocarp) have already been removed from the coconuts available in the trade, so that the flesh is now surrounded only by a thick layer (endocarp). In addition to the flesh, the inside of the coconut also contains healthy coconut water, which also has various health benefits.
The exotic fruit is mainly grown in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines). Other cultivation areas are India and Brazil. The coconut is referred to as a functional food due to its diverse benefits, which are also attributed to the presence of secondary plant compounds.
Coconut fats for quick energy
Coconut contains fats, particularly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Medium-chain triglycerides consist of fatty acids with a chemical structure ranging from 6 to 12 carbon atoms. They are primarily used by the body as a quick energy source.
Coconuts against heart disease
Coconuts are a staple in the diet of the Kitava people, who are largely isolated from Western life. Strokes and ischemic heart disease do not exist among the Kitava 1.
Coconut is also a traditional dietary component for two populations in Polynesia (Tokelau and Pukapuka). Coconuts account for 63% and 34% of their daily energy intake, respectively 2. Cardiovascular disease is also uncommon in these populations. Furthermore, there are no known harmful effects that could have been caused by the increased intake of saturated fatty acids.
Coconut fats make up about 80% of the fat consumption of people in Sri Lanka 3. Scientists also see medium-chain fatty acids as not as bad for health.
Coconuts bring anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving properties to human health with a variety of secondary plant compounds 4. Especially medium-chain fatty acids (such as lauric acid) and their derivatives like monoglycerides have potent antiviral properties 5. Thus, gels made from coconuts have great potential for wound healing and for treating local bacterial infections 6.
Minerals in Coconut Flesh
Coconut flesh provides the body with important minerals. Iron, which is needed for blood formation and oxygen transport to the cells, is abundant with 2.4 mg per 100 g of flesh. Potassium (0.36 g), phosphorus (0.11 g), and selenium (10 µg) are also present in higher proportions in coconuts. Potassium is involved in maintaining water balance. Phosphorus is necessary for healthy teeth and bones, and selenium acts as an antioxidant that protects against oxidative stress.
All nutrients and nutrition facts of coconuts can be found here.
Vitamins are also present in coconut flesh. Vitamin C for the immune system and Vitamin E as an antioxidant are present in higher amounts with 3.3 and 2.2 mg, respectively. Additionally, coconuts are rich in B vitamins, which are involved in converting carbohydrates into glucose, which the body needs for energy production.
Coconut as a Protein-Rich Fruit
With 3.3 g per 100 g, the flesh of the coconut is one of the most protein-rich fruits. The essential amino acids leucine (0.24 g per 100 g), valine (0.2 g), and phenylalanine (0.16 g) are present in higher proportions.
- Leucine: involved in the building, regeneration, and maintenance of muscle tissue
- Valine: needed for tissue repair, muscle metabolism, and the maintenance of nitrogen balance in the body
- Phenylalanine: involved in the formation of hormones and neurotransmitters
Coconut against Alzheimer's
Medium-chain fatty acids are quickly absorbed by the digestive tract. They can then be converted by the liver into ketones, which serve as an alternative energy source for the brain and could be helpful in the prevention and treatment of memory disorders such as Alzheimer's 9 10. In addition, scientists have found phenolic compounds and hormones (cytokines) in coconuts that may be preventive against the aggregation of amyloid beta peptides and thus potentially inhibitory in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's. Deposited amyloid beta peptides are found in the brains and blood vessels of Alzheimer's patients.
The flesh of the coconut can be eaten raw, but it also works great as an ingredient for smoothies, as well as in chopped form as a baking ingredient and in desserts like soy yogurts.
In Asian cuisine, it is mainly used for preparing curries and chutneys.
Coconut drinks, coconut oil, and sweets are also made from the flesh and are available in many supermarkets.