The readily available coconut is a fruit that provides extraordinary health benefits. Here's what consuming tender coconut water every day can do to your health.
In India, a land of cultural diversity and culinary multiplicity, perhaps it is only the Coconut which finds common acceptance and preference.
The importance of coconut can be understood from its omnipresence in our daily routine — it’s a part of every religious ritual and auspicious occasion and is the main ingredient in many dishes we cook. Tender coconut water is also served as a welcome drink to guests.
But, how did the coconut come to occupy such an important place in the Indian culture? What are the benefits of coconut that make it an inseparable part of our lives? Let's try and understand.
Is coconut a nut or a fruit?
Cocos nucifera, as the coconut is scientifically called, is a member of the palm tree family. But is it really a 'nut'? Not really. According to botanists, the coconut is a one-seeded drupe, which means, a fruit in which the seed is enclosed in a hard outer shell. But, where did this fruit really originate from?
The history of coconut
Biologist Bee Gunn and her associates, Luc Baudouin and Kenneth Olsen, investigated the origin, domestication and proliferation of coconut.
They found that the coconut was initially cultivated in only two regions of the world. One was in the countries in the Pacific basin which included Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and the other was in the countries in the Indian ocean basin such as India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. It is from these two regions that coconut spread throughout the world.
Today, across the world, there are four main varieties of coconut available — the tall, dwarf, hybrid and sub-grouped.
However, irrespective of its variety, the coconut is immensely beneficial to us — from coconut water to white and oily flesh to coconut milk and oil. Let's look at the various health benefits of this wonderful fruit.
Science-based health benefits of tender coconut water
Humans have believed since ancient times that consuming coconut water is beneficial for health. And, the advancement in science has proved this belief to be true. Here are some benefits of drinking tender coconut water:
Fulfils nutrient requirements: Coconut water is a rich source of various minerals and nutrients. Tender coconut juice contains potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B6 and C, folate, riboflavin among others. So, even when you drink this trendy beverage to satisfy your body's nutritional requirements, you don't end up gaining weight. Here are some tender coconut nutrition facts: Each serving of 240 ml of coconut water contains 9 g carbohydrates, 252 mg sodium, 600 mg potassium, 2.6 g dietary fibre and 1.7 g protein. Consumption of this amount of coconut water only adds 46 calories.
Keeps heart healthy: Along with being a good way of rehydrating your body, coconut water is also beneficial for the heart. Sandhya and Rajamohan published their study, 'Beneficial effects of coconut water feeding on lipid metabolism in cholesterol-fed rats', in the Journal of Medicinal Food (2006). They found that feeding coconut water to lab rats decreased lipid levels in the heart, kidney and aorta.
Decreases blood pressure: The higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk of health and heart problems. Therefore, it is important to control blood pressure. In their study, 'The control of hypertension by use of coconut water and mauby: two tropical food drinks', published in the West Indian Medical Journal (2005) Alleyne et al found that there was a significant decrease in the mean systolic blood pressure in subjects consuming coconut water.
Controls blood sugar: Consuming mature coconut water has been found to be beneficial in diabetes type 2, one of the fastest-spreading metabolic diseases. This fact was established in the study, 'Hypoglycemic and antioxidant potential of coconut water in experimental diabetes', published in the journal Food & Function (2017) by Preetha et al.
Protects from oxidative stress: An increase of free radicals in our body can lead to increase in oxidative stress, which plays a big role in the ageing process. Santos et al published a study, 'Evaluation of chemical constituents and antioxidant activity of coconut water (Cocus nucifera L.) and caffeic acid in cell culture', in the Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (2013). The study states that consumption of tender coconut water upregulates antioxidant enzymes and improves insulin sensitivity.
Prevents kidney stones: Coconut water is one of the best things to add to your daily diet for keeping your kidneys in good shape. Because of its diuretic properties, coconut water increases the production of urine, which lowers the risk of formation of kidney stones.
Best time to drink coconut water
Any time of the day is good for drinking coconut water. Here are some of the benefits you can derive by drinking coconut water at various times of the day:
Tender coconut water on empty stomach: Coconut water contains traces of lauric acid which is converted by our body into monolaurin, an antimicrobial compound that boosts immunity. It also increases metabolism and improves bowel function. Drinking tender coconut water during pregnancy helps in relieving morning sickness.
Around meals: Drinking a glass of coconut water before having a meal can make you feel full, thus preventing you from overeating. It also supplies the body with essential nutrients, along with aiding in digestion.
At other times: Along with flushing toxins from the body, sipping coconut water also helps decrease anxiety and stress by calming the mind.
Tender coconut water side effects
Excess of everything is bad — so goes an old adage. This is true for tender coconut water as well. Here's how drinking too much coconut water may adversely affect your health:
Lead to increase in potassium level in the body
Put pressure on kidneys, if you are suffering from kidney ailments
Hamper blood pressure control before and after surgery
Lower blood sugar levels below normal, if you are suffering from diabetics
Together with coconut water, you can also consume coconut meat or pulp. This is as beneficial as coconut water. However, if you do not like to consume it raw, you can use the pulp to make tender coconut ice cream, tender coconut pudding and tender coconut payasam.