The Power of the Coconut

When you envision a coconut, what do you see? Let me guess: golden sand, crystal-clear waters, and palm fronds swaying in the wind with only a few robust brown coconuts holding them down. As lovely of a setting as that is, this exotic fruit has more recently made its way out of the tropics and into the home as a household staple. From nutrition to beauty to cleaning, coconut products have recently become a popular choice because of their countless natural benefits.

Coconut_beach
In fact, the coconut palm has been nicknamed the “Tree of Life” because of the miracle fruit it produces. The coconut is classified as a drupe, which is a fruit composed of a fleshy outer layer surrounding a hard pit. No part of this drupe goes towaste; each layer of the coconut–husk, meat, and water–can be put to use, with harder parts serving as materials for product manufacturing and softer parts used for diet, health, and beauty purposes. Although the west is progressively catching on to the wonders of the coconut, it has served as a staple and livelihood in eastern parts of the world for a long time.

Coconut Water
Coconut water, fondly called “Mother Nature’s Sports Drink”, is a sweet, refreshing beverage juiced from young coconuts. Its high electrolyte content, specifically potassium, makes it an excellent choice during day-to-day physical activity. While sports beverages such as Gatorade also offer essential electrolytes for proper hydration, coconut water is the superior choice for several reasons. Not only is it lower in calories, sugar, and sodium than the average sports drink, but it’s also natural–unprocessed and free of unhealthy chemicals. Nothing should replace a glass of water, but next time you’re looking to hydrate and nourish yourself, quench your thirst with unsweetened coconut water instead of a sugary juice or sports drink.

Coconut Oil
Coconut_oilCoconut oil is collected from the meat of the coconut and is made up of vitamins E, K, and iron, and is over 90% saturated fat. Don’t let this high fat content scare you; the majority of coconut oil’s fat is lauric acid, a healthy fat, which has been proven to raise our good cholesterol and lower our bad. Along with healthy cholesterol levels, moderate use of this oil in cooking and consumption has shown to produce a variety of benefits.

• Faster Metabolism • Skin Treatment
• Anti-Aging • Improved Bone Health
• Improved Digestion • Greater Energy from Ketone Bodies
• Oral Hygiene • Antimicrobial
• Stronger Immune Functioning • Antifungal
• Antioxidants • Lowered Risk of Heart Disease

Cooking
While it is high in fat, coconut oil is still superior to other commonly used cooking oils such as vegetable oil or canola oil–it is the healthier choice because of this high saturated fat content. Unlike coconut oil, many other oils oxidize at high temperatures, meaning they change form into compounds that are toxic to our bodies. The composition of unrefined extra virgin coconut oil makes it resistant to change in extreme heat, so you will be consuming it in its true healthy form. Next time a recipe calls for butter or oil, whether it’s cupcakes or stir-fry, give coconut oil a try. Not only is it a healthier alternative, but it also adds a unique flavor to your food.

Beauty
Coconut_productCoconut oil has recently left the kitchen and infused the beauty market. Nowadays shelves are full of products boasting of containing a coconut ingredient, but a simple jar of unrefined extra virgin coconut will have several of your bases covered. There are many common beauty products to swap out for some plain old coconut oil (for some, you might need to add a few extra ingredients).

• Lotion • Facemask
• Chapstick • Makeup Remover
• Hair Conditioner • Shaving Cream
• Deodorant • Acne Treatment
• Toothpaste • Eczema Treatment

Whether you want to quench your thirst, purify your diet, or get your skin glowing, the coconut packs a powerhouse of uses and benefits for a healthy lifestyle. Try swapping out your daily Gatorade for a bottle of Zico Coconut Water or your butter and Burt’s Bees for a jar of Trader Joes’ unrefined extra virgin coconut oil–little swaps that integrate this amazing fruit into your lifestyle will make it hard to remember how you ever went without it!

Kristina Covert

Fourth year UCSB student, Santa Barbara local, avid writer, lover of fitness, & aspiring nutritionist.

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