Coconut Crazy


I was at the beach the other day, at a place called Caletas just outside of Corcovado National Park, when one of our naturalists walked by with an unopened coconut. I pretty much grabbed him as he passed and asked where he had gotten it. Fresh coconuts are one of my favorite things on earth and now whenever come across one, I’m transported back to Yoga Thailand where we would line up at the juice bar after our morning Ashtanga practice and order a fresh, chilled coconut. Coconut water (what sloshes around into the inner cavity before the coconut is broken open) is extremely high in electrolytes (basically salts that are essential for controlling fluid balance within the body). So after a hard workout and a yoga mat drenched in sweat, a fresh coconut filled with nutritious coconut water was heavenly. But back to Caletas. Miguil, the naturalist, offered me the fresh coconut juice for which I was very grateful. He had one of the Ticos (Costa Rican’s) chop off the top with a machete and then he drained the fresh juice into my empty cup. Yum! After the coconut was drained, he broke open the shell and cut out hunks of coconut flesh for everybody to try. Once again, I reiterate, fresh coconut is one of my favorite things on earth. But it gets a bad rap. There is so much fear in our society about fat, and coconuts are laden with it, particularly the “bad” kind – saturated fat. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily the natural saturated fat (or any unprocessed fat for that matter – think avocados, nuts, etc…) that are the problem. The problem comes from when we process that fat and make it into things like hydrogenated oils and trans fats. That’s when our bodies rebel and treat the unnatural substances as artificially dense forms of energy. The processed fats are what pack on the pounds.

I thought I would do a little research in our small library on board (and some Internet browsing), to see what else fresh coconuts provide for our bodies and health. There has definitely been a coconut health craze in the works for the past few months, and even though I’m always a little skeptical about new health crazes, I think coconuts deserve more (positive) attention than they get.

There are two ways to enjoy a fresh coconut. One is a young, or Thai, coconut that isn’t all the way ripe and the other is a fully mature coconut, or the one that has a brown, hairy outer shell. Young coconuts have a more jelly-like flesh and more water in the center while mature coconuts have a firmer flesh and the water is slightly less sweet. Coconuts are also rich in lauric acid, which is known for being anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and boosts the immune system. They are high in fiber and surprisingly high in iron, which I wouldn’t have guessed, as well as phosphorus and zinc. If you think about it, like all other nuts and seeds, coconuts have all the nutrients and minerals needed to create an entire new tree or plant. So how can that powerful concoction not be beneficial to your body?

Aside from fresh coconut, the healthy nut can also be consumed when dried (desiccated), as coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut oil, and coconut butter, which is a combination of both oil and meat (my favorite).

Just don’t sit under a coconut tree 🙂

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