Whole Foods: The Coconut

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There is a lot to learn about Coconuts, and it’ll make you appreciate them that much more. Coconuts are such delicious and multitalented and are officially the first ingredient to be featured on this blog. Every month is themed by a natural ingredient, and the Coconut is taking centre stage first. I mean, who isn’t coco about coconuts?

Let’s go for it, and meet the Coconut.

What is a Coconut?

A coconut is actually a fruit, a nut and seed. How crazy is that?

Science ABC puts it quite nicely into one sentence:

“Coconut is a seed because it is the reproductive part of the tree, coconut is a fruit because it is a fibrous one-seeded drupe and coconut is a nut because a loose definition of a nut is nothing but a one-seeded ‘fruit’.”

Simply, you could just call it a fruit. (A “drupe fruit” to be exact.)

“Coconut” comes from the 16th-century Portuguese and Spanish word “coco” meaning “head” or “skull”, from the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features. Next time you buy yourself a little coconut, look out for these, found on the one side.


Where does the Coconut come from?

The origin of the Coconut is up for debate. Many say from the Indian-Indonesia region. There has been a lot of research done, and it seems that it has two different origins of cultivation: In the Pacific Ocean Region (in Southeast Asia including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and likely others) and in the Indian Ocean region (likely cultivated in the southern part of India, including Sri Lanka and the Maldives). If are interested in reading more about it’s origin, check out this detailed blog post on the Deep History of Coconuts. It’s pretty in depth.

It’s funny because a coconut can float in water. So I keep wondering how much of the coconut story involves them being carried around the world by people, or by simply floating from island to island themselves.

Nowadays, Coconut palms (coconut trees) are grown in over 90 countries of the world, with the most coconut production happening in Asia, primarily in Indonesia, the Philippines and India. They are definitely in high demand, producing about 61 million tonnes a year (61 billion kilograms).

Coconuts love growing in warm environments. They have a tropical feel to them, don’t you think? There is nothing quite like drinking coconut water at the beach or even better, on an island. I remember visiting the Bahamas years ago on a trip to visit (and meet) family. My cousin and I would go out on his little boat from island to island, once stopping at one and meeting his friend, who chopped down a coconut right there off a tree, for us to drink. Amazing!

When is Coconut Season?

Some consider the coconut to be an Autumn fruit, although it is available pretty much all year round.

Mature coconut trees produce fruit all year round. The coconut fruits are then harvested at different times of their growth, depending on what they are going to be used for.  For instance, if you wanted the coconut for its water, the fruit would be ready in about 6-7 months. Whereas, if you wanted the coconut for it’s tasty white interior (you know which part I’m talking about), you’d need to wait another five or so months. Here is a detailed post on When Coconuts Ripen, by Gardening Know How.

What makes the Coconut so awesome?

In India, Coconut trees are called “KalpaVruksha” which, in Indian literature refers to a tree of life. You can read more about this Hindu belief here.

The coconut is an incredibly versatile natural ingredient. Besides the fact that the actual coconut fruit has so many uses itself, every single part of the tree is used for something. Nothing is wasted.

The coconut tree is part of the palm family, called the family of Arecaceae. There are two type of this tree, the tall and dwarf. Found in tropical areas around the world. All the parts of the coconut tree are useful – how cool is that?

The roots of a coconut tree are commonly used for medicine and beverages, but also for dyes, toothbrushes, mouthwash, and in treating some digestive problems.

The coconut trunk is the biggest part of the tree and can be used for firewood. The wood is also useful for building houses and creating other things like utensils and furniture.

Coconut leaves are useful for weaving and thatching. These bright green leaves have many other uses. Let your mind run wild, to make brooms, hats, umbrellas, book covers, as elephant food, and as much more as you can imagine.

The coconut fruit is one of the most amazing parts of the coconut tree. Its husk (the rough exterior shell of the coconut) can be used to treat potting soil. The inside white flesh is a tasty superfood, to eat on its own or to use for all kinds of different recipes, sweet or savoury. You can drink it’s milk and water, using it too for many recipes. Its oil can also be extracted from its meat, used as a cooking oil, for natural skincare and medicinal purposes.

What makes the coconut tree and the coconut fruit so awesome is its versatility. #foodforthought #coconuts Click To Tweet


A Closer Look at The Coconut Fruit?

The Coconut Fruit is known as a drupe fruit. A drupe fruit has three layers: the exocarp (the outer ‘hardened’ layer), the mesocarp (the ‘fleshy’ middle part) and the endocarp (the hard layer surrounding the seed). Other drupe examples are mangos, almonds, peaches and cherries. If you like, read this Wikipedia Drupe Fruit description for more detail.

For the relevance of this food lifestyle blog, we’re now going to focus on The Coconut Fruit, known simply as the “Coconut” (shown in the header of this blog post). This coconut fruit is the coconut we know. The fruit we’ve all come to appreciate in some way.

I mean, even Dustin Hoffman loves the coconuts:

“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk.”

Read on to discover more about:
Coconut Nutritional Content
Coconut Health Benefits
Coconut Uses
Practical Information
Clean Coconut Recipes

Coconut Nutritional Content:

A 100g of raw coconut meat contains:

Energy354 kcal (1,480 kJ)
Carbohydrates15.23 g
Sugars6.23 g
Dietary fiber9.0 g
Fat33.49 g
Saturated29.698 g
Monounsaturated1.425 g
Polyunsaturated0.366 g
Protein3.33 g
VitaminsThiamine (B1) (6%) Riboflavin (B2) (2%) Niacin (B3) (4%) Pantothenic acid (B5) (6%) Vitamin B6 (4%) Folate (B9) (7%) Vitamin C (4%) Vitamin E (2%) Vitamin K (0%)
MineralsCalcium (1%) Copper (22%) Iron (19%) Magnesium (9%) Manganese (71%) Phosphorus (16%) Potassium (8%) Selenium (14%) Sodium (1%) Zinc (12%)
Water46.99 g – This is basically half of the coconut content

I love the fact that coconuts contain so much water. Makes sense, remembering how often contestants on “Survivor” would drink coconuts to hydrate themselves.

Coconut Health Benefits:

There has been some debate as to whether coconuts are healthy or not. This is likely because coconuts contain quite a bit of fat, and most of it is saturated fats. Saturated fats are considered to be less healthy of the fats.

Comparing Coconut Milk to Cow Milk:
Coconut milk has more Niacin, Iron and Copper. But it also has more calories and fat than cow milk. I find this interesting, as I find Coconut milk to be rather light, and enjoy it as an alternative to cows milk because it feels lighter and healthier to me.

So, it really depends on you and what you need. I used to have a digestive reaction to cow dairy, and it got so bad that I had to make a change. After a visit to an incredible Indian doctor, I cut out dairy completely. I felt so much better. I even, to my surprise, cut milk out of my tea and coffee, and just stopped buying it. With my love for yoghurt and fruit breakfasts, I started using coconut milk and cream as an alternative to yoghurt. I found myself hooked to coconut.

Now I use coconut for many many many things. From face cream, cooking, baking and more.

In terms of health benefits, coconuts are healthy. They are low in sugar, which is a good thing. They are hydrating, which is another good thing. The vitamins and minerals are another plus.

As a natural medicine, there are many many uses. Dr Axe goes into depth, so if this is particularly interesting to you, be sure to read 77 Coconut Oil Uses & Cures.

Coconut Oil is said to have many healing properties and is used for numerous natural remedies. It’s interesting looking for and testing out natural alternatives. Why not? For one, you could save your body from having to deal with all the harmful chemicals modern products have in them.

Generally speaking, they’re an essential and healthy ingredient to have in your life. Depending on what you need, there is likely at least one way a coconut be of service.

Coconut Uses:

Frying oil – Coconut oil can handle high temperatures so it makes a great frying oil. Extra Virgin Oil is also great for frying, but I prefer to use it uncooked.
Try using Coconut oil for frying (it’s cheaper and natural), and Extra Virgin Olive oil for everything else – like dressing salads and baking.
Buy a whole coconut and break open. Loosely break the white coconut meat into bits of about 2cm x 2cm. Store coconut pieces in a glass bowl in filtered water. Then, munch on them whenever I feel like it. For breakfast, after dinner as a snack. So tasty.
Make a simple Coconut Chia Pudding. Mix quality coconut milk with chia seeds and a splash of vanilla essence, store in fridge for 6 or more hours. Add some chopped fruit and crushed raw nuts on top before you tuck in. Perfect breakfast or dessert.
Take the time to make a healthy dessert: Coconut Chocolate Date Balls. I discovered a few quality recipes on Yummly – here are their Coconut Chocolate Date Balls recipes.
Add Coconut Milk or Cream to stews and curries, to bring it all together beautifully.
Add Coconut Milk or Cream to soups to add that extra creaminess. Add a dollop of Coconut Cream to a tomato soup, amazing.
Coconut Water is a super hydrating drink. Just make sure you buy the best quality possible, as I have seen many with added sugar, which is sacrilege. Go as natural as possible.
Make a quick Coconut Almond Banana Smoothie for breakfast. It is easy and a nice light breakfast option. Mix quality coconut milk, one banana, and either raw almonds and/or quality almond milk depending on taste. Blend and drink, boom, amazing.
Face Cream: A few months ago, I couldn’t find my face cream (a particular kind of Eucerin) in Rome, my new home. So I started using my coconut oil while looking. Then I started to think about how many chemicals they put into these creams. So I stopped using all face products, and now only coconut oil. It is wonderful. My skin took time to adjust, but now that it has, I have stopped using anything else. I am currently looking into making a natural face cream, with ingredients like Beeswax, Coconut Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Shea Butter, and maybe essential oils. I will share the recipe here when it’s made.
Makeup Remover: Coconut Oil makes a great natural makeup remover. When I am taking off eyeliner, I dip an earbud into coconut oil and remove the eyeliner from my skin easily.
Hair Conditioner: Rub a healthy amount of coconut oil into your dry hair. Take your time, and rub it in properly, especially into the tips and roots. Tie your hair up and leave it in for a few hours. I like doing it in the morning on a weekend and just leaving it in all day, sometimes only washing it out the next morning.
Coconut Oil Pulling: Coming from Ayurvedic Medicine, coconut pulling is a natural way to keep your teeth healthy. It removes bacteria from the teeth, in turn whitening them, and promoting healthy teeth and gums. Learn more about Coconut Pulling.
Massage Oil: Coconut oil is a lovely oil to use for massaging tired muscles. Soft, fragrance-free and affordable.
Cuticle Oil: A natural and hydrating oil for hand and toe cuticles.
Coconut oil is said to have many natural healing properties. Many sources talk about it's antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, giving it an immune-boosting effect. Apart from being anti-inflammatory, it is said to also boost metabolism, help balance hormones.

There is a lot of media buzz on coconuts in recent years, making coconuts look like the miracle fruit, especially coconut oil. Regardless of whether it does, in fact, help heal, it is a superfood. Having it in your diet, or using it as a moisturiser can likely do no harm. Definitely compared to all the products people use that are jam-packed with unhealthy ingredients, coconuts may just be the better choice.

Practical Information:

Buying coconuts
Shake the coconut to hear how much liquid is inside. The more water the better right? If I can get another half cup of fresh coconut water, I'm game.
In general, go for coconuts that are heavy and full.
Although some say coconut season is primarily from October to December, they are harvested all year round. Don't worry too much about seasonal buying.
Make sure the "two eyes and mouth" indents on the coconut are dry, and not wet or mouldy.
Opening coconuts
What do you need to break open a coconut? A hammer, a towel and a screwdriver is best.
How do you open a coconut yourself? Hammer a hole into each of the three indents, by hammering the screwdriver into the indents. Drain the coconut water out into a separate glass container. Then you can simply put the whole coconut on a hard surface (covering it with a cloth or towel if you like) and hammer it in the middle of its length until it cracks open. From there, you can get the white meat out with a knife. Of course, this depends on the coconut shell thickness and other factors but this is just how we do it, pretty neat and easy.
Storing coconuts
A whole coconut can simply be stored at room temperature for about a week. If you want to keep it for longer, storing it in the fridge will keep it for about 3 weeks, and in the freezer for 6 or more months.
Fresh white coconut meat - After getting the meat out of a whole coconut, rinse it with filtered water. Put it in a glass bowl filled with cold filtered water, then close with a lid and keep in the fridge to store for a week or so max. You should finish it pretty quickly because it is so good.
Fresh coconut water must be kept refrigerated and should be consumed within a week. That is, unless you drink it all the moment you get it out of the coconut, which is what we usually do as the ultimate treat 🙂
Additional tip: When you buy canned coconut milk or cream: Once opened, don't store the coconut in the can in the fridge, rather in a glass jar.

Got any other tips to share? Please share below in the comments, would love to learn more.

Simple Clean Coconut Recipes:

  • Coconut Chia Pudding with Fruit (Breakfast, Snack or Dessert)
  • Coconut Cashew Banana Smoothie
  • Coconut Chocolate Date Balls
  • Simple Coconut Fruit Bowl
  • Super Simple Coconut Almond Snack in a Glass

So I hope you enjoyed this post on The Coconut. It is an incredibly versatile and giving natural ingredient, that is loved by many for good reason.

It is most certainly the seed, the nut, and the fruit of life 🙂 And regardless of whether it is a miracle ingredient or not, it’s versatilities, multiple uses and delicious taste offer much to desire. I do hope we preserve this wonderful ingredient so that we may enjoy it for many years to come.

If you aren’t coco about coconuts like me, perhaps give one of the above suggestions a try. Make yourself a Coconut Chia Pudding for Breakfast, test it on your freshly cleaned skin, or you could buy yourself a whole coconut and enjoy it’s fresh white meat raw as a snack.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. I’d love to spread the love for this wonderful ingredient so that more people can appreciate it. If you have useful information to share, please do so in the comments – We are always learning and I’d love to learn more. Hey, I may even quote it in the article!

Don’t miss next weeks Coconut Recipe Post.



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