The Coconut, a staple food in southern India and a widespread food item around the world, got its own day in World Coconut Day yesterday. To mark this, we're bringing you a few simple facts and reasons to include this wonderful fruit (contrary to its name, coconut is not a true nut) in your diet and some recipes that make use of this versatile little thing.
Without further ado, let's get right into the meat of things:
Coconut water is likely one of the latest rages in the health(y) drinks industry, and for good reason.
It is a well-known and documented fact that when people sweat, due to heat or exercise, they lose more than mere water in the sweat: it takes away much-needed salts and electrolytes.
Coconut water, apart from being a great hydrating substance (particularly when fresh out of the fruit), is highly rich in electrolytes and salts. For every 100 grams of coconut water, one can get as much as 250 mg of Potassium, 105 mg of Sodium with a mere 3.7 grams of carbohydrates, of which 1.1 grams is dietary fibre. In addition to these, the water also has trace amounts of Vitamin C, iron, magnesium and calcium and a mere 19 calories, making it a great addition to calorie-conscious diets.
The presence of sodium, although small, serves to restore the lost salts because of sweat and potassium has the marked benefit of bringing blood pressure under control.
Not only this, but coconut water has also been used as a replacement for saline in IV rehydration all the way from WW2 thanks to the fruit keeping the water sealed inside, and hence sterile.
If it isn't water you fancy, all you need do is let the fruit mature and the water will turn into the semi-dense white flesh that is so commonly used in kitchens in the tropics, especially southern India.
The flesh is perhaps a far more versatile element of the humble coconut. It can be consumed as-is, used to make coconut oil (which has garnered controversy as of late) or grated into a fine paste to make chutney, sweets or coconut milk, which can in turn be used as a replacement for cream to thicken dishes, coconut flour or consumed as a replacement to regular milk for those who are lactose intolerant.
Much like the water, the flesh is rich in salts and potassium. In addition to that, it also has a higher quantity of protein and significantly more dietary fibre. It is also a rich source of fats with a total of over 30 grams of fat per 100-gram servings.
Coconut milk is made from boiling ground-up coconut flesh in water and then passing the mix through cheesecloth. The resulting mixture is a rich, thick fluid that resembles milk, but is richer in fats and lacks any trace of lactose.
It is commonly used in south India as a thickener in curry dishes as coconuts are very common in the region, but it can be consumed just as it is.
Coconuts truly are very versatile little fruits, aren't they? Not just the water, flesh or milk, even oil is a commonly produced and consumed part of the fruit.
There are many ways to make the oil, but there is a common result in the end: an oil that is 90% saturated fats. Before you shiver at this number, do note that the cholesterol in the oil is known to increase HDL, otherwise known as "good" cholesterol.
Speaking of fats, coconut oil was recently under heat when a Harvard researcher 'demonised' coconut oil by calling it 'poison'. You can see the video here (it's in German).
Here's a few recipes, some simple, some not so much, that you can whip up in your kitchen using coconuts.
1. Coconut barfi
2. Beans and coconut
3. Coconut rice
4. Kerala fish curry (ft. coconut oil)