Coconut is a mature fruit of the cocos nucifera palm. It is one of very versatile and indispensable food item for millions of inhabitants in South and South-East Asia, and Pacific islands. It is one of the most sought-after ingredients in the kitchen since it employed in almost each and every recipe prepared in these parts of the world.
The coconut palm is an un-branched, erect, tall-growing tree that may reach more than 100 feet in height and has a lifetime of about 75 to 100 years. Once planted, it may take about 4-5 years to begin their first produce, and often, quite longer time in some species. Several hundred species of the coconut palms grown all over the tropics, and their taste of meat and flavor of water thus may vary according to saline content of the soil, distance from sea-shore, amount of rain-fall, etc.
In a season, a single coconut palm may yeild 20-150 mature nuts. The fruit is almost spherical to oval in shape and measure between 5-10 inches in width. Its rough outer husk is light green, which becomes dry and turn gray as the nut matures. The husk (exocarp) is about 1-2 inches in thickness and made of tough fibers. Underneath the husk, there is a woody shell enclosing inner edible meat (kernel-endosperm). Recently harvested mature fruits contain some amount of sweet water inside its central hollow cavity surrounded by the white meat (endosperm). The fruit with its shell, kernel, and water together constitutes a “coconut” in the market.
Health benefits of Coconut
Coconut is a very versatile and indispensable food item for most people under the tropical belt. It is a complete food rich in calories, vitamins, and minerals. A medium-size nut carrying 400 g edible meat and some 30-150 ml of water may provide almost all the daily-required essential minerals, vitamins, and energy of an average-sized individual.
100 g kernel consists of 354 calories. Much of this comes from the fats and protein. Although, its meat is disproportionately high in saturated fats on comparison to other common edible nuts, coconut has many bioactive compounds that are essential for better health.
Coconut water is a very refreshing drink to beat tropical summer thirst. The juice is packed with simple sugar, electrolytes, minerals, and bioactive compounds such as cytokinin, and enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, peroxidase, polymerases, etc. Altogether, these enzymes aid in digestion and metabolism.
Coconut oil extracted from dry kernel (copra) is an excellent emollient agent. It is used in cooking, applied over scalp as hair nourishment, employed in pharmacy and in medicines.
It is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.
Coconut meat and water contain a very good amount of potassium. 100 g of fresh meat contains 356 mg% or 7.5% of daily required levels of potassium