Coocoo for Coconuts: Unique Ways to Incorporate Coconuts Into Your Life
Coconuts always make me picture the beach. Long stretches of white sandy shore, the calming lap of waves, beautiful views out to the horizon over the ocean, tall palms bending in the breeze, and plenty of sunshine.
Coconuts have become the fruit (that’s right, they’re a fruit, not a nut!) of the moment recently, in no small part due to their versatility. Their possible uses go way beyond the culinary ones.
Coconuts mainly grow near the equator in the tropical climates in parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific. In the United States, you’ll find them in Hawaii and Florida.
14 Uses for Coconuts
1. Use coconut meat and dried shavings in baking. This is a great way to add flavor and sweetness without sugar.
2. Coconut water is delicious and nutritious. Coconut water has taken the world by storm for good reason. It’s very hydrating and contains more potassium than four bananas.
3. Coconut milk is the perfect creamy base for curries. A key ingredient in many distinctive South Asian and Caribbean dishes, coconut milk adds a rich texture and a fresh flavor.
4. The oil is perfect for cooking at higher temperatures. With a higher smoke point than other oils, coconut oil works well for frying.
5. Coconut husks are an alternative to synthetic fabrics. The fiber, known as coir, is used in rope, floor mats, carpets, brushes, and even mattresses.
6. Coconut husks are a horticultural lifesaver. Used as landscape mulch, these husks can help protect plants from snails and slugs. They’re also great for potting, as they hold onto and control the release of nutrients.
7. The husks can be used in construction materials. Coconut fibers contain a glue-like polymer called lignin that binds the fibers when processed at high temperatures, so they can be used to create natural fiber-board material suitable for construction.
8. Coconut palm leaves make excellent thatching. When woven tightly together, the long flat leaves provide protection against sun and rain.
9. Coconut oil moisturizes hair and skin. The vitamins and fatty acids in coconut oil are excellent for skin and hair, nourishing them and keeping hair strands strong.
10. The shells make great aquarium furniture. Using coconut shells, rather than most commercially produced accessories, ensures that your tank contains only natural materials, which will keep your fish healthy and happy.
11. Coconut shells can be used to make bowls and musical instruments. In places where coconuts grow, the whole fruit is used in productive ways. Bowls are one of the easiest and most useful things that can be created from a coconut shell, while musical instruments take a bit more skill and creativity!
12. Coconut sap can be boiled to make candy. Coconut palm sugar is made from the sap and used to make candies and chewy taffies that are popular throughout Southeast Asia.
13. The sap can be fermented to make palm wine. Coconut palm sap begins to ferment immediately after the fruit has been harvested due to natural yeast in the air. After just four hours, you have a very sweet beverage of 4 percent alcohol. The liquid can be left for up to a day to ferment further into a more acidic drink, but beyond that it turns to vinegar.
14. The trunk of the palm can be used to make furniture and houses. Coconut palms are a sustainable source of timber that is used in everything from pillars and trusses to paneling and trim.
Health Benefits of Coconuts
Isn’t it just music to your ears that this unique fruit is also packed with some seriously good stuff when it comes to your health? In Indian culture, the coconut is praised as kalpavriksha, or “the all-giving tree.”
While there was a panic at one point about the high level of saturated fat in coconuts, studies have shown that there isn’t as definitive a link between saturated fat and heart disease as researchers once thought. While much of the saturated fat we consume in our diets is made up of long-chain fatty acids, the saturated fat in coconuts is made of medium-chain fatty acids, which go to the liver to provide a quick source of energy or are turned into ketones; and some research indicates that ketogenic diets have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Also, the fatty acids in coconuts (specifically lauric acid and its derivative monolaurin) can kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. But even when it comes to “good fats,” keep in mind that too much of a good thing is probably not a good thing — a healthy lifestyle is always about balance.
Raw coconut meat is an excellent source of dietary fiber and manganese, a mineral that is responsible for strong bones, healthy skin, and blood sugar control. Manganese also helps protect against free radical damage. Coconuts can even make you feel fuller so you’re less tempted to eat more than you should at mealtimes.
How to Incorporate More Coconut in Your Life
Substitute coconut oil for vegetable and olive oil for frying and other high-temperature cooking. Coconut milk is a good substitute for dairy products if you’re preparing meals for dairy-intolerant guests – try some Thai-inspired curry recipes.
If you’re one of those people – like me – who finds it hard to drink a lot of water, try coconut water instead. You’ll get hydrated, and the delicate flavor is more interesting than that of plain water. And definitely ditch the juices and soda in favor of coconut water as part of a healthier diet.
Experiment with substituting some of the sugar in baking recipes with dried coconut. Its unique flavor can often make desserts taste sweeter than they really are.
If you’d like to have healthier hair and skin (don’t we all!) peruse the shelves of your local drugstore for coconut oil-based hair and skin products. Pure coconut oil makes an excellent hair mask. Apply it at night, wrap your hair up, and let it work its magic while you sleep. After a rinse and shampoo in the morning, you’ll notice much softer hair, and the ends will be less prone to breaking.
To make sustainability a bigger part of your life, look for products like bowls, boards, and other household items made from coconut husks and timber.
These fruits are amazing for the multitude of ways they can be consumed and used. From the husk to the milk, from your kitchen to your walls, coconuts have incredible potential.