While growing up, my grandparents had a hammock strung between two coconut trees in their backyard where I spent many summer afternoons lazing about. If I ever looked skywards at the clusters of fruit gathering right above my head ominously, I would get a quick rebuke from my grandmother who assured me that coconuts never fall on people. It was just not possible, she always continued and then cited references of incidents and experiences of her relatives in chronological order right from the time that dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
It was only till much later that I learned that an average of 150 people die each year from coconuts falling on them!
Of course I never ever slept in that hammock again preferring to have a nice solid roof between my head and the coconuts.
Well, coconuts are not really the villains that I am making them out to be. In fact they are more like heroes.
For years, coconut oil was considered one of the worst plant-based oils in the world. The residents of many coastal areas around the world could not agree. They had been consuming coconut oil for centuries as had their forefathers and their fathers before them.
They would never agree that a symbol of fertility and plenty, an object of worship and a source of income could really be that bad for the human body.
It is only recently that science has decoded the fact that the folks in the coastal areas were right all along and have accorded the oil a status of a ‘superfood’.
The confusion rose about because scientists had earlier discovered that coconut oil is full of saturated fats. In fact, around 90 per cent of the fatty acids contained in coconut oil are saturated but that is not bad news at all. In fact recently scientists have suggested that saturated fats are not as ominous a situation as we have been led to believe and the whole discussion on it could be just propagating a myth.
To top it, the beauty is that the saturated fats in it belong to the family of medium chain triglycerides or MCTs as they are commonly known in scientific circles and operate differently from the usual long chain fatty acids that are found in an average bloke’s diet. The MCTs go straight to the liver from the digestive tract where they are used as an instant source of energy or to create ketone bodies which are used to treat brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
The MCTs also increase the amount of energy that your body uses up which leads you to burn more fat and lose more weight in the bargain.
A coconut is not just only about the oil. There are other components that are just as wonderful and healthy.
In fact the tree is known as ‘kalpavriksha’ in ancient Sanskrit which means the ‘tree that provides everything that we need to survive’.
Almost every part of the tree is used to provide us with our basic food, clothing and shelter – from the bark to the leaves to the coconut.
During the Second World War, soldiers who were injured in the Pacific theatre were treated with drips of coconut water because it has the same components as blood plasma and worked as a wonderful replacement under those dire situations. For the ones who did not need a plasma transfusion, they made it a regular drink because coconut water contains electrolytes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals that just help to keep you going. It also reduces blood pressure, rehydrates the body and can even treat headaches.
Coconuts also contain lauric acid which is a component that the human body cannot produce and the only way we can obtain it is by consuming foods that contain it. It is contained in breast milk and is what boosts the immunity in little kids. It is also considered the best natural antibiotic and immunity booster available on the planet.
Coconut is high in dietary fibre – in fact at a whopping 61 per cent, it beats psyllium husk, wheat, oat and rice bran hollow.
It also has a low Glycemic Index which means that it slows down the release of glucose which then requires a smaller amount of insulin to transport it to a cell where it will be converted into energy.
Coconuts are also used to strengthen bones, reduce muscular cramps and counter diabetes.
No wonder it is known as the wonder tree in several parts of the world.
As far as I am concerned, I make sure that I get my dose of coconut daily but totally avoid sleeping under the trees.