Cuckoo for coconuts!! ….Which, ironically, is actually not a nut, but a member of the fruit family called the drupe! (Drupey drupe! I love that word!) A drupe is simply a fruit with a fleshy outer layer surrounding a single seed or pit – like a peach, mango, cherry, etc! And in many cultures, the coconut fruit is an essential part of life. In Sanskrit it is kalpa vriksha, meaning "the tree which provides all the necessities of life". In Malay language, pokok seribu guna or "the tree of a thousand uses". And in the Philippines, the coconut is simply the "Tree of Life".
One of the newer fads in the sporting world is the wonder of coconut juice/coconut water. It is being touted as a sports-drink replacement, having substantial amounts of good rehydrating electrolytes, and without the processed sweeteners or artificial colorings or flavors. (Of course, either way, don’t forget this older post: When exercising rigorously, or in high heat, it is possible to lose in excess of 1 liter of fluids per hour! But, that’s pretty intense! Water is the best fluid replacement drink if you only exercise for 30 minutes, and/or you’re not sweating heavily. Otherwise, you risk simply replacing those calories you just worked so hard to burn!) One cup of coconut water will provide good doses of calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and sodium... as well as other minerals and some vitamins - all things often lost in sweat. Plus it has over 10% of the day's fiber!
Of course, most commercial coconut drinks have also been processed to a degree, and then packaged in little boxes or bottles, and shipped to you.
But we got the pleasure of tasting fresh, pure coconut water, straight off the tree!
While visiting a community nutrition program Office in Saipan, the groundskeeper, Frankie, offered to chop down a coconut for us! So he knocked it down, pulled out his machete, and chopped that sucker open!
First, he chopped of a little slice off the shell, and said that would later be our “spoon.” Then he whacked the top off, and allowed us to have a sipping spout from which to drink. Dave was very skeptical at first – he’d tried some of the “juice box” versions of coconut milk I’d brought home before, and was never thrilled with them. But I took a sip, and loved it! Considering the heat and humidity of the island had be pretty much lightly sweating 24 hours a day, I was thirsty and in need of hydration! So I chugged that sucker in no time! And it was so good! Just a mild liquid with a hint of sweetness – really not much flavor, just simple sweentess.
So, encouraged by my rave reviews, Dave sipped… and smiled!
Once we got finished drinking our coconuts juice, Frankie then chopped the entire thing down the middle, exposing the soft flesh. We got very young coconuts, which can be determined by the thickness and firmness of the flesh. The softer and thinner, the younger the coconut. This stuff was so thin and almost slimy! Quite a strange texture to a coconut newbie – almost like undercooked egg white. But the flavor was also mild – not any overpowering coconut here! And so healthy!
Coconut meat had been tossed in the “unhealthy fats” category for quite some time because it is high in saturated fats. But more research is now showing that may be an incomplete conclusion, as there are different TYPES of saturated fats. Yes, coconut is high in saturated fats, but they are shorter MEDIUM chains of fat, not LONG chains like those found in meats. These Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) may be good for you! They may help boost thyroid functioning, therefore helping keep a healthy metabolism; and they may be quickly converted to energy instead of being stored as fat in your body. Plus, it’s a great source of Manganese with 1 small ounce containing over 20% of your day’s needs! Manganese is important for many things such as:
• Helping your body use other nutrients
• Keeping bones healthy and stong
• Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
• Keeping a healthy thyroid gland
• Promoting healthy nerves
• Protecting cells from age-inducing free radical damage
Not enough goodness in the coconut yet? Get this: the oils may also be an antifungal and antibacterial! Also, As a medicinal product, it is reputed for its wound healing, fighting fevers, regulating healthy blood clotting, and anti-inflammatory properties. But, as always, more research is needed to know for sure!
The oil can also be used on your body to add nourishing, healthy fats to your skin and hair! I scoop out a small lump of solid coconut butter when I buy a new jar, and put it in a separate tub. Then I use this in place of lotion on my feet at night, put on some socks, and go to sleep! I have also heard of people who love to use it like a leave-on conditioner, or deep-conditioning treatment to wash off later.
So anyways, we got to enjoy the wonderful water, sample the unique meat… and even after that, sometimes the husks are saved and used to make things! At one store, we saw a purse, and hats made out of the soft fibers of the coconut coat. How resourceful!
That was one of our first wonderful tropical eating experiences on our trip! More coming soon!
Stay warm and safe this holiday season!