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A native plant of the Pacific, the coconut features in Indian writings from as far back as 2,000 years ago. There has been much debate about this, it so commonly being associated with the image of the Tropics. What is not in dispute is its incredible health benefits and even today, cultures that feature coconut regularly in their diets continually show lower levels of high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.

A quote from heartily agrees, saying “For about 3960 years of the of the past 4000 years of the documented historical use of the fruits of the coconut palm as a food and a pharmaceutical, the news has all been good”. It is only the misguided ‘modern’ attitude that ‘all fats are bad’ that has dented its use as a health food and yet the scientific evidence all points to its abilities to prevent tumours, lower cholesterol, lower viral loads in HIV, herpes and other viruses, restore adrenal fatigue and normalise blood sugar and blood pressure. It can also stimulate the metabolism and therefore weight loss.

Coconut often gets a bad press for being high in saturated fat, but these fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and easy for us to burn off as energy. In fact they actually aid in weight loss as MCTs are not converted into stored fat by our livers. Coconut also contains lauric acid which is protective against viruses and bacterial infections. With its similar lauric acid content and immune-protecting properties, coconut has been described as the closest substance to human breast milk. Don’t let that put you off though; this is why coconut oil is now being frequently used in human infant formula feeds for its protective properties.

Coconut water has the same electrolytic balance as that in our blood, so provides the right minerals in the right proportions to keep our fluid levels and blood pressure in balance.
The main argument for introducing coconut into your kitchen as a regular feature is to reduce the amount of damaging free radicals that you eat from food cooked in oil. It is easy to switch to coconut oil for roasting, frying and baking and be assured that the pure oil has none of the coconut taste, so does not overpower food.

Coconut milk should be chosen for its highest fat content to get the most benefits. Coconut milk is not the liquid found in the middle of the coconut, that is coconut water; it is actually made from the steeped, mashed and cooked flesh to create the thick, milky substance. The milk is great in curries, stews and dhals; it is fantastic for making smoothies as a substitute for dairy products and a whole lot better for your immune health and liver.

Dried coconut should be unsweetened and it is important to look at labels as it is generally sold sweetened and sometimes needs hunting down. It is a great snack to have around to satisfy sweet cravings and as a healthy fat source it can satisfy hunger and the urge to overeat. It is also lovely added to homemade or shop bought muesli. For the sheer fun, also buy the fresh whole nuts, now available in more and more supermarkets and have a go at cracking them yourself – just keep something close by to catch the liquid!

Unpreserved oils and milks are best and for really therapeutic benefits you can eat as much as 2-3 tablespoons of unprocessed coconut oil daily, 150ml of coconut milk twice a day or 1/2 coconut eaten however you like.