Health benefits of Coconuts (Cocos nucifera)

Know in one minute about the health benefits of coconuts (Cocos nucifera)

  1. The Health benefits of coconuts (Cocos nucifera) are increased HDL protein due to lauric acid and myristic acid.
  2. Antioxidants and polyunsaturated acids in coconut prevent atherosclerosis.
  3. Antidiabetic also prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. It prevents seizures in epileptic children due to ketone which is produced by Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) in coconuts.
  5. Prevents hair loss due to triglycerides in the oil of coconuts.
  6. Keeps the liver and skin healthy, and prevents kidney stones.

Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.), is a member of the palm family (Arecaceae). It is the most naturally distributed fruit plant on earth. It is a part of food, drink, fuel, medicine, and building material for many people living near the sea (1).  The health benefits of coconuts (Cocos nucifera)are antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, anti-dermatophyte, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant, antihelminthic, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, antineoplastic, antidiarrheal, and antitumor (3).

Coconut can be taken in diverse forms which proves its popularity in modern culture. Various products include tender coconut water, copra or dry coconut, coconut oil, raw kernel, coconut cake, coconut toddy, coconut shell, wood-based products, coconut leaves, coir pith, etc (2).

Nutritional value of coconut

The human nutrition center (USDA) recommended its inclusion in the diet because it contains water, energy, carbohydrates, proteins, fat, dietary fiber, and other beneficial minerals such as calcium, iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Potassium, etc (4,5,6).

Compound Amounts per 100 g.
Coconut meat Milk of coconut Coconut water
Energy 443 kcal 230 kcal 19 kcal
Protein 3.35 g 2.29 g 0.72 g
Fat 31.69 g 23.84 g 0.20 g
Carbohydrates 40.91 g 5.54 g 3.71 g
Dietary Fiber 4.5 g 2.2 g 1.1 g
Sugar total 6.23 g 3.34 g 2.61 g
Folates 7 µg 16 µg 3 µg
Niacin 0.30 mg 0.76 mg 0.08 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.24 mg 0.03 mg 0.03 mg
Vitamin C 3.3 mg 2.8 mg 2.4 mg
Calcium 14 mg 16 mg 24 mg
Iron 1.84 mg 1.64 mg 0.29 mg
Magnesium 49 mg 37 mg 25 mg
Phosphorus 103 mg 100 mg 20 mg
Potassium 324 mg 263 mg 250 mg
Zinc 1.59 mg 0.67 mg 0.10
Sodium 20 mg 15 mg 105 mg
Copper 0.43 mg 0.26 mg 0.04 mg
Manganese 1.50 mg 0.91 mg 0.14 mg
Selenium 10.1 µg 6.2 µg 1.0 µg

Health benefits of coconuts (Cocos nucifera)

1. Increase HDL cholesterol

Studies show that daily consumption of 30 mL coconut oil in young healthy adults significantly increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol which is due to the high proportion of lauric acid and myristic acid in coconut (7).

2. Weight loss 

Coconut health benefits are mainly due to being high in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These fatty acids do not get stored in adipose tissue (8). Oil extracted from coconut also contains a high amount of lauric acid which is directly absorbed and prevents fat deposition in blood vessels (9). Therefore, coconut is used for weight reduction. A research study suggested that consumption of coconut oil does not cause dyslipidemia and seems to promote a reduction of harmful abdominal obesity (belly fat) (10).

3. Prevents atherosclerosis

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is known as the number one cause of death worldwide. Coconuts are a good source of fiber and contain antioxidants and polyunsaturated acids which are beneficial to cardiovascular health (11).

A previous research study suggests that coconut with its high polyphenol content is capable of maintaining the normal levels of cholesterol and other lipid parameters and helps to prevent the development of atherosclerosis (12).

4. Antidiabetic

Coconut contains natural biologically active compounds and has the therapeutic value which has a hypoglycemic action, decreased blood glucose levels, regulate blood sugar, enhancing insulin secretion, and also reduced oxidative stress induced by alloxan in type 1 diabetes (13).

5. Fight cancer

Coconut is a rich source of saturated medium-chain fatty-acid lauric acid (LA) which has proven to have anti-cancer properties. It is especially beneficial to treat colon and breast cancer (14).

LA triggers antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects in both breast and endometrial cancer cells. Therefore, the consumption of coconut improves the quality of life of breast cancer patients and reduced the symptoms related to the side effects of chemotherapy (15).

6. Improves oral hygiene

Coconut is rich in alkaloids, flavonoids, catechins, and epicatechin, together with condensed tannins, which confer on its potent antimicrobial properties. Therefore, coconut has important inhibitory action against common oral pathogens, indicating the presence of highly effective antimicrobial compounds. Hence, it is proven that its use can contribute to oral health to a great extent (16).

7. Healthy skin

Coconut improves the symptoms of skin disorders by moisturizing and soothing the skin. Therefore, coconut is useful in treating skin disorders with permeability barrier dysfunction, especially those accompanied by reduced epidermal protein expression, such as atopic dermatitis, and eczema (17).

Topical coconut oil protects the skin from UV radiation. UVB-induced ROS generation plays an important role in skin aging, inflammation, and carcinogenesis. Monolaurin is an active component derived from lauric acid of coconut oil that is found to be antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal in nature (18).

8. Prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Coconut is classified as a highly nutritious ‘functional food’. MCFA present in coconut is unique. They are easily absorbed and metabolized by the liver and can be converted to ketones. Ketones are an alternative source of energy that nourishes the brain.

In addition, phenolic compounds and hormones (cytokinins) found in coconut may help in preventing the aggregation of amyloid-β peptide. Hence stops a key step in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (19).

The collective effects of these two components would eventually prevent or delay neurodegeneration. Therefore, coconut is not only used as a neuroprotective agent for those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases but also use as brain food (20).

9. Healthy Liver

Hepatic disorders such as steatosis and alcoholic steatohepatitis are common diseases that affect thousands of people around the globe.

The tocopherols, tocotrienols, flavonoids, caffeic and ascorbic acids some polyphenol compounds, and Medium-chain triglycerides present in coconut have hepatoprotective effects. This may be due to its free radical scavenging effect, reduction of DNA damage, and inhibition of lipid peroxidation (21).

10. Treats epilepsy

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) produces ketone. This ketogenic diet is used extensively for treating refractory childhood epilepsy. Diet therefore rich in coconut can dramatically reduce the rate of seizures in epileptic children (22).

11. Prevents hair loss

Coconut oil contains triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), which has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft and reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair (23).

12. Antimicrobial properties

Coconut contains lauric acid and triglycerides which have antimicrobial and fungicidal activity (24). Research suggested that coconut oil can be used in the treatment of fungal infections in view of emerging drug-resistant Candida species (25).

13. Improves vision

Coconut is a rich source of lauric, capric, and caprylic acid. These compounds have anti-inflammatory properties and might be useful for those with dry eye problems. It also acts as a protective layer over the tear film layers from evaporation. Therefore, coconut is safe to be used as an ocular rewetting agent on a human being (26).

14. Healthy teeth

Coconut oil can be effective in reducing plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis (27).

15. Strong Bones 

Coconut oil contains polyphenols, tocopherols, sterols, and squalene. These compounds prevent lipid peroxidation and increased antioxidant enzymes. That acts as a therapeutic agent in the prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis and the prevention of fractures (28).

16. Antiviral

One of the coconut health benefits is mainly due to monolaurin an active compound derived from lauric acid. These compounds have an effective antiviral activity against HIV, herpes, and measles.  The antiviral effect of monolaurin can beneficially reduce the viral susceptibility of HIV patients (29,30).

17. Prevent kidney stone

Consumption of coconut water prevents kidney stones by inhibiting crystal deposition in renal tissue as well as reducing the number of crystals in urine. It also increases urinary potassium, chloride, and citrate. Furthermore, coconut water also protected against impaired renal function and the development of oxidative stress in the kidneys (31).

Side effects of coconut

The effects of long-term consumption of coconut oil are unknown, and rare, with only a small number of reported cases.

A study published in Pediatr Allergy Immunol supported that children with sensitization or allergy to peanuts or tree nuts were not more likely to be sensitized or allergic to coconut. Therefore it could be concluded that coconut has more health benefits than a side effects (32).

Healthy Recipes for coconut (cocos)

1. Coconut-lemonade juice

This is a perfect drink in summer. It is not only refreshing but also has health benefits. Mix lemon juice, sugar, ice, and mint leaves in coconut water.

2. Smoothie

Make this refreshing low-sugar smoothie with banana, apricot, and other fruits.

3. Milk of coconut

It can be consumed with oats cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. Also be used in many other complex recipes like preparing prawn curry and other types of curries.

4. Coconut soup

A soup of coconut with tomato, garlic, ginger, and coriander is a good one to b sipped during the winter season.

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati