Why coconut is called tree of life

Since time immemorial, plants and trees have been reputed to be huge sources of nutrition and medicine for mankind and if there is one which all its parts provide tremendous benefits, it is  the coconut.
In some cultures, it is described as the ‘tree which gives all that is necessary for living’ because nearly all its parts (the water, milk, flesh, sugar and oil) can be used. Even the husks and leaves are used as materials in furnishings and decoration.
Although it is sometimes classified as a fruit and frequently confused for being a nut, the coconut is actually a one-seeded drupe. Known as ivin in Benin, agbon in Yoruba and kwakwar in Hausa,the coconut provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations.
Coconuts are highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals, including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. According to a professor of phytomedicine in the University of Benin, Edo State, Professor Macdonald Idu, “coconut is classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
“In traditional medicine around the world coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems, including abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, ear-ache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, stomach, weakness upset, and wounds.”

Coconut milk, coconut water, coconut oil
Though coconut milk and coconut water are sometimes erroneously assumed to be the same, the fact is they differ in contents and benefits. When a coconut is broken, the clear liquid found inside the shell is referred to as coconut water. It is the purest liquid, second only to water itself. Coconut water is 94 per cent water and fairly low in calories and is a good source of B vitamins and potassium. It has received a great deal of attention for its perceived health benefits and is an important treatment for acute diarrhoea in the developing world. Research suggests the clear liquid has the same electrolyte balance found in isotonic drinks, proving useful for rehydration or after long periods of intensive exercise. Though there haven’t been many scientific studies on coconut water, one study suggested that drinking coconut water might be associated with a lower rate of heart attacks. Another small study found that coconut water significantly lowered systolic blood pressure in 71 per cent of people with hypertension.
To get coconut milk, the coconut flesh (the white part) is grated and soaked in hot water. The coconut oil rises to the top and can be skimmed off. The remaining liquid is squeezed through cheesecloth to extract a white liquid which is the coconut milk. According to experts, unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose-free, so it can be used as a milk substitute by those with lactose intolerance. It is a popular choice among vegetarians and can also be used as a base for smoothies, coconut rice, milkshakes or as an alternative for milk in baking. However, coconut milk is high in saturated fat and there has been an established link between excessive consumption of dietary saturated fats and coronary heart disease (CHD). As a result, it is advised that it should be consumed in moderation.               
Coconut oil, in recent times, has become popular and has been touted to improve glucose tolerance and reduce body fat accumulation. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories, 0 grams of protein, 13.6 grams of fat (11.8 saturated, 0.8 monounsaturated and 0.2 polyunsaturated) and 0 grams of carbohydrate (0 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugar). It also provides little on  no vitamins or minerals and is made up of 100 per cent fat. However, the structure of fat in coconut oil differs from the traditional saturated fat often found in animal products which is primarily comprised of long-chain fatty acids.
Nutritionists, however, advise that virgin coconut oil provides the best benefits as partially hydrogenated coconut oil and refined coconut oil are just as harmful as other highly processed oils containing trans fat and clearly wreaks havoc on human health. Besides its robust flavour and aroma, coconut oil can also replace other cooking oils, as it withstands high heat. It is also loaded with antioxidants, which have health benefits ranging from anti-ageing to cardiovascular health. The antioxidants in coconut oil, especially vitamin E, act as a moisturiser for skin and hair when applied topically. High in lauric acid, coconut water is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It also boosts the immune system in fighting infection whilst helping to eradicate intestinal worms and candida.
To obtain virgin coconut oil, pour coconut milk into a jar, screw the lid tightly and allow the coconut milk to ferment. According to naturalhealthremedies.com, this can be done by placing the jar in a dark place for two days. After this, move the coconut milk into warm, light area for six to eight hours, during which the coconut oil will separate from the coconut milk. Chill the jar in the refrigerator for three hours to allow the oil to solidify. Scoop out the oil with a spoon and place it in a container with a lid. Allow the oil to thaw in a room temperature environment and then use the oil as you choose.

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