World Coconut Day, celebrated on September 2nd every year, is a ceremonial day designated by the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) headquartered at Jakarta, Indonesia, and observed by Hindu fishing communities in western India particularly around Mumbai and the Konkan coast. Coconuts represent the 47th-most valuable crop/livestock product by value and have enjoyed a surge in popularity all over the world in recent years, due not only to the health benefits attributed to eating coconut, but also because of the many beauty applications coconut oil offers.
Fresh coconut meat is high in antioxidants, and the fat found in coconuts is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) also known as medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs, that are better absorbed by the digestion than saturated fat. MCFAs are said to have anti-inflammatory properties, making them even more attractive. Fresh coconut meat or coconut oil are both good sources of healthy fat to add to your diet. Coconut meat can be eaten raw, cooked, or as a preserve. Coconut oil can easily be substituted for butter or shortening in many baked goods, and adds a subtle tropical flavor to cakes, breads, cookies, and pie crusts. Coconut water has recently become a popular base for health drinks and smoothies. Packed with vitamins, minerals, coconut water is a natural electrolyte beverage that helps rehydrate the body after a workout and provide a natural energy boost.
When it comes to beauty applications, coconut oil has been used for many years as a facial moisturizer, hair conditioner, makeup remover, and overall skin moisturizer. There are a lot of health claims being made for coconut, including these 10 evidence-based health benefits:
- Coconut Oil Contains Fatty Acids with Potent Medicinal Properties. Coconut oil is high in fats called medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently than most other fats. These special fats are responsible for a lot of the health benefits of coconut oil.
- Populations That Eat a Lot of Coconut Oil Are Healthy. Several populations around the world have thrived for multiple generations eating massive amounts of coconut.
- Coconut Oil Can Increase Fat Burning. The medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil have been shown to increase calories burned over 24 hours by as much as 5%.
- Coconut Oil Can Kill Harmful Microorganisms. The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This could potentially help to prevent infections.
- Coconut Oil Can Reduce Your Hunger, Helping You Eat Less. The fatty acids in coconut oil can significantly reduce appetite, which may lead to reduced body weight over the long term.
- The Fatty Acids in Coconuts May Reduce Seizures. The MCTs in coconut oil can increase the blood concentration of ketone bodies, which can help reduce seizures in epileptic children.
- Coconut Oil Can Raise Good HDL Cholesterol. A few studies have shown that coconut oil can raise blood levels of HDL cholesterol, which is linked to improved metabolic health and a lower risk of heart disease.
- Coconut Oil Can Protect Your Skin, Hair and Dental Health. Coconut oil can also be applied topically, with studies showing it to be effective as a skin moisturizer and protecting against hair damage.
- The Fatty Acids in Coconut Oil Can Boost Brain Function in Alzheimer’s Patients. Preliminary studies suggest that medium-chain triglycerides can increase blood levels of ketones, supplying energy for the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients and relieving symptoms.
- Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Fat, Especially Harmful Abdominal Fat. In a study of 40 women with abdominal obesity, supplementing with 30 mL (2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day led to a significant reduction in both BMI and waist circumference over a period of 12 weeks. (1) Another study in 20 obese males noted a reduction in waist circumference of 1.1 inches (2.86 cm) after 4 weeks of 30 mL (2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day. (2)
With the health benefits of the coconut, it’s no wonder coconut in all its forms is so popular around the world. Whether you enjoy a fresh coconut from the local farmer’s market, put a spoonful of coconut oil in your bath water to moisten your skin, or whip up a fruit smoothie using coconut water, you can celebrate World Coconut Day knowing you’re doing something good for your body.