The Many Uses for Coconuts and its Derivatives
From cooking recipes to haircare products, coconut seems to pop up as an ingredient everywhere. But what makes coconut so unique and useful?
In terms of nutrients, coconut is rich in manganese, copper, iron, and selenium and also contains an abundance of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Moreover, coconut’s physical properties, including the fleshy insides, liquid component, and the oil present, make it particularly versatile.
The Anatomy of a Coconut
If you’ve never enjoyed a fresh coconut, you may not have felt or tasted each part of the fruit. A full coconut includes:
- The “Meat”– The inside of the coconut contains white flesh that is smooth and firm in texture.
- Coconut Water– If you break a coconut open, you will find a clear, runny liquid with a sweet taste.
- Shell– The shell, or the coconut’s outer cover, is hard, brown, and often contains three germination pores or “eyes.”
- Husk– Coconut shells contain husks of brown fiber or coir, which look like hair.
To eat a coconut, you should poke the “eyes” with a screwdriver or stick and drain the liquid. After this, get a hammer or meat mallet and firmly grasp the coconut while you hit it in the same spot. Hammer along the length until it breaks. Once it splits open, you should turn the pieces over and hit it with the hammer until the flesh loosens and you can scoop it out with a spoon or knife.
If you live in an area where coconuts grow, you’re likely accustomed to enjoying them fresh. However, most people outside of these regions buy coconut-based products that are prepared and ready for use. The most common coconut products on the market include:
Food and Beverages
The most obvious use for coconut is for consumption. The following products all come from the same fruit but undergo different processes and preparation.
- Coconut Water– Coconut water occurs naturally in the center of the coconut. However, the coconut water sold in stores typically contains additives. You can consume coconut water plain or add it to other drinks.
- Coconut Milk– To make coconut milk, producers grate the white coconut flesh, soak it in hot water, boil it, and straining it, leaving behind the coconut milk sold in stores. You can find plenty of ways to use coconut milk in the kitchen; for example, you can add it to curries, baked goods, soups, and elixirs.
- Coconut Cream– Coconut cream has a rich taste and unique texture. To make it, you boil a mixture of four parts shredded coconut to one part water. You can then whip it up and use it in desserts or add it to soups, smoothies, and milkshakes.
- Coconut Oil– To make coconut oil, fresh or dry coconut meat is run through a millet and dried before a screw press extracts the oil. You can consume coconut oil by substituting it with your regular cooking oil, adding it to drinks, and baking with it.
- MCT Oil– Producers make MCT oil by extracting the pure MCTs found within coconut oil through fractionation. You can consume MCT coconut oil by replacing it with your cooking oils, baking with it, adding it to smoothies, teas, and coffees. Many followers of the ketogenic diet use MCT oil to help prompt ketosis.
Because of the nourishing fatty acids found in coconut, many skincare and cosmetic brands use it in their products. Coconut-based products can help hydrate your hair and prevent hair damage; they can also moisturize your skin and increase its suppleness and flexibility. Everyday beauty products that contain coconut byproducts include:
- Coconut Oil-infused Lip Balms– Lip balms containing coconut oil can provide moisture to your lip that penetrates beyond the surface.
- Coconut Hair Masks– Coconut hair masks are used to reduce frizz and prevent hair damage in the long run.
- Coconut Body Butters– People use body butter to give their skin much-needed moisture and hydration. The winter months can be tough on the skin, and a coconut-based body butter can penetrate the skin and keep it soft.
- Foot Creams With Coconuts– If you frequently experience cracked heels, you can try a coconut-based foot cream as a deep moisturizer.
- Bronzers Containing Coconut– Makeup lovers use bronzers to add warmth or glow to their faces. You can find many bronzers made with coconut, which provides nourishment and a subtle shine without making your skin look too oily.
- Makeup Remover– Coconut oil straight from the jar works wonders as a gentle makeup remover.
A Fruit with Diverse Uses
While you may think of a tropical vacation when coconuts come to mind, the delicious fruit may have more everyday uses than you think. If you love the taste, smell, or texture of fresh coconut or coconut extracts, you’ll have no trouble finding uses for the versatile fruit.