Facts about coconut water | Lifestyle

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Coconut water (buko juice) is a popular drink in Asia and South America. The top ten countries on the list of world-leading coconut producers according to volume are: Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. The Philippines export more than $1 billion worth of coconuts to the United States alone.

What actually is coconut water?

Coconut water is the clear liquid inside coconuts which, in early development, “serves as a suspension for the endosperm of the coconut during its nuclear phase” of growth. The endosperm matures into “cellular phase and deposits into the rink of the coconut meat.” The coconut water and the soft meat of young coconut is a delicacy, popular among locals and tourists in those tropical countries and others where coconuts thrive. They are sold fresh on the street by vendors with machetes who cut a hole at the top for drinking, with or without a straw. They are also available bottled, soft-packed, and canned, usually consumed chilled.

What are the other coconut products?

Besides its water and meat, other coconuts products include copra, coconut oil and coconut milk (gata) for cooking and for cosmetics, palm sugar, flower syrup, butter, desiccated coconut, powdered sugar, jelly, cream, kefir (probiotic), flour, vinegar, nata de coco fruit jelly, etc. Indeed, coconut is a versatile fruit, nut, and seed, all in one.

Can it reverse Alzheimer’s?

The popular claim that coconut oil products can reverse Alzheimer’s disease is baseless and unfounded. There is no scientific evidence to this effect. The same is true with the other medicinal claims for other illnesses, like depression, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, allergies, As a matter of fact, there is a controversy that coconut oil and products can be detrimental to the consumer’s blood cholesterol/lipids levels and cardiovascular health, if consumed regularly. Fresh uncontaminated coconut water is deemed acceptable and safe. Scientifically, the use of coconut oil for hair, skin, and lips, as conditioner-moisturizer has been proven to be of good cosmetic value.

What are the nutritional values of coconut water?

Coconut water is 95 percent water and 100 ml provides only 19 calories, 4 percent carbohydrates, under 1 percent protein and fat. It does not contain any vitamin or dietary minerals of any significant value. Unless contaminated by a handler, fresh coconut water is sterile, free of microbes.

While this has been marketed as “natural energy drink or sport drink,” claiming it has significant electrolyte content, this is not true. The potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium in unprocessed coconut water per 100 ml are insignificant and not balanced. The health benefit claims, that it is antiviral, that it lowers cholesterol and regulates blood sugar, are false, and the US Food and Drug Administration has warned producers against misleading marketing.

Various firms have faced class action lawsuits over false advertisements that coconut water was “super-hydrating,” nutrient-packed,” and “mega-electrolyte” source. The suit was settled with a US$10 Million award in April 2012.

Was coconut water used as IV fluids?

During World War II, coconut water was used as intravenous fluids for rehydration when medical fluids was not available during emergencies. It is actually not similar in composition as our plasma. Intravenous coconut water is not accepted as within safe standard of care today and must not be performed at all as it would be malpractice. Drinking it occasionally is the safer way to take coconut water.

Is excessive consumption safe?

No, drinking a large amount of coconut water is unsafe. As a matter of fact, coconut water is used in southern districts of Tamil Nadu, India, for senicide of the elderly, a traditional accepted practice performed by family members called thalaikoothal, an involuntary euthanasia for those incapacitated and seriously ill, where “the elderly is made to drink an excessive amount of coconut water, eventually resulting in fever and death.”  Besides pulmonary (excess water in the lungs, as in drowning) due to fluid overload, the exact mechanism causing the demise is not clear.

Are coconut food products healthy for us?

Olive oil is preferred over coconut oil for cooking and overall use. The virgin variety of each is considered better than their regular form. While olive oil is universally recommended as a healthy oil, there is a lot of controversy about coconut oil because of its high saturated fat content (albeit from non-meat source). The use of virgin coconut oil in cosmetics (skin moisturizer and hair conditioner-shiner, lip balms, etc.) has been proven beneficial, but not as a food or as a cooking ingredient for DAILY consumption. Advocates, including some physicians, think differently. While the controversy lingers, occasional indulgences and in moderation are safe. For many, the great unique appetizing taste of coconut milk (gata) in main courses (red meat/chicken/vegetables) and in desserts is hard to resist. I confess, I am one of them.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA,  a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com



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