If the humble coconut makes you think of tropical islands, warm seas, and swaying palms, you're probably not the only one. Coconuts have long been associated with lazy long holidays, and drinks decorated with tropical fruit and little umbrellas. But what might be particularly interesting is that coconut oil, and other products such as coconut water and milk, may have a number of health benefits.
First - A Short History Of The Coconut
Coconut has long been a staple in traditional societies in tropical regions. All parts of the coconut were used - the flesh, oil, and liquid in the diet, and the fibrous parts were even used in furnishings. You could say that the coconut formed more than just a foodstuff, but was an integral part of the culture.
Meanwhile, in the western world, with the industrial revolution came a reduction in dietary animal fats and an increase in plant and seed oils. This meant worldwide there was a high demand for coconut oil from tropical plantations. The oil from the coconut has been used in many western food products - usually after being heated, processed, refined and bleached, rather than in its natural state.
During the 20th century, laboratory tests showed that coconut oil in diet increased cholesterol levels in the blood. As a result of this, coconut oil was declared an unhealthy fat, particularly for those considered to be at high risk of heart disease. This was based on the premise that coconut oil is a saturated fat, much like animal fats such as butter and lard.
At the same time though, there were scientists who challenged these findings, and more recent studies have revealed another picture regarding the use of this tropical oil.