5 compelling reasons why we’re crazy for coconuts

Used in many different ways – on our plates, in cosmetics and as a healthy drink – coconuts truly are nature’s gift. Here’s why.

Said to have originated in the Indo-Malaya region, coconuts are grown in more than 80 countries and are officially classified as a drupe – a stone fruit – although people sometimes mislabel them as a nut or a seed.

Compared to other fruits, coconuts are fairly unique in their make-up – you’ll no doubt be familiar with their tough, fibrous outer skin and hard brown shell; the fleshy, white part inside, which is edible; and the seed cavity, which holds the “coconut water”.

Regardless of how you choose to classify them, coconuts are used in a lot of skincare and haircare products, as well as an ingredient in many kitchen staples, from breakfast cereals to coconut flour and milk.

Five compelling reasons to love coconuts

The refreshing coconut water

Coconut water, which comes from young, green coconuts, has gained a lot of attention in recent years.

A refreshing and tasty drink with the added bonus of being low in calories, it is both favoured by wellness warriors and enjoyed by everyday Australians.

“Coconut water is a healthier alternative to fruit juices – with a much lower sugar content,” Nutrition Australia dietitian Leanne Elliston says.

Leanne says coconut water also contains electrolytes and is a particularly good source of potassium, which makes it a lower-sugar alternative to sports drinks.

Delicious raw and dried coconut

Getting into a coconut is indeed hard but once you crack the secret, it’s well worth it.

Coconut meat – the white, fleshy part – can be eaten raw or dried and is highly nutritious as it

contains protein and is rich in manganese, copper, iron and selenium.

Leanne says coconuts are also a good source of dietary fibre.

“Dried coconut can be a really good way to add fibre to muffins or muesli,” she suggests.

Beneficial coconut oil

Thanks to its fatty content, coconut oil is a particularly good moisturiser – when applied to the skin, it acts as an emollient, trapping in water to leave your skin feeling soft and silky.

Naturopathic skin specialist Elissa Roy says this is what makes coconut oil so great for hydration.

“The coconut oil supports healthy skin barrier function and it’s also antimicrobial, so, it’s effective as an antifungal and helps to keep the skin microbiome in balance,” Elissa says.

But she cautions that people prone to breakouts may want to steer clear.

Because coconut oil also contains medium-chain triglycerides – a type of fat that gives your body energy – it has become popular in several trending diets, including ketogenic and Paleo diets.

However, Leanne warns “coconut oil’s high saturated fat content contributes to an increased risk of blood cholesterol, so people with a history of heart disease and/or high cholesterol should avoid using it in food.”

Healthful haircare

Coconut oil is great for keeping your locks looking healthy.

It’s able to penetrate the hair shaft, and applying it to your tresses, both before and after washing, can help reduce protein loss.

Some people believe coconut oil can help hair grow longer by protecting it from the wear and tear of daily styling.

One study found that coconut oil mixed with anise and ylang ylang oil was effective in treating head lice.

It’s good for eco-friendly products

Coconut husk fibre, or coir, is lightweight yet strong and elastic, and is used to make rope, mats, bags and cleaning brushes.

A renewable resource, coconut shell has emerged as one of the best forms of activated carbon for water filtration.

Durable, compostable and easy to carve, it’s also used to make a whole range of eco-friendly products – think bowls, utensils, jewellery, buttons, even sustainable wooden sunglasses.