Everything You Need to Know About Coconuts

Coconuts are more than just a sustainable food that supplies nutrition for millions of people. Every part of the coconut tree is useful.
by on Tuesday, August 31, 2021

All the Goodness In One Neat Little Package

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So many uses in one neat package. Photo from Lospalos.

Origin & History of Coconuts

The history of the coconut is extensively interwoven with the history of people traveling. Due to its lightweight buoyancy, coconuts are capable of floating significant distances without losing the ability to germinate. As a result, the coconut is no stranger to migration. 

Of course, with the help of human movement and colonization, the coconut easily sprouted palms in tropical locations around the planet. 

The coconut tree is a member of the palm family, and the term itself generally refers to the fruit it produces. Coconuts appear in historical records, from archaeological excavations to Sanskrit scriptures. Even in areas of India where the palms don’t grow, coconuts appear as highly-valued religious offerings. In India, ceremonies commonly include a coconut from the “Tree of Heaven.”

Genetic research suggests that humans began cultivating the coconut in two separate locations: the Pacific basin and the Indian Ocean basin.

The coconut is more than just a sustainable food that supplies nutrition for millions of people. Every part of the coconut tree is useful. This includes the roots, trunks, leaves, husks, fiber, fruit, water, sap, oil, milk, and meat. Its functionality ranges from skincare and household cleaners to toys, garments, furniture, chicken feed, carbon-based water filters, and biodiesel fuels.

Health Benefits of Coconut

Coconuts, with their many uses, have nutritional benefits across the spectrum.

Coconut meat is a great source of digestion-friendly and satiating fiber. You’ll also get vitamin B6, iron, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. Lauric acid is the source of around half of the saturated fat in the coconut. Lauric acid can help raise levels of heart-protective HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It does however increase more harmful LDL (“bad”) cholesterol too.

Coconut flour is dried, ground coconut meat and in just 2 tablespoons, it has 5 grams of fiber. This makes it a nutritious replacement for traditional white flour, especially for those following a gluten-free diet.

And coconut oil, not to be left out, is a great high-heat, all-purpose cooking oil that tastes delicious. Coconut oil is also a great addition to a wide range of skin, hair, and beauty products.

Coconut water is fresh, delicious, and hydrating, with natural electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Just make sure you choose one without added sugar. Or go straight to the source and turn up a fresh coconut. 

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Coconut water is fresh and delicious and full of electrolytes too. Photo from Franklin Baker.

The research around coconut water tends to show that other than potassium, it isn’t necessarily that much better than regular water. However, our friend Dr. Aris LaTham believes otherwise. When you hear him passionately speak about coconut water, which has absorbed the energy of sun in the growing process, you might just agree with him.

(In case you missed it, listen to the interview here.)

It’s no wonder the coconut is so revered by so many cultures, to the point of being included in religious ceremonies. Maybe there is more to our food than nutritional science.

Best Ways to Use Coconut

In one neat package, the coconut provides a high-calorie food, potable water source, multi-use fiber, and a hard, functional shell. 

In addition to its health benefits, coconut oil offers a low level of sun protection (SPF 4) and is helpful in repelling sand fleas. 

Coconut husks are made of very strong fibers, and the material between the fibers has a high lignin content, which is a natural glue. The husks make great planting mediums, erosion netting, scrubber brushes, floor mat, and fibers to make rope. 

Coconut shells make great activated carbon pieces or briquettes. What’s more, these all-purpose nuts even work as a handy flotation device.

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Chemical free, sustainably produced coconut charcoal briquettes.

So if you ever find yourself stranded on a deserted island, all you really need is plenty of coconut trees–and perhaps a good machete. But be careful where you hang your coconut fiber hammock. Falling coconuts kill 150 people every year, which is 10 times the number of shark attack deaths. 

Coconut Producers on our Platform

Coconut Bowls is an Australia-based company that sells compostable coconut bowls. After extensive research, young entrepreneur Jake learned that millions of coconut shells go to waste each year. He saw a great opportunity to reduce harmful plastic waste and reuse nature-made bowls. 

Lospalos Coconut Oil is a small-scale coconut oil factory that processes their oils right on the site in Timor. There are so many coconuts in Timor that they often go to waste. This brand employs women in Timor who export their oil to Australia, creating economic opportunity for a small village in Timor. 

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Processing coconut in Timor. Photo from Lospalos.

3 Kings Coconut makes an environmentally friendly charcoal alternative from recycled coconut shells. They make briquettes that are 100% natural and free of toxic chemicals and do not contain scrap wood, petroleum, or mineral coal.

The coconut has more uses than we can list here and health benefits for inside and outside the body. It has been used, consumed, processed, and loved by many different cultures. Like a true adventurer, it has traveled on its own and as a passenger around the tropical world. It has a rich history and has certainly earned its reverence.


We know you want to find coconut producers on our platform! Have a look here.

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