I am sure like millions of people around the world, you probably have heard about the wonders of coconut! As a young girl growing up in Jamaica, coconut was an integral part of my diet- from before I was born! You see, not only do we eat coconut in its many forms, my mother and all the mothers before her would also use the oil to rub on the skins of their new born babies. They would use the oil in their hair and of course our first food once we are ready for solids- would be cornmeal porridge, made with- you guessed it! coconut milk!
The desserts we eat would have coconut in different forms. This could be sweet potato pudding, cornmeal pudding, coconut cake, dookanu, gizzada etc. We drank the coconut water (growing up that was my ‘pop’), we eat the soft flesh of the young coconut, we eat the hard flesh of the mature coconut. We extract the milk from the nut and boil it down to make coconut oil. Heck, in the old days my grandparents would use the husk for lighting fire, or they would convert the husk to make a brush which they used to polish their floors. You could say coconut runs through my veins and that of the peoples of the world where it is an integral part of their diets and lives.
So, it begs the question for those of you who have just recently discovered coconut and are now using it copiously. Does it belong in your body? Do you get the same benefits as those who were ingesting this food from before they were born? I ask this question because years ago, there were a few studies done looking at the health benefits of soy and soy products. A few studies point to the very same scenario I described above. In cultures where soy is an important part of the people’s diets, they have been exposed to its use from birth. Not the case for many Westerners where foods such as soy, coconut, mangoes, and certain fruits and vegetables are not indigenous to their diets.
What’s my take away message here? If these foods are not typical of your diet and you want to add them now for their touted health benefits, do add them, but do so judiciously. Please do not go over board and as with all food and nutrition advice- moderation is the key.
Phyllis Reid-Jarvis, Mph, RD, PCC