Encountering the Puerto Rican Coconut

Encountering the Puerto Rican Coconut

One of the most fun things about traveling the world is encountering all the new flavors you wouldn't otherwise find. Flavors of different cultures and cuisines are wonderful additions to our daily food intake and can enhance the flavor and nutrient value of our diets.

On a recent family trip to Puerto Rico, I was ecstatic at the amount and variety of produce we found - in particular, the Puerto Rican coconuts hanging from the trees. My son was fascinated. I was a little terrified of them falling on our heads (a freak accident that claims almost 80 livers per year!) but, we mustered up the courage and picked all the low-hanging fruit we could.

Anatomy of a Coconut

The outer “husk” (epidermis) is what we all see from the outside - a rough, almost hairy skin. It's not edible, but acts as protection for what’s contained inside. There is a shell just inside this husk (endocarp) that serves as a secondary source of protection in case it falls off the palm tree to the ground. What we all know to be the pulp of the coconut and what is dried and shaved to enjoy as toppings on ice cream and cupcakes is called the endosperm. Also called coconut meat, it's quite spongy and wet in its natural state. And then, of course there's the coconut water. Packed with healthy, natural sugars and electrolytes, drinking it can be beneficial to athletes and individuals who are looking for an alternative to the typical sports drink. And you can't beat drinking it directly from the coconut!

Health Benefits

Coconuts are known as a functional food because they contain so many vitamins, nutrients and fiber that help prevent major chronic illnesses from developing. Its oil is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. Its healthy fats promote heart health and help prevent obesity. Used topically, it can help relieve dry skin and supports the skin's natural chemical balance. It supports thyroid function and is lower in calories than other fats. It may even help prevent peridontal disease and tooth decay by pulling out foul microbes in the mouth. Short of being allergic to coconut, there's absolutely no reason it shouldn't be a part of your daily diet.

The real thing is beautiful, tasty and fun as an experience for the entire family. Who says vacation shouldn't be educational!?

Want some awesome coconut recipes? Try the smoothies below!

Anti-Aging Coconut Smoothie
Coconut Lime Ginger Smoothie
Almond Joy Smoothie

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach

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