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Looking for a versatile fruit that has as many uses as health benefits? What about the coconut? Yes, we said coconut! From the mighty coconut palm comes the hard-shelled marvel. Native to Southeast Asia and the islands between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this fruit tree is cultivated around the world and its fruit is coveted for both culinary and health benefits. First, what other fruit provides water, milk, oil, and meat? While the raw meat of the young green coconut can be gelatin-like and mildly sweet, as the fruit ages, the meat hardens, becoming a denser treat that’s delicious fresh or wonderful dried and shredded when added to desserts, smoothies, yogurt, ice cream or cereal. This meat is also pressed to produce a creamy milk that’s featured in delicious Asian and Caribbean cuisine like curries. You can grab a can or carton at your local grocery store.

But it doesn’t stop there, this marvelous fruit also yields an extraordinary oil that a growing contingent of experts now rank as one of the best for cooking and much, much more. You see this wonder oil is also antimicrobial, antifugal (thank you Lauric acid), and rich in antioxidants. Want more good news? You’ve probably heard by now that healthy fats help the body burn fat. Yes friends, certain types of fat have been shown to increase the number of calories that our body burns! Coconut oil, one of the medium-chain triglyceride family (MCT), is just one of those good fats. If it isn’t obvious, we should also point out that coconut oil is a heavenly source of hydration for skin, nails, and hair. Due to its aforementioned antimicrobial properties, coconut oil has also become the go-to ingredient in oral care products. But you don’t have to buy a special toothpaste or mouthwash to get the benefits of coconut oil. Simply swap your nightly mouth wash ritual for a tablespoon of coconut oil, swish, and spit (never swallow).

If you’re blessed to live in a tropical climate, the beauty of the coconut is that it’s a terrific straight-off-the-tree, on-the-go source of hydration. Of course, you need a knife or machete to cut it open first, but after that you’re on your way to an electrolyte rich drink that puts many sugar and chemical packed sports drinks to shame. Not living in the tropics? Don’t worry. These days coconut water – sweetened, from concentrate, or straight out of the nut – is available in cans, bottles, and cartons at your local grocery store. Want more great news? High in fibre, coconut also has several important minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium that are essential to healthy bodily functions. The potassium content has been linked to a reduction in blood pressure and stroke risk. So fresh or frozen, blended or sprinkled, for dinner or dessert, remember that the mighty coconut may be the perfect choice for your next snack, meal, or beverage.