Last Updated : May 28,2024

What is Coconut ? Glossary | Benefits, Uses, Recipes with Coconut |
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Also known as
Nariyal, narial

What is coconut, nariyal?

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) belongs to the Palm family Arecaceae and is found growing around the world in lowland, tropical and subtropical habitats. Classed as a fruit, it is actually a one-seeded drupe. Coconut fruits are large and nearly round. The husk is hard, medium brown, and has a rough, hairy surface. Three round depressions are found on one end of the fruit. The fruit is used for its husk, white flesh, and liquid in the fruit called "milk." The fruit harvested from the coconut tree, which lives for 70 years, producing thousands of coconuts. The white flesh of the fruit is the coconut meat. The center contains a watery liquid coconut juice which is often sipped straight from the coconut. Coconut milk is made by simmering equal parts water and shredded coconut meat, then squeezing and straining the thick liquid remaining. Coconut cream is the same as coconut milk with a richer proportion of coconut to water (4 to 1).

Chopped coconut
Cut the coconut in half. Remove the coconut from its shell. Using a sharp knife cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and make vertical slits at regular intervals (approximately ¼ inch in diameter). Line all the vertical pieces together and then make horizontal slits at regular intervals (approximately ¼ inch in diameter). If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "roughly chopped," make the pieces slightly larger.

Coconut flakes
Coconut paste
For any South Indian dishes, coconut paste is a must. It adds flavour, thickness and taste to the food cooked. The way you grind it and the amount of water added or if you have touched, everything matters. There are two ways you can go about doing this, either by chopping the coconut meat to small pieces or by grating and then making a paste of it. Grating the coconut using the traditional Indian instruments is quite daunting. For making the paste, take enough quantity and grind to a smooth paste. You should not add water; if required; just add a teaspoon for it to run. Other ingredients like ginger, garlic, green chilly etc can also be added while grinding. Coconut Paste is used in many dishes in Malaysia as an additional flavour, especially as a base of Indian Curry. It can make your dishes more delicious and appetizing. Coconut Paste might be a little bit hard in condition; it is natural as the oil is separated from the paste. It suggests that mix well before using it.
Grated and roasted coconut
Coconut can be grated into thin or thick shreds using a grater. One can also use coconut grater which is especially designed to grate coconut directly from its shell. After grating, place them in a non-stick pan and dry roast on a medium flame till they turn little dry and pink in colour. Cool and store in an air-tight container or use as required.
Grated coconut
Break open the coconut and separate out the water. Place each coconut halve on a garter and grate it thinly or thickly as required by the recipe. Thickly grated can be used to make sauce or just simply added to vegetables during sauté. Thinly grated coconut can be added to beverage or in salad.
Sliced coconut
Cut the coconut in half. Slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Wedge them thinly or thickly as the recipe requirement, can used as a garnish or used in sambhar or dal preparations. It can also be deep fried and added to Chivda.

How to select coconut, nariyal

Choose coconuts that feel heavy for their size, having no cracks and avoid those whose circular indented eyes are damp, moist or moldy. Shake the coconut. It should slosh with liquid and sound full.

Culinary Uses of coconut, nariyal

· Coconut Spread is a very innovative spread and versatile. It is made by grinding the dried flesh of mature coconuts. Because the meat of the coconut is so high in oils, the result is a delicious thick paste, very similar to sesame tahini and it is shelf stable. This spread contains over 60% medium chain fatty acids known for their antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitical and energy giving properties.
· One medium coconut will yield 3 to 4 cups of grated meat. To extract the juice of the coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk), pierce two of the three indentations, or eyes, at one end with an icepick. An average mature coconut yields about 240ml. of coconut cream and 360ml of coconut milk.
· Sliced or chopped coconut can be added to preparations like wadas, sambhar etc to enhance its taste.
· Grated coconut forms the basis of South Indian cooking to make gravies, curries etc.
· Coconut is shredded or flaked for use in baked goods or candies.
· Coconut milk, cream, water etc are use in recipes as flavor enhancers.
· Coconut can be used to make chutneys, podis, sweets like pongal, barfi etc.

How to store coconut, nariyal

Fresh unopened coconuts can be stored at room temperature for up to four months, depending on its original freshness when purchased.

Health benefits of coconut, nariyal

1. Potassium Rich : Coconut water is high in Potassium and forms a great electrolyte. One cup of coconut water has 480 mg of Potassium.

2. Low in Calories : One cup of coconut water (200 ml) is only 48 calories. There is zero fat in the water.

3. Lowers Blood Pressure :  Potassium is critical for those with High Blood Pressure as it lessens the impact of sodium. Eating more Potassium Rich Foods will remove more sodium from your body through urine. 

4. Lowers Cholesterol : Due to the presence of potassium, calcium and magnesium in Coconut water, it is believed to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy heart.

5. Low Carbs : If your on a low carb diet, this is a perfect healthy drink as one cup of coconut water contains only 8 grams to Carbs. Most importantly, these are healthy carbs and good for everyone.

6. Detoxification : Coconut water provides the hydration and electrolytes to detoxify our body. By eating processed food toxins build in our body and with lower water levels the detox organs of our body, liver and kidney don’t function properly. So coconut water will help cleanse the toxins and rehydrate the body.

7. Rich in Magnesium : Magnesium helps maintain nerve function and normal heartbeat. Also it helps in the metabolism of Calcium and potassium.

8. Good for Endurance Athletes : Those who train for an hour plus find the recovery of the hard training faster by having coconut water which gives you the necessary electrolytes. Coconut water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells and naturally replenish your body's fluids after exercising. Thats why you see lots of runners and bikers lined up at coconut water stands.

9. Breastfeeding Moms : Since Coconut water is packed with electrolytes it helps nursing moms stay hydrated which helps produce more milk.

10. Good for Diabetics : Since it has a very low glycemic index of 3, its a healthy drink for Diabetics as it does not lead to a spike in blood sugar levels.

9 Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
1. Coconut milk is Lactose and grain free: Coconut milk ticks three boxes for those who follow a free, lactose free and grain free diet.

2. Lowers Blood Pressure : Coconut milk contains the mineral that enables our blood to flow smoothly and hence resulting in lower blood pressure which is always good for you. Your blood vessels will be elastic and reduce plaque build up.

3. Improves Endurance : Coconut milk is a medium chain triglyceride fatty acid which gets absorbed into the body easily as they are not processed through your stomach. Also being a good fat, it provides more energy over a longer period of time resulting in better performance.

4. Weight Loss
: By drinking coconut milk which has good fat or having it in the form of a curry, it will keep you fuller and healthier for a longer time. But remember to control the portion to not go overboard on calories.

5. Rich in Electrolytes : My favourite way to have Coconut Milk is to have a good smoothie. Avocado Coconut Mil Vegan Smoothie that provides all the energy and electrolytes.

6. Healthy Hair and Healthy Skin : Coconut milk is a MCT fatty acids which have antibacterial and antiviral and they help counter wounds, keep the smooth elastic and keep dandruff at bay.

7. Rich In Vitamins : Coconut milk is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E and many other B vitamins. These vitamins are good antioxidants which help fight free radicals and thereby reduce the risk of most major diseases.

8. Rich in Minerals : Coconut milk is rich in Magnesium, Potassium and Phosphorus. Magnesium is good to maintain nerve function and good for formation of bones while potassium provides the electrolytes.

9. Boon for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS : Coconut milk has been researched and suggested healthy for the gut and thus a healthy addition for those suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome).

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