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Tree of Life: The Many Health Benefits of Coconut

Medically reviewed by Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Fred Layno · Updated Jul 27, 2022

    Tree of Life: The Many Health Benefits of Coconut

    Coconut is one of the most important crops in the Philippines. It is affectionately called the “tree of life” because of its many uses. The popularity of coconut, especially coconut oil, has grown in recent years. This is largely due to its health benefits. Several people swear by the benefits of coconut and have thus contributed to the trend towards coconut oil.

    Coconut and coconut oil help reduce tummy fat, suppress appetite, boost the immune system, prevent heart disease, and prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from this, the coconut is a popular choice for those on the ketogenic diet or the Paleo diet.

    Coconut, Cocos nucifera L., is a tree that is cultivated for its many uses, especially its nutritional and medicinal value.

    benefits of coconut

    A variety of coconut products include soft coconut water, copra, coconut oil, raw grains, coconut cakes, coconut milk, coconut shells, and products such as wood, coconut leaves, and coconut kernels. In some areas, locals use its wood in traditional construction and house furnishings. 

    Below are some of the health benefits of coconut:

    Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease

    Coconut is classified as a nutritious “functional food.” Some of the benefits of coconut include vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in dietary fiber. Unlike most other dietary fats that contain long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA).

    MCFA is unique in that the liver can easily absorb, metabolize, and convert it to ketones. Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source in the brain. It may also be beneficial to people who have or already have memory problems such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

    Researchers have also found that coconut may be beneficial in treating obesity, dyslipidemia, elevated LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol), insulin resistance, and hypertension. All of these diseases are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even AD. In addition, the phenolic compounds and hormones (cytokinins) present in coconut may help prevent the aggregation of β-amyloid peptides, which can hinder the development of AD. 

    Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

    Medical studies on the benefits of coconut have shown that groups of people who include coconut as part of their diet (India, Philippines, Polynesia, etc.) have less cardiovascular disease.

    Also, the type of coconut they eat is different from what is used in a typical Western diet. These groups do not eat processed coconut oil, but the whole coconut as coconut meat or pressed coconut cream, along with an indigenous diet of foods rich in fiber and low in processed and sugary foods.

    ​​A study of people living in the Pacific Islands found that there were few cardiovascular diseases and the population was healthy and healthy. The study notes that coconut contributes to 30-60% of their daily calorie needs. A 1981 study done by researchers on different populations living in the Polynesian atolls, where coconut oil is also the main source of calories, also reported that the groups had good vascular health.

    Aside from good heart health, other positive health effects of coconuts include weight loss, a healthy immune system, fast energy sources, healthy skin, and thyroid function.

    Protection From Hair Damage

    One of the many benefits of coconut oil products is that they help prevent protein loss during the grooming process. Thus, preventing hair damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. However, more research is needed to confirm this effect. Many of these claims focus on the high lauric acid content (50%) of coconut oil. 

    Coconut oil is an effective moisturizer for the skin and hair. Simply massage directly onto the skin with a small amount. For dry or frizzy hair, apply a small amount to the hair shaft and let it sit for the desired time (minutes to overnight) before rinsing.


    Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (lauric acid), so it has antibacterial, antiprotozoal, and antiviral properties. The body converts lauric acid to monolaurin. Monolaurin has antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties. Monolaurin is a monoglyceride that can destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV/ herpes, measles, pathogens, and Giardia lamblia.

    Learn more healthy eating tips here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD


    Written by Fred Layno · Updated Jul 27, 2022

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