The exotic coconut: The ‘super nut’ (Part 3)

Updated 07 April 2015

The exotic coconut: The ‘super nut’ (Part 3)

Last week in Part 2, I went into details, explaining the multiple benefits of the nutrient-dense coconut water, even though I still feel I did not give it the credit it deserves. However, I shall deviate a little from my subject, the coconut, because I would like to add one important factor that is many times neglected by allopathic medicine in children and the elderly after dehydration and hospitalization.
Mainstream medicine overlook the fact that patients (young or old), who spend days, weeks, and sometimes months hospitalized or convalescing due to surgery, acute infections, chemotherapy, or chronic diseases, become drained from vitally important nutrients, healthy intestinal bacteria (microflora), enzymes, and antioxidants, which defend the body against viruses, bacteria, infections, disorders, and cancer. Depletion is often the aftermath of severe illnesses, strong antibiotics, powerful drugs, oxidative stress, and poor nourishment due to extended intravenous feeding, which is usually limited to saline and glucose solutions and maybe a few important minerals.
To prevent deficiencies, young and older patients should be prescribed multi-vitamin and-mineral supplements, probiotics, enzymes and antioxidants to re-invigorate their health and bolster their immune systems to avoid relapses and succumbing to other bacterial and viral infections, weakness, depression, and malnourishment or face antibiotic resistance. Nutrient deficiencies could result in weak bones and obstructed growth in adolescents and incapacitation in older adults. Unfortunately, certain medical doctors do not even believe in the supplements mentioned above.
Children, who experience dehydration and deficiencies and don’t get enough nutrients after leaving the hospital, could suffer from mal-development in their bone structure (weak thin bones), mental conditions (depression…), poor vision, and more, especially during their critical growth periods. Mainstream medicine does not pay much attention to this aspect of health.
Parents and caregivers should become more aware about the nourishment of debilitated and immune deficient patients. This also applies to seniors, particularly after taking antibiotics and longterm strong drugs, which deplete their intestinal microflora (internal “beneficial” bacteria), nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants. Deficiencies should be corrected immediately with supplements, probiotics, vegetable juices, healthy oils like fish, olive, and coconut oils and nutrient rich foods (chicken, meat with bone, and vegetable broths). The treating physician should address this aspect urgently to boost their immune systems; otherwise patients could become exposed to weakness, infections, viruses, depression, and other disorders.
This is only an after-thought and I felt I had to share this aspect of malnutrition with you. Now, I shall return to my subject of coconut, which I call the “super nut.” Today, I shall tackle the “cure-all” coconut oil.
For several decades, medical science put a cross on coconut oil and added it to the group of “forbidden” fats for being another saturated fat similar to animal and dairy fat. People naturally avoided, fearing cardiovascular plaque, heart disease, and strokes.
Though I never fancied the strong odor or taste of the oil (because it was not sold very fresh), I rejected the notion that coconut oil was bad for health. The incorrect wisdom of its being harmful to heart health did not appeal to the rational part of my brain. For millenniums, billions of people from Southeast Asia to the Far East to the Pacific Islands depended and thrived on the plant and its oil in cooking, caring for their hair and skin, treating infections and disorders, massaging their bodies, moisturizing their skin and lips, healing wounds and scars, and more. This tree deserves to be called “the tree of life” by the natives; so very dependent they are on it in their livelihood. It is also the “gift of nature” to them as the date is to the desert dweller. That is why after doing my research on the nut, I decided to walk you through the myriads of benefits of this multi-healing oil.
Recently, more and more studies have not shown only the health benefits of coconut oil, but also its curative properties as well as its reversing effect on different disorders. Earlier, I discussed the many traditional uses of the coconut by the natives of the wide kingdom of the coconut trees and let me tell you that these people come not only in millions but also in billions. Cardiovascular disorders and heart disease were neither typical of that region nor prevalent. Like us in this country, the Pacific islanders were never more obese or diseased than after changing their diets to the modern fast food diet.
The coconut and all its parts are used in food, beauty care products and as medicine, but the oil stands out. It is a wonder, provided it is freshly extracted from organic coconuts. Now, I shall start with its skin benefits.
Coconut oil is very moisturizing to the skin, when applied on wet or moist skin after showering. The age-old oil has been a favorite in the care of skin. Even the modern beauty care industry includes it in most of their products. It is used on the skin to nourish, moisturize, smooth, and prevent it from bacterial infections. Due to its light and soothing texture, it makes a good body and face lotion. Its fluidity makes it ideal for removing eye and skin make-up economically. It is the perfect skin hydrant. It also balances the skin and gives it a glow along with a sweet smell, especially when the oil is very fresh.
Because of its anti-aging properties, coconut oil can be mixed with the daily moisturizer and night cream to smooth and nourish the skin simultaneously while acting as a filler to the fine aging lines around the eyes (crow’s feet), around the lips, and on the forehead by plumping the skin.
Due the oil’s richness in nutrients, it prevents stretch marks around the belly, breasts, thighs, hips, and arms during pregnancies. It is more nourishing to the skin than commercial creams and safer and cheaper.
Because of the antibacterial agents in coconut oil, it has the ability to deodorize the skin, under the arms, and feet (athlete’s foot) by killing bacteria and yeast, thus neutralizing all kinds of body odors, without leaving harmful side effects like deodorants, antiperspirants, and antifungal creams. Antiperspirants clog the pores under the arms, affecting the glands.
Coconut oil can also be used as a light sunscreen (SPF4) alone or mixed with a good sun-blocking lotion. At the same time, it can be applied as a safe sun-tanning lotion.
The healthy fatty acids in the oil have potent antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial actions to protect and heal superficial skin abrasions and skin and fungal infections, including toe and nail fungal infections. To treat athlete’s foot, rub the oil twice a day deeply into the skin and nails and in between the toes and then wear thick socks. It also deodorizes the feet as well. You should change the infected shoes after the treatment.
Due to its soothing effect, smooth texture, and aromatic scent, coconut makes an ideal relaxing foot and body massage oil after a stressful day. Its smoothness makes the hands easily glide on the surface of the skin, thus penetrating it for further benefits and extra softness.
Next week, I shall continue with coconut oil’s other surprising and curative benefits. Never underestimate what nature has provided for us. Think before you rush to your medicine cabinet or the pharmacy.
• Coconut Water Nutrition Facts
• D O Ogbolu, A A Oni, O A Daini, A P Oloko. In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria. J Med Food. 2007 Jun;20(2):384-7. PMID: 17651080
Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
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Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

Updated 21 April 2018

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.

She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. 

“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.

A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions. 

“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”

She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. 

“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said. 

“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”

She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells. 

“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss. 

“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”

She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.

The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health. 

“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”

However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors. 

She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss

“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.

In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects. 

“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.

“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”


Natural sources

With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables. 

“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly. 

“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.

Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.

“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.


Vitamin Terms

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid.  Phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.