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6 Incredible Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Coconuts

The Coconut Time Capsule

Though coconuts have only just begun to be appreciated by people in America and Europe in the past few years, coconuts have been an integral part of the human experience in many parts of the world for millennia. The proof came when scientists from Washington University in St. Louis analyzed the DNA of more than 1,300 coconuts they found a record of humanity that stretches back thousands of years. Charting the genetic relationship between coconuts the scientists were able to map ancient trade routes all the way up until the colonization of the Americas.  

 

“Swiss Army Knife Of The Plant Kingdom”

The concept of a “superfood” has never been more applicable than it is to the humble coconut. Contained in one easy to carry and weather resistant package is a high-calorie source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and fresh water. Countless explorers and settlers in the South Pacific and elsewhere around the globe have relied on the coconut for more than just food. The husks are used to make rope, the trademark hard shells make great charcoal, and, in case of emergency, coconuts can be used as flotation devices.

 

Nutrient Packed

Iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium; reading through the nutritional facts of a coconut is like reading a periodic table of elements essential to a healthily functioning body. Besides the long list of minerals, beneath a coconut’s shell is an excellent source of B-complex vitamins which are crucial to managing energy production in the body. Recent research suggests the cytokinins found in coconut water could have significant anti-aging effects as well.

 

A Coconut By Any Other Name

Contrary to everything that you thought you knew, coconuts are not actually nuts at all. You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that, of course. Of all the classifications in the plant kingdom, nut seems like it would have been a pretty safe bet. Alas, coconuts are actually classified as drupes. Drupes are a pretty inclusive category of fleshy fruits which have seeds at the center. Other drupes include mangoes, olives, and cherries, which makes for a very interesting botanical family.

 

Coconut As A Building Material

In 2014, a team of researchers in Texas discovered that coconut husks, usually discarded or burned, could be used to replace synthetic polyester fibers in plastics, creating a more environmentally friendly and stronger compound. The researchers estimate that by combining coconut husks with recycled plastics they could cut oil consumption by 2 to 4 million barrels and CO2 emissions by 450,000 tons annually. Beside fighting climate change and cutting oil dependence, the project also provides local coconut farmers, who commonly struggle with limited means, with an additional source of income.  Instead of disposing of the husks, farmers would be able to sell them and, according to estimates, potentially double their annual earnings.

 

At The Crossroads Of Sustainability

In 2016 the estimated worldwide market value for coconut water alone was estimated at $2.2 billion, an almost 300% increase in just five years. This explosion in coconut demand means that there is a growing potential for the exploitation of farmers and their land as well. This means the efforts of consumers and producers to make sure that their coconuts are cultivated in ethical and sustainable ways. As the market for coconut products continues to grow and spread throughout a rapidly changing world, companies with fair and sustainable relationships with farmers and their families will have a tremendous amount of power in the industry.