What You Can Learn From Rastas About Coconuts

Coconut waterAs a boy growing up in Liberta, Ital food was popular within the Rastafarian community there, as in other pars of Antigua. While the interpretation of what Ital food is may vary, basically it is food that is pure, natural, and from the earth.

To that end, it is food meant to enhance vital force or livity, ie the life energy that the Creator put within us. One of the key ingredients in Ital food is coconut.

The coconut seed (not actually a nut) is the part of the plant that is consumed. Of course, it has different parts to it, and can be prepared and eaten in different ways. It grows on the coconut palm, which is considered the symbol of the Survivor's Spirit.

Go to many beaches around Antigua & Barbuda, and you will see coconut trees that have survived many a storm or hurricane. Meanwhile, the fruit, the coconut, which is the vital force or Ital force of the plant, can travel for thousands of miles on ocean waves without losing its ability to germinate.

But this plant is not only a survivor; it is one of the most useful there is. The ancient Indians called the coconut palm "kalpa vriksha," Sanskrit for "the tree that provides everything necessary for life." They had good reason to, because this plant provides everything from food to fuel to fibre to textile to craft to ornamental to home.

As part of man's original diet, God gave him every seed-bearing plant for food (Genesis 1:29). If we can compare the seed of a plant to the human embryo, the seed and the embryo contain the potential for every structure that eventually develops in the adult plant and adult human, respectively. Hence, the concept of Ital food is vital to wholesome, dynamic living. We indeed are, in many respects, what we eat.

Looking at the coconut plant, its seed in a real way presents a picture of strength and versatility. It is packed with a wide variety of nutrients combined exquisitely to enhance our Ital force. It is one of the most important energy foods, offering vital support to the health of the musculoskeletal system.

Let me at this time dispel the myth, held by even some nutrition specialist, that coconut increases cholesterol levels. It is a fact that most of the coconut's fatty acids are saturated. However, the fatty acids of the coconut have a special property, in that their molecules contain six to 14 carbon atoms. These are considered to be short and medium chain fatty acids.

In contrast, animal fats have mainly long chain saturated fatty acids of at least 18 carbon atoms. It is now known that while long chain saturated fatty acids contribute to increased cholesterol, the short and medium chain fatty acids, found in coconut, do not contribute to increased cholesterol. Of course this is old knowledge for the Rasta. Ever heard of the Rastafarian Livity Academy ?

Let us now look at what the coconut actually contains and what it does to our bodies. The exact nutrition we derive from the coconut depends on the form in which it is consumed or used, but in every natural form it is beneficial.

The mature white pulp is a superior source of magnesium. It contains 32 mg of magnesium per 100 g of pulp. This makes it a better source of magnesium than any animal-based food, whether it be red meat, fish, milk, chicken, or egg. Magnesium contributes to the strength of bone, muscle, and cartilage.

In addition to magnesium, the coconut is also a great source of calcium and phosphorus, two other minerals essential to the musculoskeletal system. As a result of these minerals in the right proportions, coconut consumption helps to prevent osteoporosis and bone weakness. Cow's milk does not even come close. It also aids in muscle relaxation and hence is useful to treat musculoskeletal pain, especially of the lower back.

Again, due to these same minerals the coconut is excellent for babies who are teething, as it promotes enamel formation. It helps to prevent brittle nails, and enhances hair growth. Ladies, no need to add hair extensions! And with almost 30 percent of the RDA ( Recommended Daily Dietary Allowance) of iron per 100 g, it is more than useful to help prevent anaemia.

These minerals can also be adequately gained from the gelatinous pulp of the green (jelly) coconut, from coconut water to hard nut or "jelly," or from coconut milk squeezed from the mature pulp. In fact, a litre of coconut water contains 300 mg of magnesium, which is the RDA of this mineral for an adult. The coconut water and milk are especially advantageous as they contain no fat.

For pregnant women, the coconut is useful to prevent muscle cramps that often arise due to mineral deficiency. Additionally, the high fibre content (9 grams per 100 g of mature pulp) helps to prevent constipation, thus reducing compression on the organs of the pelvic region. This in turn reduces pelvic and lower back pain.

The same high fibre content is useful in cleansing the intestines. Therefore, it helps to prevent diseases such as colon cancer, intestinal obstruction, and infestations by parasites.

Then there is  the coconut oil. As outlined earlier, it does not contribute to increased cholesterol levels. Hence, it is commonly used for cooking in many South Asian communities. Even when heated, it does not create harmful byproducts.

Coconut oil is also an excellent skin moisturizer and softener, and finds use in many massage oils, lotions, and shampoos. For those who are athletes, it is useful in the treatment of sprains, strains, and the rehab of fractured bones.

Although the focus of this article is health, is is important to note that the use of coconut oil as a fuel in transportation, lighting, and electricity generation is becoming more and more common in countries such as the Philippines, Vanuatu, and Samoa. This is positive for both their economy and environment.

The coconut is also a good source of potassium (356 mg per 100 g). This is a mineral essential to life, and its deficiency is not only dangerous, but deadly. Without it, the heart, kidneys, nerves, muscles, and intestines could not work. Severely low potassium levels constitute a medical emergency; and even mild or moderately low levels have to be treated with urgency.

In addition to magnesium-rich foods, it is believed that potassium rich foods have a positive effect in lowering blood pressure. Therefore, when we consider that the coconut is rich in potassium and magnesium, contains very little sodium salt (about 1 percent daily requirement in 100 g) and does not increase cholesterol levels, it is indeed an excellent food to fight high blood pressure and its negative consequences.

So have a fresh, cold glass of "jelly" water, quench your thirst, flush out your kidney stones, lower your blood pressure, and enhance your Ital force. The coconut may not only help to preserve your health, it may boost our economy.

Now go plant a coconut tree!

Dr Jerry Simon (NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre, 268 462 0631, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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8 Comments In This Article   



#8 Wham » 2011-02-09 10:48

As a little boy they taught me an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Many people all over the world eat apples but yet still have to see their doctors.
However this does not make the concept of the statement wrong. It is a fruit with many great benefits to man.
In the same manner the author talks about the fine qualities of the coconut and its health benefits. The fact that it grows well in Antigua, unlike the apple, should make us invest more in its cultivation.
I can not see it as misleading mentioning potassium and magnesium deficiencies.
Would it have been misleading if he said spinach ( a good source of Calcium) is a food that can fight Calcium deficiency?
The fact is the coconut is a good source of the minerals that the author mentioned.
He never said or implied if you don't eat coconut you are going to suffer from any of these deficiencies.
Now go plant a coconut tree. ( If your in America go plant an apple tree).


some observations

#7 PFKNR » 2011-02-08 02:36

While coconut fat may not contribute to cholesterol formation (I don't know if it does or does not), it has been shown to certainly contribute to overall cholesterol levels, and to the LDL/HDL ratio in an unfavorable manner.


It is important that people understand that there is no such thing as a super food. The article is a bit misleading when it references potassium and magnesium deficiencies. There is a difference between being deficient of a nutrient, and eating a food which is rich in that nutrient. People all over the world do just fine without eating coconuts; you can get these minerals from other sources in healthy abundance.

Coconuts are certainly tasty and of nutritional value, but let's not make them out to be more than they are.

Also keep in mind that the idea of a "vital force" was put to rest nearly 200 years ago, there is no such thing in the realm of science/medicine.


To Antiguan Abroad

#6 Dr.J Simon » 2011-02-06 08:05

The saturated fats in coconuts are special for 2 reasons:
1.They do not contribute to cholesterol formation. This is because of their short and medium length chains.
2. It makes the oil stable. That is, even when the oil is heated as in cooking it does not convert to trans fats.
The presence of trans fats is one of the main reasons why "junk foods" are so dangerous. In several countries in the world there are laws to limit the level of trans fats in Fast Foods.
Cooking with coconut oil is one way to reduce trans fats in foods. Cooking with olive oil is another.

Dr.J Simon

Used In IV Treatment in the Pacific Theatre WW2

#5 Native Son » 2011-02-06 05:06

First, let me salute Dr. Simon for this enlightening article and stellar contributions to the Nation.
Friends, Ouadadlians, Rastas, Hucksters, Higglers, "Pickey Head People", CountryMen and CountryWomen, now that you know, Plant a tree and Please, Please, Please, don't raise the Price. I must have my daily drink in this period of NEST. In the 50's and 60's Government provided young plants to each family who wished to plant a coconut tree, free of cost to be planted during what was then a week for "Home and Families" Festival. They came from the Agricultural Station in GreenCastle where the soil was most conducive to developing the best and tastiest nuts. That was Nation Building. Keep the Faith

Native Son

great food for earth people

#4 man on venus » 2011-02-06 04:42

Here on Venus the coconut is our main food every morn we takepart of 7 seven coconuts young&old the children love love it please earth people we the people on Venus have no diseases we just don't get sick and the reason for that is because we are discipline obedient to our creator god for which all things were made earth people the reason for your problems is ungratefulness we the people of venus pity you sick minded ungrateful earth people who forget your god please be still and know that i am

man on venus

#3 Skyewill » 2011-02-06 04:12

First plan I put in my yard in florida a coconut tree,


#2 Antiguan Abroad » 2011-02-06 03:46

I had been told that coconut consumption contributes to higher (bad) cholesterol levels....this article has motivated me to do some research on this issue for my own benefit. As usual, great job doctor.

Antiguan Abroad

#1 Morris » 2011-02-06 02:11

Brita uses ground coconut shells in its filters to purify water.


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Dr. Jerry Simon

Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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