Coconut for Oral Health!
September 16th, 2021
The first time I tried fresh, young, coconut that was picked right off the tree for me, I thought I was in heaven! The soft, sweet almost clear pulp could be spooned out and the coconut water, was so refreshing and hydrating! Before this, I thought all coconut flesh was only the hard white and crunchy flesh you see sold in most grocery shops, which is why I was wonderfully surprised by the nuances in taste and texture this fruit has. I say fruit because it can be classed as a fruit, a nut, or even a seed, so you may call it what you like!
Coconut trees thrive in warm climates like the ones found here in Mexico, and once cracked open the coconut meat -white flesh found inside lining the coconut called the kernel- can be used to create coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut milk, and dried coconut, as well as being able to be eaten fresh!
There are many proven health benefits of coconut. In particular, the healthy fats found in them. MCFAs (Medium Chain Fatty Acids), found in the coconut meat contain antimicrobial properties, that have been shown to be useful in preventing infections in the mouth caused by dental issues such as root canals. Coconut has the ability to kill particular bacteria found in your mouth, which in turn protects your gums and teeth from inflammation, infection and decay.
What happens when we have poor oral health? Your oral cavity which includes your lips, tongue, teeth, gums, roof and floor of the mouth as well as the cheek lining and tonsils, can collect all sorts of bacteria, viruses and even fungi. Not all are bad, and some belong in your oral cavity which can actually assist with improved oral health and make up the normal flora in your mouth, but of course in the correct quantities. When the body is out of balance and for example you eat a diet high in sugar, this will promote acid producing bacteria, which leads to the destruction of tooth enamel (that protect your teeth), which will lead to cavities. In addition to this, the excess bacteria can damage the gums by storing in the spaces around the teeth as plaque. The more plaque collects around the teeth and sits on the gums, the more it can harden and travel down the tooth, causing inflammation, commonly known as gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis can lead to pain, bleeding and increased risk of further cavities to the teeth – as the gums would usually protect them.
Historically, coconut has been used as a medicine to clean and whiten teeth, reduce bad breath, prevent tooth decay, improve gum health AND benefit oral health overall. Research has indicated that the lauric acid and monolaurin (both fatty acids found in coconut), have displayed antimicrobial properties. When oils of the coconut mixes in the mouth, the adhesion of bacteria and plaque on teeth can be reduced. This leads to the reduction of tooth decay, the reduction of bad breath from odor-causing bacteria, and can help to fight gum disease, as it assists in the reduction of build-up of food debris on the teeth, inner cheeks, and tongue.
Selecting the freshest tasting coconut depends on whether you are after soft or hard flesh. The softer flesh is only found in freshly or recently picked coconuts with the green hull still on. Most coconuts you buy have the green husk off and will be brown in color, and you will find the flesh is harder. When choosing the right one, pick it up and give it a little shake (the coconut not you!), if the water slushes inside that is good. Next check the ‘eyes’ of the coconut to make sure they do not have mold or are not too soft. Make sure there are no cracks in the coconut shell. When opening the fruit, save the water as it is highly nutritious and confirm that the flesh is clean and white, just like your teeth can be if you eat them regularly!
COCONUT SMILE BITES
Serves: 20 Small Bites
2 cups shredded (unsweetened) coconut
3 tablespoon extra-virgin Coconut oil
2 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Some coconut for dusting
Place the shredded coconut in the blender, and pulse for a few seconds just until the shredded coconut releases some of oils, you will see them starting to stick together a little.
Transfer the mixture into a bowl and add all the other ingredients. Stir well with a spoon until you get a thick paste.
To firm the mixture, place in the fridge for 20 minutes until the mixture firms and becomes harder. Use a tablespoon to form small balls that are bite-sized pieces and roll with your hands.
Roll the balls in coconut and place on waxed paper, and refrigerate to become ready to eat. You can freeze the bites as a cooling sweet treat on a hot day!