Until quite recently the closest I got to a coconut was in a Bounty bar, which I thought was as good as it got, why would you need more? I didn’t even know what one looked like, where they came from let alone how to get into one.My journey of discovery began when I identified a dairy intolerance but also because of my love of Asian food. Whilst in Asia I would gorge on curries and creamy soups with no ill effects (apart from the occasional travellers stomach) and I would also buy a coconut to drink from the street stalls (thankfully they open it for you).Dairy intolerances seem more prevalent today and this has lead to more mainstream information and sharing of ideas, coconut milk and cream feature heavily. Being intolerant to dairy made creamy sauces untouchable until I substituted coconut cream. The more I researched the more alternatives I found until I came to the wonderful realisation that I would not have to go without ice cream again.It turns out the coconut has many uses and all of the different parts can be used. Weather it’s the oil, flesh, water, milk, cream and the husks make great serving bowls that add a fancy twist when serving up rice dishes.The oil can be used for cooking with high heat, greasing baking tins, basting meat, making dressing – just about anything you’d use cooking oil for. The milk and cream of a coconut can be used as alternatives anywhere you’d use dairy milk and cream, but it’s especially great in porridge, curries and making ice cream!Coconut water has recently found fame thanks to celebrity endorsements, it’s a great hydrator and natural, it has more electrolytes than water but none of the unhealthy additives the sports drinks on the market have, you can mix it with cranberry juice or similar if you want a different taste to it.The flesh is nice to eat on its own or with sweet desserts but dried and shredded makes a great alternative to sugar. I put it in my baking, on my cereals and even in sauces, anything that needs a bit of something sweet really.And it doesn’t stop there, coconut is also an excellent addition to your beauty regime, it’s inexpensive, multiuse and natural so totally good for you inside and out. Due to concerns over toxins in our beauty products I now also use coconut oil in the bathroom. It’s a great hair conditioner and skin moisturiser which also naturally contains a low factor sun protection. Coconut oil can also be used to remove makeup and cleanse your face.When I tell people I put coconut oil on my hair and body they look at me like I’ve just told them I smoother myself in butter or something.I also use coconut oil for oil pulling, which is an Ayurvedic cleansing technique, by swishing melted coconut oil around your mouth for 20 minutes then spitting it out you help remove bacteria and toxins from your mouth and lymph system, it leads to whiter teeth, healthy gums, fresh breath and detoxes the body.So rather than spending hundreds of dollars on products that ‘contain coconut’ why not use the real thing, 100% natural, no chemicals added, good for you and good for your wallet. It’s what the ancient tribes have used for thousands of years before the invention of chemical products and in my opinion is a wonder product of its own.And of course it still tastes really great with chocolate too!
In a world where stress, anxiety, mood disorders and depression are on the rise and many medical professionals are keen to turn to pills for the answer maybe it’s time we stopped to consider the natural remedies people have used for centuries to keep sickness away.It may seem too good to be true that something so readily available could make us better. We have become conditioned to turn to pills for assistance and quick fixes, these days if we are ill there’s little time to stop and recover, life continues and we have to keep up but at what cost to our health and long term quality of life.I used to get headaches when I worked all day in an office with no natural light, looking at a computer all day, breathing in air conditioning and sitting down for far too many hours of the day at a desk, although it was tempting to take a pill and carry on working through the busy to do list I found that all I needed was 30 minutes walking outside in the sunlight and fresh air and this resolve my headache naturally.Studies are now confirming the health benefits of natural remedies, and in many cases doctors are now also suggesting regular exercise and being outdoors could be of benefit to patients with mild depression. So before we reach for the medicine cabinet ensure you’ve not overlooked some of the following natural alternatives;1. ExerciseStudies now show that there are more benefits to exercise than we first thought, we know it keeps us healthy and trim and makes us feel good and is now recommended as an antidote for stress and depression but tests on mice show that it also improves memory and focus by contributing to the growth of new nerve cells in the hippocampus region of the brain that can stimulate improved memory and learning. Exercise is also know to help us sleep better and can add to our social health if we exercise with friends or play team sports.The trick is to find exercise you enjoy whether this be taking the kids for a bike ride, walking with friends, yoga, swimming at the beach or maybe you are one of those people who love the gym or classes or need the extra motivation a personal trainer brings, as long as it’s something you enjoy it doesn’t matter what it is as if you enjoy it you’re more likely to do it regularly and it won’t feel like a chore. Making lifestyle adjustments can help too, walking to the shops not taking the car, cycling to work in the mornings, getting a dog and walking it daily whatever the weather, find what works for you and exercise will become so much easier, it should be something you enjoy.2. Fruit & VegetablesIt is so true that we are what we eat, it is also true that we don’t get enough fresh vegetables in our current diets. Not only are they good for our health, they give us clear skin and improve our moods and have some of the vital nutrients we seem to be short of these days.Space and climate don’t always permit it but where you can try and grow your own, not only does this foster the connection between you and your food but it also ensures you know exactly where it’s come from and how it’s been grown, nothing tastes fresher than veg that’s come straight from your garden onto your plate.3. PetsPets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, encourage exercise and studies now show they may even help you live longer. Reports from recent studies suggest that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression and that people with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations. This could be due to the fact that playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.The use of pet therapy is becoming increasingly popular for the sick and elderly, this involves organisations bringing specially trained animals to visit those who are sick, depressed and lonely by bringing a smile to their face, providing companionship and calming anxiety to aid recovery.4. Being outdoorsWe know we don’t get outside as much as we should these days, especially in winter, not only it the fresh air good for us, we need sunlight to keep our vitamin D levels up and being in nature has also been found to lift our mood and better our health. We know how refreshing it feels to take a walk in the bush or sit by a lake and research is now showing it goes much further than that.The connection we get from being in nature utilises all the senses and brings clarity and focus which is why sometimes when you’re struggling for inspiration in the office or to solve a complex problem it helps to take a stroll to clear your mind, many offices are now using walking meetings as a way of improving health, creativity and productivity. Particularly in the technological age when emails and phones so often disrupt our concentration and cause breaks in our creativity.UK charity Mind suggest that time in nature is beneficial for those with depression, it enhances mood, self esteem, reduces anger and confusion and tension, it has also been linked to lower blood pressure, reducing pain and strengthening the immune system.5. CoconutWhether it’s the water, milk, cream or oil the benefits of coconut have been widely reported, great for hydration, an alternative to dairy and a natural sweetener, coconut is great for inside the body and out. Using the oil when frying on high heat or on your body; to condition your hair or moisturise your skin, I also use coconut oil for oil pulling to help eliminate toxins from my body.6. LemonsA great source of vitamin C that can be used to treat the common cold, lemon aids digestion and speeds up metabolism helping with weight loss. Can be used as a salad dressing, to add flavour to food, cleaning agent, beauty product or simply in a glass of water.Take a slice of lemon in warm water to start your day to help detoxify and gently wake up your digestive system. Speaking of water……..7. Drink waterOur bodies are made up of mostly water so it makes sense that keeping hydrated is critical for good health. Often some of the niggles we get like headaches or dry skin can simply be a sign that we’ve not drunk enough water.By drinking enough water our bodies are able to carry out their required functions, our toxins are flushed out, we have more energy, we feel better, our skin is better and it helps your immune system.8. SleepOur bodies heal when we sleep, not only that but after a good nights sleep we feel more refreshed and better able to navigate the day, our mood lifts and things seem to go smoother after a good nights rest, we should never under estimate the importance of a good nights sleep.9. Meditation/ stillnessIn a world that is constantly on and moving at a quickening pace we find it very hard to be still. 10 minutes of calming your mind each day and sitting in stillness is beneficial for your health and your mood.Science is catching up with what ancient wisdom has always known, the benefits of meditation can be used to treat many ills, and science has now proven that meditation physically changes the brain. Studies show that not only does regular meditation calm us, it slows our blood pressure, gives us clarity of mind, improves our memory and has been linked to treatment for many health conditions.