The Coconut Craze



Vintage Medicinal Plant Illustration, Franz Eugen KohlerIf there’s one thing I’ve learned about kids, it’s that kids love to learn—especially if what they’re learning is quirky and fun! Try out these fun facts about coconut on your kids:

1. Coconuts are not a nut; they are a fruit, related to peaches and plums because, like those fruits (called “drupes”), they have a single seed at their center.

2. The word coconut comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word coco, which means “grinning face” or “skull.” It was named by 16th century sailors who thought the coconut shell looked like the face of a monkey!

3. When coconuts are still green (unripe), they are called tender-nuts or jelly-nuts.

4. Rumor has it that 150 people worldwide die each year from falling coconuts. (Whether it’s true or not, my advice is don’t fall asleep under a coconut tree.)

5. In ancient times, people who worried that someone wanted to poison them drank out of cups made from coconut shells. They believed that special properties of the shell would protect them from any poison that might have been dropped in their drink.

6. Coconut water comes from the center of green (unripe) coconuts. Coconut milk comes from the center of fully ripe coconuts. Coconut oil comes from copra, the dried flesh or meat of the coconut.

7. Because it is useful in so many ways, the coconut palm is called “the tree which gives all that is necessary for living” in Sanskrit and “the tree of a thousand uses” in the Malay language. In the Philippines, it is called “the tree of life.”

8. Palm trees produce coconuts up to 13 times a year. A fully blossomed tree can produce between 60-180 coconuts in a single harvest.

9. References to coconuts in literature date back to Marco Polo in 1280. They are also mentioned in a 1637 edition of the Arabian tales collected as The One Thousand and One Nights; on his fifth voyage, Sinbad the Sailor collects and sells coconuts to finance one of his voyages.

10. In Thailand and Malaysia, trained pig-tailed macaques (a kind of monkey) are used to harvest coconuts. Thailand has been raising and training pig-tailed macaques to pick coconuts for around 400 years. Training schools for the monkeys still exist in both countries.

Spend some time with your child finding out more about this fascinating fruit on wikipedia. You’ll both have fun!

Coconuts growing on tree.

Healthy Eating Notes: In recent years the coconut has been both vilified and glorified. So which is it? Are coconuts bad for you or good for you?

That question seems to be a tough nut to crack, so to speak; it depends entirely on who’s doing the talking.

Let’s start with coconut oil, which is a saturated fat. The link between dietary saturated fats and heart disease is well established, and the medical community agrees that the consumption of saturated fats should be limited, if not eliminated completely. Most mainstream medical groups strongly discourage the use of coconut oil in cooking. (See Bad for you!

On the other hand, some physicians, many of whom practice alternative rather than traditional medicine, call coconut oil a “miracle liquid” and cite myriad studies indicating that its use both in food preparation and as a dietary supplement can cure or alleviate a wide variety of health conditions and problems. (See Good for you!

My guess is the truth about coconut oil lies somewhere between the two extremes.

Coconut milk appears to be a different matter. Almost every authority seems to agree that the saturated fat in coconut milk is different from other saturated fats. Its particular form converts into a highly beneficial antiviral and antibacterial compound in the body that destroys a wide variety of disease-causing organisms. It is also less likely to be stored by the body as fat than other saturated fats. And it is available in lower fat varieties. (See

So–coconut milk may help protect the body from infections and viruses. Even mainstream doctors acknowledge that in moderation, coconut milk is probably beneficial.

Research also suggests that coconut water, a different product from coconut milk, has the same electrolyte balance found in isotonic drinks, making it useful for rehydrating after intense exercise and as a treatment for acute diarrhea. And, it has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink; a glass of the beverage offers as much potassium as four bananas. Coconut water is also a good source of B vitamins. It does have enough sugar that calories can add up quickly, so, as always, be mindful. (See

My take-away from my research: coconut water and coconut milk are good for us in moderate doses, but the jury is still out on coconut oil. I say let the doctors fight it out while we enjoy our coconut fruit popsicles and have some coconut fun with the kids!

Yours Nutritionally,

Barbara Jean the Story Queen

Healthy Food

Photos used with permission via Creative Commons: Botanical illustration, Franz Eugen Kohler. Coconut tree, Coconut, Hafiz Isadeen.



First, a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’m not even a mom. What I know about healthy food and healthy eating I’ve learned by reading and doing, just like you.

What I am is a children’s book author. A Story Queen! My area of expertise is FUN. In the last dozen years, I’ve written a number of entertaining, award-winning picture books–about monsters, cats, Disney princesses–and veggies, of all things. 

I’m big on imagination. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli encourages kids (the way my dad encouraged my siblings and me) to think of broccoli as crunchy, munchy, fun-to-eat trees. Once Upon a Parsnip is a fairytale rematch between Little Red Riding Hood (a vegetarian) and the Big Bad Wolf (NOT a vegetarian). Scary fun!

On the surface, neither of my veggie books is really about healthy eating–they’re just plain fun. But the fun is subversive: both books introduce and normalize the idea of eating healthy, fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. (Never underestimate the power of fun to get your kids to try something new!)

My goal in these pages is to find and share fun ways to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to children and to normalize healthy foods and healthy eating in their experience. My means is to expose them–through you, their parents and caregivers–to food-friendly books, videos, downloadable and printable posters and coloring pages, hands-on activities and kid-friendly recipes. Anything that equates healthy food and FUN!

I’m here for you–to help you make healthy eating feel as natural to your children as breathing.

Because healthy food and healthy fun make healthy kids. And that’s something all of us can get behind.


Barbara Jean Hicks, a.k.a. “The Story Queen”

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To purchase signed, personalized copies of my picture books, visit the “Books” page on my website.  To contact me about my well regarded young author presentations for schools, or for other enquiries, send an email from the “Contact” page at I look forward to hearing from you!

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