Coconuts grow on tall palm trees in tropical climates. The fruit of the coconut palm, coconuts are round nuts that start life green in color and turn brown as they ripen. To eat a coconut, you must break the seed in half. Inside a ripe coconut, you'll find fresh coconut meat and coconut milk. Both the meat and the milk of the coconut seed are rich in a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients.
Coconut meat and coconut milk contain a high level of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important nutrient that promotes the health of your bones, connective tissues, blood vessels and muscles. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, so doctors often recommend taking vitamin C along with an iron supplement to increase the latter's efficacy. Doctors are studying the effectiveness of using vitamin C to prevent cancer, asthma and diabetes. A lack of vitamin C in your diet could cause scurvy, although the illness is very rare in the developed world.
You can add thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, to your diet by eating coconut meat. Thiamin is essential to the proper functioning of your neurological system. Thiamin helps regulate healthy muscle control and allows electrolytes to flow through your muscles. Thiamin also aids in the creation of hydrochloric acid, an acid that is necessary in the digestive process. Your body can only store thiamin for two weeks, so it's important to get ample thiamin in your diet. Low levels of thiamin in your body could lead to damage of your nervous system, muscles, heart and digestive system.
Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin is an essential nutrient found in ripe coconuts. Your body needs riboflavin to assist in healthy cell growth and function. Riboflavin also increases your body's ability to produce energy. Vegetarians tend to have lower levels of riboflavin than meat eaters, making coconut meat a good source of riboflavin if you choose not to eat meat.
Snack on coconut meat and milk to increase the amount of niacin, or vitamin B3, in your body. Niacin is often used to treat high cholesterol levels. Niacin has even been found to have better results at lowering cholesterol levels than some prescription drugs. Doctors often prescribe niacin to heart attack patients to help prevent a second heart attack. Research is ongoing to determine the effectiveness of using niacin to treat diabetes, headaches and Alzheimer's disease.