Biohacking Diet (with just $1)
From my book How to Be Cross Eyed: Thriving Despite Your Physical Imperfection — a mémoire and lifehacking manifesto
I once bought coconuts from man on an uncharted island who had a swastika on his wall. I really don’t think he was a national socialist or fascist though.
In between Panama and Colombia there are 300 islands which are strangely omitted on Google Maps — or any of the other map I’ve seen of the southern Caribbean.
You’re welcome to come up with a scintillating conspiracy theory about why they don’t want you to know about these 300 islands but I can assure you that they are there — I’ve visited them in a green speedboat in 2013.
They’re called the San Blas Islands and they are populated by the Kuna, indigenous islanders that are remarkably healthy thanks to their diet of coconuts, cocoa, and fresh caught fish.
Flavanols, the Kuna, Cocoa Consumption, and Nitric Oxide
The Kuna Indians who reside in an archipelago on the Caribbean Coast of Panama have very low blood pressure levels…
We were hosted there and served dinner by one of the caciques — the local chieftains. As we entered his well-appointed hut we were all a bit shocked to see a swastika on the wall — the historical style swastika which is interestingly a symbol of his sun loving people.
After a sumptuous dinner I awoke the next morning with a rummy hangover. I’ve found that coconuts are the second best cure for a hangover (the best is, in my experience, skydiving in frigid winter weather) so my mission for the manana was getting my hands on a coconut.
The captain of the speedboat had explained to us that coconuts were actually one of the valued resources of the locals and one of very few rules of the islands was not to pick coconuts but to purchase them for a dollar from a local. So I began wondering around the little village asking puedo comprar coco?
A little Kuna kid led me back to cacique’s property. The kid just walked into his dwelling gesturing for me to follow, they exchanged a few words and I was granted an audience with the man of hut. I was a bit embarrassed to find that the cacique was still in bed with his rather attractive wife but he seemed happy to see me. I asked about a coconut. He hopped up and led me out of his hut where he proceeded to climb a palm tree and knock down a few coconuts. I happily paid him for the coconuts which vanquished my hangover.
There are over 50,000 books about diet on Amazon.com and more than 18,000 human clinical trials on diet so I don’t blame you for being a bit confused and overwhelmed by the prospect (and cost!) of changing your diet to change your life. If you’re wondering where the heck to start, start with coconuts…
My #1 Lifehack: Coconuts
I’m so serious about coconuts that whenever I learn a new language I start by learning phrases like…
Soy el commandante del cocos (Spanish) — I’m the commander of the coconuts
Я босс кокосов (Russian) — I’m the boss of coconuts
Sunt regele nuci de cocos (Romanian) — I’m the king of coconuts
Coconuts are my number one diet hack because they are economic, simple, social, nutritious, delicious, and fun!
You can replace one of your meals a day with a coconut that is going to cost you about one dollar. I’ve eaten thousands of coconuts over the years while living in Central America, South America, North America and Europe. Interestingly coconuts cost about the same all over the world, you might think the price of coconuts would vary significantly as you got further away from the tropics but even in Eastern Europe, during the winter time I could easily find coconuts for about a dollar. I try to buy my coconuts from the fancy, organic grocery store in town, since I assume they are of higher quality and they still always cost just about a dollar. So now nobody reading this can use the excuse that they can’t afford to eat healthy! Unless you live in someplace like Iceland, you can replace one of your meals a day with a coconut that will cost about a dollar.
Coconuts are simple
Coconuts are super simple easy to prepare and consume. On the top of every coconut are three eyes, at least one is a soft spot that you can poke out, I just use my keys to do this. Drink the coconut water with a straw, drain it into a cup or just skull it — as I often do.
Opening the coconut
Most people use a machete or a big knife to open a coconut, which seems like a great way to lose a finger to me, especially considering the amount of coconuts I eat. I have figured out a much more fun way to open coconuts…
- Put it in a plastic bag and throw it on the ground. You want to ideally throw it on the ground just hard enough to break the coconut shell but not tear the bag. If you chuck it full force at the ground the bag will explode and pieces of coconut and shell will fly all over the place, which you will have to clean up.
- You’ll want to throw it on the ground at several different angles to break or weaken the shell all over.
- Then bring the coconut inside to the kitchen. You’ll need two plates and a spoon to get rid of the rest of the coconut shell and you’ll want to do it by the sink to wash the white pieces of coconut meat.
It’s a meal that takes about 3 minutes to prepare.
Coconuts are social
It’s funny, I find that because it kind of makes a scene throwing the coconut on the ground, a lot of time people ask me what the heck I’m doing, then I explain that I eat coconuts everyday and a lot of times I will offer them a little piece of coconut, and I’ve actually made some friends this way. So it’s certainly a bit more social meal than, say, a sandwich.
Coconuts are nutritious
Coconuts consist of very dense fat; you probably remember from your nutrition education that there is good fat and there is bad fat, coconut meat is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids, which is the good kind. Your body doesn’t store it as fat, your body burns it immediately for energy and it doesn’t raise your cholesterol.
The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: potential…
Br J Nutr. 2015 Jul 14;114(1):1–14. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515001452. Epub 2015 May 22. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t…
From a 2015 paper specifically on dietary coconut:
“[medium-chain fatty acids] are unique in that they are easily absorbed and metabolised by the liver, and can be converted to ketones. Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source in the brain, and may be beneficial to people developing or already with memory impairment, as in Alzheimer’s disease…”
The Abstract of the paper goes on to clarify that coconuts will definitely not make you fat:
“Coconut is classified as a highly nutritious ‘functional food’. It is rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals; however, notably, evidence is mounting to support the concept that coconut may be beneficial in the treatment of obesity…”
I can confirm this, I’ve been eating coconuts almost every day for the past 6 years and during this time while I have stayed somewhat active, walking to work, using a stand desk, going salsa dancing, doing push ups daily, etc. But I haven’t exactly been training for a marathon, I only exercised once or twice a week, sometimes less actually. I had a fairly sedentary lifestyle as a writer and web developer for the better part of a decade. Yet while consuming thousands of calories from my daily coconut my weight has stayed very stable, I’m as lean as I have ever been and I’m 33, I’m older than I look, also thanks in part to the coconuts.
Coconuts really provide a slow burn of energy for about 5–8 hours after you consume them. I’ve traveled around the world eating at plenty of fancy restaurants and as a biohacking blogger I’ve tried a lot of health food and very few things fill me and provide me long term energy like a $1 dollar coconut does. They are so filling that they relieve food cravings and the tempting desire to snack. A lot of times I will get cravings and just want to have some snacks in the evening while I’m reading or whatever. I find that if I’ve eaten a coconut in the past 5–8 hours I’m able to easily resist this.
They are also a way of beating the mid afternoon energy lull, coconuts always give me the energy to power through the afternoon with the same focus, motivation and intensity I had at 9:30AM after I had dosed my smart drugs and drank my Bulletproof-style coffee.
Bulletproof™ Upgraded™ Coffee
Upgraded Coffee Is Unlike Anything You’ve Tried $18.95 Standard-size 3/4 lb. (.35 Kilograms) Bag $75.00 5 lb. Bag When…
Interestingly, a 2010 study found that the fragrance of coconuts was actually stress relieving and improved heart rate variability. From it’s abstract:
“Thus, the results of this pilot test suggest that coconut fragrance may alter cardiovascular activity both at rest and in response to stressors”
Coconut fragrance and cardiovascular response to laboratory stress: results of pilot testing. …
Holist Nurs Pract. 2010 Nov-Dec;24(6):322–32. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0b013e3181fbb89c. Randomized Controlled Trial
How to tell if a coconut is bad
You might think that eating overripe coconuts could make you really sick but I’ve eaten thousands of coconuts, some probably overripe, and I’ve never gotten sick from them.
If a coconut has a very pungent aroma when you poke out the eye and the coconut water is very bitter then it’s gone bad and you should throw it away but if it just has an earthy scent and a slightly bitter taste it’s fine, you can go ahead and consume it.
If you store coconuts at room temperature they will go bad after a few days — which is what you should expect from real, organic food. Store them in a refrigerator and they will last 7–10 days.
Coconuts are delicious
Coconut meat and water is naturally sweet and will satiate your sweet tooth somewhat. However, a lot of people find the taste of coconuts boring, I suggest eating them with some dark chocolate (+80% cocoa), the two tastes really do compliment each other. Dark chocolate is a super food as well and is one of the most antioxidant rich things you can consume.
Coconuts are fun
Finally, it’s actually a lot of fun to throw coconuts on the ground. It’s kind of become a daily ritual for me.
There’s a bunch of gurus out there who debate about the nuances of diet; types of calories, GMOs, mechanism of mitochondria, and what’s actually organic and what’s not. So if you are confused by diet that’s totally understandable but the good news here is that you can significantly improve your diet and simplify your life right now by replacing one meal a day with a coconut that’s going to cost about a dollar.