Coconut has provided us with food, beverages, oil, timber, sugar and other valuable products since time immemorial. Recently, a highly nutritious health drink called Neera has been gaining popularity all over the world. Yes, it is another gift from the coconut tree. But unlike toddy, neera is a nutritious health drink with amazing health benefits and no alcohol content. Stay tuned to learn more about the health benefits of Neera and to get some tips on how to use it properly.
What is Neera?
Neera is a sweet oyster white, translucent, and highly nutritious extract collected by slicing the spathes of coconut and palm trees. It is a sugar containing juice and a rich natural source of minerals, vitamins and amino acids.
The extraction of Neera is generally done before sunrise. This is because of it’s high susceptibility to fermentation under ambient temperatures within a few hours of extraction. Tapped neera is filtered for removing foreign particles. Thereafter it is chilled and stored at refrigerated conditions. This is important because, otherwise it turns into toddy with 4% alcohol content by natural fermentation. Several technologies have been developed to process and preserve neera in it’s natural form to retain it’s abundant nutrients store. After processing neera with anti fermenting agents, it is subjected to techniques like pasteurisation in order to remove the microflora present in it. The shelf life of Neera in room temperature is only about 2 months and about 4 to 6 months in refrigerated conditions.
Several products can be made from neera like jaggery, concentrate syrup, sweeteners etc and are gaining popularity in different geographical locations.
Health benefits of Neera
A recent study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore shows that neera can help cure liver diseases. The study proves that neera is particularly useful in treating liver diseases following consumption of alcohol. The magical property of neera to remove “acetaldehyde” (the toxic metabolic product of ethanol causing liver damage) was proven in the study. It has also been shown to boost the activity of a normally functioning liver.
Neera is safe and perhaps the best health drink for persons suffering from diabetes. This is because of it’s low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a measure of how quickly and how high a particular food item raises the blood sugar level by releasing glucose into the blood stream. The use of neera and it’s by products gives the same sweetness without causing spikes in blood sugar level compared to the traditional sweetening agents.
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The amazingly low GI of neera and it’s various by-products are indirectly helpful in preventing many lifestyle diseases like obesity, cardiovascular diseases and even cancers of the breast, colon, pancreas and prostate.
It has been studied for use in medical conditions like asthma, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections.
Neera is rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. The role of potassium in lowering blood pressure has already been discussed here. It can be given as a natural supplement of these minerals in conditions like iron deficiency anaemias and zinc deficiency.
Another advantage of neera is that, it’s a rich source of Vitamin B complex, Vitamin A and Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The anti-oxidant property of these vitamins and the neutral pH makes neera a natural detoxifying health drink.
Apart from the minerals and vitamins, the sweet drink is rich in glutamic acid (amino acid) which is necessary for protein synthesis.
Some Neera Tips
The best neera would be the one which has been processed immediately after it’s extraction. But, it is difficult to get freshly tapped neera as it is available only near coconut or palm farms.
Most people get their hands on neera after the onset of fermentation and naturally they dislike it’s smell and taste due to the alcohol content (similar to toddy).
Neera has to be stored in the refrigerator in order to increase it’s shelf life and retain it’s nutritive value. Don’t forget to keep the left-over neera bottles in your refrigerator.
Here is the link to the neera outlets in Kerala, India.
100 ml of neera provides 75 calories of energy and 250 mg of proteins. Not to mention the additional supply of essential minerals, important vitamins and the medicinal properties. What more can you ask from a natural health drink?
Have you tasted neera? After reading this article, I bet you will like it the next time you drink it!
No wonder coconut is really a nature’s gift to mankind!
Reference and Image Credit: Coconut Development Board
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