Neera, the new health drink commercially launched by the Coconut Development Board, Kerala is naturally rich in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron and is a natural source of essential vitamins. Neera can be promoted as a health drink, as an instant energy provider, as a functional food and a neutraceutical. It is good for post operative care due to the high content of electrolytes.
Coconut sap or Neera is obtained by tapping or cutting the spathe of coconut. The main constituent of the coconut sap juice is sugar (14-18 per cent).
The physical and chemical composition of freshly collected coconut blossom “sap” or “nectar” indicates that it is naturally rich in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron and is a natural source of twelve (12) of the essential vitamin B complex and vitamin C and has a neutral pH.
Neera is diabetic friendly due to low Glycemic Load/Glycemic Index according to Aneeta Joy, Food Technologist, CDB Institute of Technology, Vazhakkulam Kochi. Neera is Rich in minerals and vitamins and it contains glutamic acid necessary for protein synthesis. It aids in digestive health. Neera contain vitamins (Vit.A & Vit.C) which have anti oxidant properties thereby preventing damage or death of cells. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly and how high a particular carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels by releasing glucose into the bloodstream. GI is a numerical ranking system (0 to 100) that compares a given food to pure glucose (GI – 100).
Research carried out by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI study in 2007) revealed that coconut sugar has a naturally lower Glycemic index rating (GI) of 35 compared to that of most available commercial sugars such as table sugar’s GI index of 70, Honey’s GI of 55 and Cane Sugar’s GI of 68.
Low glycemic index of coconut sap sugar is mainly due to the presence of Inulin, a natural source of carbohydrate present in more than 36,000 species of plants including coconut, asparagus, wheat, onion, garlic, chicory etc. By helping to maintain lower blood sugar and insulin levels, a low-GI diet may be useful in preventing and treating a variety of health problems.
Potential Value added products
Diverse products can be prepared from coconut sap. It is possible to promote on-farm utilization of selected products, the processing of which does not require the application of complex technologies.
A high level of hygiene and professional management is necessary to meet the food standards of the confectionery and bakery industry. Neera tapping requires adherence to strict procedures right from the collection of the first drop. This is because the sap on extruding comes into contact with air and the process of fermentation is initiated. Neera tapping is done thrice a day and sap is collected twice daily using anti-ferment solution (AFS). Chilled condition is required for the storage of Neera. So, Neera is transported to the processing sites in chillers/iceboxes. On an average a palm yields about 1.5 – 2 litres of neera.
Neera can be hygienically processed to a natural health drink. Quality of raw neera determines the quality of drink processed. So, raw neera of pH above 5 is always preferred for neera drink. Raw Neera is centrifuged, pasteurized and packed in aseptic conditions to produce Neera drink. Neera drink can also be produced in different flavours (Green apple, litchi, green coconut, lemon etc) for consumer acceptance. Neera could become a nutritious drink offering a healthy alternative to aerated beverages and soft drinks available in the market.
Neera can be concentrated to different brix (value of total solids) level at different temperatures to produce primary products like Neera sugar, Neera jaggery, Neera semi solid jaggery, jaggery syrup, Neera honey and Neera concentrate•