Are coconuts healthy or not? We went on a search and can tell you everything about nutritional values, calories, vitamins, and the origin of the coconut.
The coconut is healthy, isn’t it? It depends a bit, because it contains a lot of fat and therefore has a lot of calories. Nevertheless, the calorie bomb is not the stuff of the devil. Read here why the fruit of the coconut palm is healthy – and whether it’s even a real nut.
Coconut: Healthy fruit with an exotic origin
The coconut is healthy. At least you could think so with this fruit. After all, it is a natural food – what could possibly go wrong?! As with many nuts or stone fruits, the same applies here: It all depends on the amount consumed. Then you can continue to enjoy the coconut.
The coconut is a fruit that has it all. After all, they come in different variants: with a fiber layer, without a fiber layer – and always with a hard shell, although this is only visible in the second case. Depending on whether you prefer to drink the coconut water or are hot for the pulp inside, you can now buy them in different degrees of ripeness in the supermarket. You probably also know coconut milk and coconut oil – these products are also made from coconuts, just in different ways.
The coconut or coconut palm is actually called Cocos nucifera in Latin. The nut is the fruit of the coconut palm – and it is not a real nut at all, but a stone fruit. It has that in common with cashews, mangoes and pistachios.
It grows in the tropics – i.e. south of the 26th parallel. There are deposits worldwide, for example in southern Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, India, etc.), in the South Seas (Melanesia), in South America and in Africa. They are not really found outside of this range, except in the Canary Islands. Trained monkeys are often used for harvesting.
The healthy coconut can be used in many ways. Coconut flakes, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil or the pulp from the inside – the products that can be obtained from a coconut are numerous. They can be used in many recipes. From Asian dishes to sweets to pure enjoyment, there is much more in the bowl than you might think at first glance.
In the beginning, however, there is usually water. Inside the young coconut is the coconut water. This coconut water is very low in fat and has a slightly sweet taste. The riper the nut gets, the less it gets. The pulp is formed inside. It is about half water, the rest is mostly fat, but more on that later.
If the pulp is dried, the water content is reduced to about 5%, and the dried pulp obtained from it is called copra. The popular coconut oil or coconut fat can be produced from this. This in turn can even be used to produce biodiesel. Coconut milk, on the other hand, is made by pureeing the pulp with water. The liquid obtained is then pressed through a cloth, boiled and pressed again. The Cream of Coconut (keyword Pina Colada) known from cocktails, for example, is a mixture of coconut milk and coconut fat.
In addition to food, you can also use coconuts as fuel (e.g. shisha coal) or drinking vessels (e.g. for mate), but things like carpets are also made from the fibers of the shell. The triumph of the coconut is simply unstoppable. In addition to coconut water, coconut milk and coconut oil, it also has some valuable ingredients.
Coconut: nutritional values, calories and vitamins
The coconut nutritional values hold many a surprise. We want to deal here primarily with the raw flesh of the coconut. Data is from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
As you have already learned, the flesh of the fruit consists mainly of water. A total of 47 grams of water are contained in 100 grams of coconut. In addition, however, there is also 33.5 grams of fat – and here we come to the point that distinguishes the coconut from almost all other nuts and stone fruits. Although it contains less fat, this consists almost exclusively of saturated fatty acids – a full 30 grams. The rest is mainly made up of monounsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are not exactly healthy for the body – because they are what make fries, chips and the like so unhealthy.
Ultimately, the large amount of fat also leads to the high calorie value in the coconut. 100 grams of coconut have 354 kcal (1,480 kJ). It also contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, which are made up of 9 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar. There is only a little more than 3 grams of protein in 100 grams of coconuts.
Otherwise, there are also some vitamins and minerals in the coconut. However, the amount of minerals in particular is manageable. At best, potassium is contained to a somewhat larger extent, as you can read from the USDA data table:
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Choline (formerly vitamin B4)
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B9
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
- Vitamin K1
Coconut: Unhealthy due to lauric acid and mineral oil?
Can coconuts also be unhealthy in the diet? Yes they can, but in this respect they are different from many other nuts and stone fruits. They are not as susceptible to mold toxins as the so-called aflatoxins. There are other construction sites for this, but they do not affect the whole coconut as much.
The magazine Ökotest tested several coconut products in 2020 and found MOSH and MOAH in four coconut oil products – i.e. mineral oil components. In the test, this only affected oils in organic quality. These components can find their way into the coconut oil in different ways, for example via exhaust fumes, tire abrasion or lubricating grease in the oil mill. In addition, coconut oil contains a lot of lauric acid, which is why you should only use it in small amounts, otherwise it is very unhealthy. Advertising that describes coconut oil as healthy is even banned in Germany for this reason, as it is misleading.
In coconut milk, on the other hand, there are sometimes emulsifiers. According to studies, the additives used here, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate, are said to impair the intestinal flora, as Ökotest writes. Instead, you can simply buy products without these additives and shake the can thoroughly beforehand. This little extra effort helps you not to absorb these substances in your body.