When it comes to creating a healthy diet, coconuts can offer a lot of help.
In addition to being naturally sweet and delicious, coconuts are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, and they contain medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are closely associated with weight loss.
While eating coconut in moderation is important, adding it to your diet doesn’t have to be a hard nut to crack. Read on as we break down everything you need to know about upping your coconut intake.
What is a Coconut?
In strictly botanical terms, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, with a hard outer shell and soft inner meat.
More informally, coconuts can be considered a fruit, a nut, or a seed, and they’re often used for their delicious and healthy milk, oil, and water, in addition to their satiating insides.
Coconuts grow on palm trees that likely originated in India and Southeast Asia. Thanks to their buoyancy and long history of trade, coconuts are now found in warm climates across the globe, including the Caribbean, parts of Africa, and South America.
Coconuts are consumed by millions of people every day, and they come in a variety of forms and products.
Coconut meat is naturally sweet and full of nutrients. Coconut meat found in grocery stores has usually been separated from the hard outer shell, or exocarp, making it easy to bite into.
Coconut meat can be consumed fresh or dried. However, because it’s more concentrated, dried coconut has nearly twice the calorie count of fresh coconut (it also has more protein, fat, and carbohydrates).
Coconut water is a naturally sweet and hydrating liquid found in the center of young, green coconuts. It’s loaded with nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and it's a great way to hydrate and replenish electrolytes after a workout.
Coconut milk is used in a wide variety of dishes, and is extracted by adding hot water to fresh coconut meat, and then squeezing it to milk the coconut. This yields delicious, creamy milk that’s high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) as well as vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
Coconut oil is packed with MCFAs including capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid. In addition to beneficial use as a cooking oil, coconut oil has a moisturizing effect when applied to the skin and is often used for eczema and other skin conditions.
Are Coconuts Healthy?
While “all things in moderation” applies here too, coconuts are packed full of vitamins and nutrients that can provide a ton of healthy benefits.
Eating coconut is linked with weight loss, digestive health, and better sleep. The MCFAs found in coconuts can even neutralize harmful free radicals that contribute to chronic disease.
Raw or dried, coconuts are a delicious addition to many meals, and using coconut milk or oil as a substitute for milk or butter can add a tasty twist to your favorite recipes.
Check out the following section for five of the most common health benefits associated with coconut consumption.
Top 5 Benefits of Eating Coconut
Rich in Nutrients
Coconuts can be a great source of everything from vitamins and minerals to fiber and protein. They are particularly high in manganese, which is a chemical element commonly associated with bone health and the way our bodies metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and cholesterol. Coconuts also contain potassium and iron, which can help form red blood cells, as well as calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc.
Tons of Antioxidants
Coconuts are rich in antioxidants including phenolic compounds like gallic acid, caffeic acid, salicylic acid, and p-coumaric acid. Coconut milk has high levels of vitamins C and E, which are well-known for their antioxidant properties and ability to strengthen the immune system and prevent inflammation.
Good for Blood Sugar
While the vitamins and nutrients contained in coconuts can provide a healthy addition to anyone’s diet, studies have shown coconut water may lower blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C levels in people who suffer from diabetes.
Great for Your Skin
Many of the nutrients found in coconuts are linked with overall hair and skin health, and coconut oil can provide many benefits for the skin. Research has shown coconut oil to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties as well as excellent moisture for dry skin.
Easy to Enjoy With Your Favorite Meals
One of the best things about coconut is how easy it is to include with your favorite meals. Add fresh pieces of coconut to smoothies and juices or add it to a soup or stir-fry. Use coconut milk for your favorite Thai curry or blend it into a marinade for any type of meat.
You can also add coconut to your favorite dips and spreads or make shredded coconut to use in salads or a decadent dessert—find even more options here!
Are There Any Drawbacks to Eating Coconut?
While coconuts are packed full of healthy benefits, like anything else, eating too much can have negative effects.
Due to higher levels of saturated fat, eating large amounts of coconut can increase cholesterol. However, moderate coconut consumption can actually raise the “good” types of cholesterol, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Some people may have an allergic reaction to coconut, including those with nut allergies. Symptoms may include rashes or difficulty breathing. If any side effects or symptoms are present in someone who recently ingested coconut, you should seek emergency care immediately.
While too much of anything can be bad, coconut is widely considered a healthy food with little drawback when consumed in moderation.
Should I Add More Coconut to Your Diet?
If coconuts are already a regular part of your diet, you may be eating just enough.
Most people following a standard 2,000-calorie diet should consume 78 grams of fat each day, and no more than 20 grams should come from saturated fat.
This means 20% of your Daily Value (DV) for fat could come from one cup (80 grams) of fresh, shredded coconut meat (27 grams of fat), and nearly 25% could come from a single 100-gram serving of coconut milk (21 grams of fat).
However, when consumed in moderate quantities, coconut can provide benefits to your health, from vitamins and nutrients to clearer skin and better sleep. It can also be substituted for foods you might be trying to avoid, including dairy or other cooking oils.
Overall, adding more coconut to your diet can be a health-savvy move for more than a few reasons. Visit Living Hyper Well to find out more about adding healthy foods like coconut to your diet.