Coconut Nutrition Facts

Calories in Coconut and Its Health Benefits

Fresh fruit on raw wood shot with shallow depth of field in daylight
Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

Coconuts are found in tropical regions where they're harvested for the white 'meat' and coconut water inside the nut. They're high in saturated fat but they're also a good source of minerals and fiber.

You'll find brown coconuts in most grocery stores these days, but it's a lot of work to use one so more than likely you'll either buy dry shredded coconut, coconut milk, or coconut water. There's a growing trend for including coconut oil in a healthy diet with the idea that it will be good for your health, but so far, there isn't enough research to show that's the case.

Coconut Nutrition Facts

Sweetened Dried Coconut Meat Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 ounce
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 130 
Calories from Fat 72 
Total Fat 8g 
Saturated Fat 7g34%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 81mg4%
Carbohydrates 15g11%
Dietary Fiber 3g11%
Sugars 10g 
Protein 1g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0% · Iron 2%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Coconut meat is high in fiber and minerals, especially potassium. One ounce of shredded sweetened coconut meat (or about 1/3 of a cup) has 130 calories, 1 gram protein, 8 grams fat, and over 3 grams fiber. It also has 3 milligrams calcium, 14 milligrams magnesium, 103 milligrams potassium, and 81 milligrams sodium.

One-half cup of coconut milk has 276 calories, 3 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar and 29 grams fat, including 25 grams saturated fat. It also has 316 milligrams potassium, 18 milligrams sodium, 44 milligrams magnesium, and 2 milligrams iron.

One cup of coconut water has 46 calories, just under 2 grams protein, less than half of a gram of fat, 9 grams carbohydrates and about 2 1/2 grams fiber. It also has 58 milligrams calcium, 60 milligrams magnesium, 600 milligrams potassium and 252 grams sodium.

One tablespoon of coconut oil has 117 calories and contains about half your daily limit of saturated fats and a small amount of linoleic acid and monounsaturated fat.

Health Benefits of Coconut

Coconuts and coconut oil are high in saturated fat, but it's not quite the same as saturated fat found in beef and other animal products. However, like animal saturated fats, coconut fats will raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). While it's fine to use coconut in your cooking, it doesn't appear that it will improve your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Coconut meat is high in fiber so it's good for your digestive system and can help keep you feeling full longer between meals. It's also a great source of potassium, which may be important for keeping sodium levels and blood pressure in check.

Common Questions About Coconut

Is a coconut a fruit, a vegetable, or a nut?

According to the Library of Congress, a coconut is a one-seeded drupe. A drupe is a fruit that has a hard covering on the seed, like a peach or cherry. Walnuts, almonds, and pecans are also drupes but we call them nuts, so you can call coconuts either a fruit or a nut.

Will eating coconut help me lose weight?

There are studies on coconut oil and lab animals, but not much evidence that consuming coconut in any form will enhance a dieter's weight loss. It still comes down to calories you take in versus the calories your body uses every day.

Is coconut water good for me?

Coconut water is low in fat and lower in calories than coconut milk. It's also high in potassium so it's good for hydration, but there's no reason to believe it's any better than drinking plenty of water throughout the day and eating your fruits and vegetables.

Picking and Storing Coconut

You'll find coconuts in the produce section. They should be dark brown, and very hard.

To eat your coconut, start by taking a metal skewer. Pierce the coconut in one end and drain the liquid. You can taste the liquid—if it's sweet and not rancid, then your coconut is nice and fresh.

Next, use a hammer to smack the coconut to break the shell.

Stab the flesh with a pointy knife and wiggle it around until the flesh comes away from the shell. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the coconut. Refrigerate the coconut meat for up to a week or freeze it for up to three months.

If you're looking for coconut milk, you'll find it in the natural foods sections and maybe in the canned goods or bottled beverages areas. Coconut milk doesn't last long, so double check the use by date and refrigerate any leftover coconut milk after you've opened the container. Use it up within a few days.

It's harder to find fresh coconuts, which is when they still have their green husk intact, but you might find them at farmers' markets in tropical places. These coconuts are used for coconut water.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Coconut

Mix coconut water with pineapple juice and add a little fresh mint. If you have a high-speed blender you can blend it all with some ice cubes for a fun tropical slush. Add coconut milk, pineapple, ice, and honey to a high-speed blender for a tropical smoothie. Turn it into an adult beverage by adding a shot of rum.

Use toasted coconut flakes as a topping for desserts and side dishes or add dried coconut to a trail mix or granola recipe or incorporate it into your baked goods.

It's easy to toast coconut. Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread coconut flakes thinly on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for about five or ten minutes until they're golden brown. Keep an eye on them because they toast quickly. It also helps to stir them once or twice so they brown evenly.

Coconut Recipes

Try these delicious and easy recipes that feature coconut.

Sources:

Eyres L, Eyres MF, Chisholm A, Brown RC. "Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans." Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):267-80. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw002. Epub 2016 Mar 5.

Kormos W. "On call. The coconut craze. I have seen many products promoting the health benefits of coconut oil or coconut water. Is there any proof of those benefits?" Harv Mens Health Watch. 2014 Jun;18(11):2.

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. " National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28."

United States Department of Agriculture Supertracker. "My Recipe."

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