Coconut Nutritional Profile
Energy value (calories per serving): High
Saturated fat: High
Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins, vitamin C
Major mineral contribution: Iron, potassium, phosphorus
About the Nutrients in Coconut
Coconut is high in fiber, but its most plentiful nutrient is fat, the oil
that accounts for 85 percent of the calories in coconut meat. Coconut oil,
which is 89 percent saturated fatty acids, is the most highly saturated
dietary fat. Like other nuts, coconut has B vitamins, plus iron and zinc.
One piece of fresh coconut, 2"x 2", has 4 g dietary fiber, 15 g fat (13.4
g saturated fat), 1.09 mg iron (7.3 percent of the RDA for a woman of
childbearing age), and 0.49 zinc (3.3 percent of the RDA for a man, 4
percent of the RDA for a woman).
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve Coconut
In small servings, as a condiment.
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude Coconut
Low-fiber, low-residue diet
Look for: Coconuts that are heavy for their size. You should be able to
hear the liquid sloshing around inside when you shake a coconut; if you
don't, the coconut has dried out. Avoid nuts with a wet "eye" (the dark
spots at the top of the nut) or with mold anywhere on the shell.
Store whole fresh coconuts in the refrigerator and use them within a week.
Shredded fresh coconut should be refrigerated in a covered container and
used in a day or so while it is still fresh and moist.
Refrigerate dried, shredded coconut in an air- and moisture-proof
container once you have opened the can or bag.
Puncture one of the "eyes" of the coconut with a sharp, pointed tool. Pour
out the liquid. Then crack the coconut by hitting it with a hammer in the
middle, where the shell is widest. Continue around the nut until you have
cracked the shell in a circle around the middle and can separate the two
halves. Pry the meat out of the shell.
To shred coconut meat, break the shell into small pieces, peel off the
hard shell and the brown papery inner covering, then rub the meat against
a regular food grater.
What Happens When You Cook Coconut
Toasting caramelizes sugars on the surface of the coconut meat and turns
it golden. Toasting also reduces the moisture content of the coconut meat,
concentrating the nutrients.
How Other Kinds of Processing Affect Coconut
Drying concentrates all the nutrients in coconut. Unsweetened
dried shredded coconut has about twice as much protein, fat, carbohydrate,
iron, and potassium as an equal amount of fresh coconut. (Sweetened dried
shredded coconut has six times as much sugar.)
Coconut milk and cream. Coconut cream is the liquid wrung out of fresh
coconut meat; coconut milk is the liquid wrung from fresh coconut meat
that has been soaked in water; coconut water is the liquid in the center
of the whole coconut. Coconut milk and cream are high in fat, coconut
water is not. All coconut liquids should be refrigerated if not used
Adverse Effects Associated with Coconut
Increased risk of heart disease. Foods high in saturated fats raise
cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.
Allergic reaction. According to the Merck Manual, nuts are one of the 12
foods most likely to trigger the classic food allergy symptoms: hives,
swelling of the lips and eyes, and upset stomach. The others are berries
(blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), chocolate, corn,
eggs fish, legumes (green peas, lima beans, peanuts, soybeans), milk,
peaches, pork, shellfish, and wheat.