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What Is Coconut Meat, and Does It Have Benefits?

Health + Wellness
Natdanai Pankong / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Coconut meat is the white flesh inside a coconut.


Coconuts are the large seeds of coconut palms (Cocos nucifera), which grow in tropical climates. Their brown, fibrous husks conceal the meat inside.

As the oil and milk from this fruit have become increasingly popular, many people may wonder how to use coconut meat and whether it offers health benefits.

This article tells you everything you need to know about coconut meat.

Nutrition Facts

Coconut meat is high in fat and calories while moderate in carbs and protein.

The nutrition facts for 1 cup (80 grams) of fresh, shredded coconut meat are (1):

  • Calories: 283
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Carbs: 10 grams
  • Fat: 27 grams
  • Sugar: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Manganese: 60% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Selenium: 15% of the DV
  • Copper: 44% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 13% of the DV
  • Potassium: 6% of the DV
  • Iron: 11% of the DV
  • Zinc: 10% of the DV

Coconut meat is rich in several important minerals, especially manganese and copper. While manganese supports enzyme function and fat metabolism, copper assists bone formation and heart health (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

Fat

Coconut is a unique fruit because of its high fat content. Around 89% of the fat in its meat is saturated (4).

Most of these fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are absorbed intact in your small intestine and used by your body to produce energy (5Trusted Source).

Fiber

Just 1 cup (80 grams) of shredded coconut provides 7 grams of fiber, which is over 20% of the DV (6Trusted Source).

Most of this fiber is insoluble, meaning that it doesn't get digested. Instead, it works to move food through your digestive system and aids bowel health.

Summary

Coconut meat is particularly high in calories, saturated fat, and fiber. It also contains a variety of minerals, including manganese, copper, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.

Health Benefits of Coconut Meat

Coconut meat may benefit your health in a number of ways.

Much of the research on the benefits of this tropical fruit is focused on its fat content.

May Boost Heart Health

Coconut meat contains coconut oil, which may boost HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Improvements in these markers may reduce your risk of heart disease (7Trusted Source).

One 4-week study gave 91 people 1.6 ounces (50 ml) of either extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or unsalted butter daily. Those in the coconut-oil group showed a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol, compared with those given butter or olive oil (8Trusted Source).

An 8-week study in 35 healthy adults showed similar results, finding that 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of coconut oil taken twice daily led to a significant increase in HDL cholesterol, compared with the control group (9Trusted Source).

Another 8-week study noted that people who consumed 7 ounces (200 grams) of porridge made with coconut milk had significant reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases in HDL (good) cholesterol compared with those who ate porridge made with soy milk (10Trusted Source).

May Support Weight Loss

Coconut meat may aid weight loss.

Studies suggest that the MCTs in this fruit may promote feelings of fullness, calorie burning, and fat burning, all of which may support weight loss (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

Additionally, the high fiber content of coconut meat can boost fullness, which may help prevent overeating (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).

A 90-day study in 8 adults found that supplementing a standard diet with 1.3 cups (100 grams) of fresh coconut daily caused significant weight loss, compared with supplementing with the same amount of peanuts or peanut oil (16Trusted Source).

Keep in mind that these studies use very large amounts of coconut and MCT oil, so it's unclear if eating smaller amounts of coconut meat would have the same effects.

May Aid Digestive Health

Coconuts are high in fiber, which helps bulk up your stool and supports bowel regularity, keeping your digestive system healthy (6Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

Since these fruits are likewise high in fat, they can help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Additionally, the MCTs in coconut meat have been shown to strengthen your gut bacteria, which may protect against inflammation and conditions like metabolic syndrome (18Trusted Source).

What's more, coconut oil may reduce the growth of harmful yeasts, such as Candida albicans, which can cause serious infections (19Trusted Source).

Other Benefits

Eating coconut meat may have other benefits, including the following:

  • May benefit your brain. The MCTs in coconut oil provide an alternative fuel source to glucose, which may aid people with impaired memory or brain function, such as those with Alzheimer's disease (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).

Summary

The MCTs and fiber in coconut meat may benefit weight loss, heart health, digestion, brain health, blood sugar levels, and immunity.

Potential Downsides

While coconut meat has multiple benefits, it may also have downsides.

It contains a significant amount of saturated fat, which is highly controversial.

A study in over 115,000 healthy adults found that high saturated fat intake was associated with an increased risk of heart disease (29Trusted Source).

While the effects of saturated fat on heart disease is still debated, studies show that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats may lower heart disease risk (30Trusted Source).

Some scientists argue that although coconuts don't seem to damage heart health, most people don't eat enough to experience any negative effects — especially on a Western diet (31Trusted Source).

Given that this fruit may also have positive effects on your heart, more research is needed on coconut meat and long-term heart health.

Notably, coconut meat is also calorie-dense. Overeating it may lead to unwanted weight gain if you don't restrict calories elsewhere.

Lastly, some people may react severely to coconut. Still, coconut allergies are rare and not always associated with other nut allergies (32Trusted Source).

Summary

Coconuts are high in saturated fat, a controversial fat that may be harmful if consumed in high amounts. What's more, coconut meat packs quite a few calories, and some people may be allergic to it.

How to Use Coconut Meat

Coconut meat can be purchased in many forms, including frozen, shredded, or dried.

In certain places, you can even purchase whole coconuts. You'll need to pierce its soft spots — or eyes — with a hammer and nail, then drain the milk, after which you can break the husk. Remove the meat with a spoon if it's soft or a knife if it's firm.

Some ways to use coconut meat include:

  • shredding it to add to fruit salad, mixed greens, yogurt, or oatmeal
  • blending it into smoothies, dips, and sauces
  • combining it with breadcrumbs to coat meat, fish, poultry, or tofu before baking
  • drying it to add to homemade trail mix
  • stirring fresh chunks of coconut into stir-fries, stews, or cooked grains

Choosing the Healthiest Products

Many dried and prepackaged coconut products are heavily sweetened, which significantly increases the sugar content.

One cup (80 grams) of fresh, unsweetened coconut contains only 5 grams of sugar, whereas 1 cup (93 grams) of sweetened, shredded coconut packs a whopping 34 grams (4, 33).

Thus, unsweetened or raw products are healthiest.

Summary

Both fresh and dried coconut meat can be used in a variety of dishes, such as cooked grains, smoothies, and oatmeal. Look for unsweetened or raw products to minimize your sugar intake.

The Bottom Line

Coconut meat is the white flesh of coconuts and is edible fresh or dried.

Rich in fiber and MCTs, it may offer a number of benefits, including improved heart health, weight loss and digestion. Yet, it's high in calories and saturated fat, so you should eat it in moderation.

Overall, unsweetened coconut meat makes a great addition to a balanced diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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