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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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    By Kris Gunnars, BSc

    It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which aren't.

    You generally want to avoid certain foods if you want to lose weight and prevent chronic illnesses.

    In this article, healthy alternatives are mentioned whenever possible.

    Here are 20 foods that are generally unhealthy — although most people can eat them in moderation on special occasions without any permanent damage to their health.

    1. Sugary Drinks

    Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet.

    However, some sources of sugar are worse than others, and sugary drinks are particularly harmful.

    When you drink liquid calories, your brain doesn't appear to register them as food. Thus, you may end up drastically increasing your total calorie intake (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

    When consumed in large amounts, sugar can drive insulin resistance and is strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It's also associated with various serious conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

    Some people believe that sugary drinks are the most fattening aspect of the modern diet — and drinking them in large amounts can drive fat gain and obesity (7Trusted Source, 8, 9Trusted Source).

    Alternatives

    Drink water, soda water, coffee, or tea instead. Adding a slice of lemon to water or soda water can provide a burst of flavor.

    2. Most Pizzas

    Pizza is one of the world's most popular junk foods.

    Most commercial pizzas are made with unhealthy ingredients, including highly refined dough and heavily processed meat. Pizza also tends to be extremely high in calories.

    Alternatives

    Some restaurants offer healthier ingredients. Homemade pizzas can also be very healthy, as long as you choose wholesome ingredients.

    3. White Bread

    Most commercial breads are unhealthy if eaten in large amounts, as they're made from refined wheat, which is low in fiber and essential nutrients and may lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar (10).

    Alternatives

    For people who can tolerate gluten, Ezekiel bread is an excellent choice. Whole-grain bread is also healthier than white bread.

    If you have problems with gluten or carbs, then here are 15 recipes for breads that are both gluten-free and low in carbs.

    4. Most Fruit Juices

    Fruit juice is often assumed to be healthy.

    While juice contains some antioxidants and vitamin C, it also packs high amounts of liquid sugar.

    In fact, fruit juice harbors just as much sugar as sugary drinks like Coke or Pepsi — and sometimes even more (11Trusted Source).

    Alternatives

    Some fruit juices have been shown to have health benefits despite their sugar content, such as pomegranate and blueberry juices.

    However, these should be considered occasional supplements, not an everyday part of your diet.

    5. Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

    Breakfast cereals are processed cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, and corn.

    They're especially popular among children and frequently eaten with milk.

    To make them more palatable, the grains are roasted, shredded, pulped, rolled, or flaked. They're generally high in added sugar.

    The main downside of most breakfast cereals is their high added sugar content. Some are so sweet that they could even be compared to candy.

    Alternatives

    Choose breakfast cereals that are high in fiber and low in added sugar. Even better, make your own oat porridge from scratch.

    6. Fried, Grilled or Broiled Food

    Frying, grilling, and broiling are among the unhealthiest cooking methods.

    Foods cooked in these ways are often highly palatable and calorie-dense. Several types of unhealthy chemical compounds also form when food is cooked under high heat.

    These include acrylamides, acrolein, heterocyclic amines, oxysterols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

    Many chemicals formed during high-heat cooking have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease (18Trusted Source, 19, 20Trusted Source).

    Alternatives

    To improve your health, choose milder and healthier cooking methods, such as boiling, stewing, blanching, and steaming.

    7. Pastries, Cookies and Cakes

    Most pastries, cookies, and cakes are unhealthy if eaten in excess.

    Packaged versions are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and added fats. Shortening, which may be high in unhealthy trans fats, is sometimes added.

    These treats might be tasty, but they have almost no essential nutrients, copious calories, and many preservatives.

    Alternatives

    If you can't stay away from dessert, spring for Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or dark chocolate.

    8. French Fries and Potato Chips

    Whole, white potatoes are very healthy.

    However, the same cannot be said of French fries and potato chips.

    These foods are very high in calories, and it's easy to eat excessive amounts. Several studies link French fries and potato chips to weight gain (21Trusted Source, 22).

    These foods may also contain large amounts of acrylamides, which are carcinogenic substances that form when potatoes are fried, baked, or roasted (23, 24Trusted Source).

    Alternatives

    Potatoes are best consumed boiled, not fried. If you need something crunchy to replace potato chips, try baby carrots or nuts.

    9. Gluten-Free Junk Foods

    About one-third of the U.S. population actively tries to avoid gluten (25).

    Yet, people often replace healthy, gluten-containing foods with processed junk foods that happen to be gluten-free.

    These gluten-free replacement products are often high in sugar and refined grains like corn starch or tapioca starch. These ingredients may trigger rapid spikes in blood sugar and are low in essential nutrients.

    Alternatives

    Choose foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as unprocessed plant and animal foods.

    10. Agave Nectar

    Agave nectar is a sweetener that's often marketed as healthy.

    However, it's highly refined and extremely high in fructose. High amounts of fructose from added sweeteners can be absolutely disastrous for health (26Trusted Source).

    In fact, agave nectar is even higher in fructose than many other sweeteners.

    Whereas table sugar is 50% fructose and high-fructose corn syrup around 55%, agave nectar is 85% fructose (27Trusted Source).

    Alternatives

    Stevia and erythritol are healthy, natural, and calorie-free alternatives.

    11. Low-Fat Yogurt

    Yogurt can be incredibly healthy.

    Nonetheless, most yogurts found in the grocery store are bad for you.

    They're often low in fat but loaded with sugar to compensate for the flavor that fat provides. Put simply, most yogurt has had its healthy, natural fats replaced with an unhealthy ingredient.

    Additionally, many yogurts don't provide probiotic bacteria as generally believed. They're often pasteurized, which kills most of their bacteria.

    Alternatives

    Choose regular, full-fat yogurt that contains live or active cultures (probiotics). If possible, buy varieties from grass-fed cows.

    12. Low-Carb Junk Foods

    Low-carb diets are very popular.

    While you can eat plenty of whole foods on such a diet, you should watch out for processed low-carb replacement products. These include low-carb candy bars and meal replacements.

    These foods are often highly processed and packed with additives.

    Alternatives

    If you're on a low-carb diet, aim for foods that are naturally low in carbs, which include eggs, seafood, and leafy greens.

    13. Ice Cream

    Ice cream may be delicious, but it's loaded with sugar.

    This dairy product is also high in calories and easy to overeat. If you eat it as a dessert, you're usually piling it on top of your normal calorie intake.

    Alternatives

    It's possible to opt for healthier brands or make your own ice cream using fresh fruit and less sugar.

    14. Candy Bars

    Candy bars are incredibly unhealthy.

    They're high in sugar, refined wheat flour, and processed fats while also very low in essential nutrients.

    What's more, these treats will leave you hungry because of the way that your body metabolizes these sugar bombs.

    Alternatives

    Eat fruit or a piece of quality dark chocolate instead.

    15. Processed Meat

    Even though unprocessed meat can be healthy and nutritious, the same is not true for processed meats.

    Studies show that people who eat processed meats have a higher risk of many serious ailments, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (28, 29Trusted Source).

    Most of these studies are observational in nature, meaning that they can't prove that processed meat is to blame. However, the statistical link is strong and consistent between studies.

    Alternatives

    If you want to eat bacon, sausages, or pepperoni, try to buy from local butchers who don't add many unhealthy ingredients.

    16. Processed Cheese

    Cheese is healthy in moderation.

    It's loaded with nutrients, and a single slice packs all the nutrients as a glass of milk.

    Still, processed cheese products are nothing like regular cheese. They're mostly made with filler ingredients that are engineered to have a cheese-like appearance and texture.

    Make sure to read labels to confirm that your cheese contains dairy and few artificial ingredients.

    Alternatives

    Eat real cheese instead. Healthy types include feta, mozzarella, and cottage cheeses. Many vegan cheese alternatives can also be good choices.

    17. Most Fast Food Meals

    Generally speaking, fast-food chains serve junk food.

    Most of their offerings are mass-produced and low in nutrients.

    Despite their low prices, fast foods may contribute to disease risk and harm your general wellness. You should especially watch out for fried items.

    Alternatives

    As a result of mounting pressure, many fast-food chains have started offering healthy options.

    18. High-Calorie Coffee Drinks

    Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and offers many benefits.

    Notably, coffee drinkers have a lower risk of serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's (30Trusted Source, 31).

    At the same time, the creamers, syrups, additives, and sugars that are frequently added to coffee are highly unhealthy.

    These products are just as harmful as any other sugar-sweetened beverage.

    Alternatives

    Drink plain coffee instead. You can add small amounts of heavy cream or full-fat milk if you desire.

    19. Anything With Added Sugar or Refined Grains

    It's important to avoid — or at least limit — foods that contain added sugar, refined grains, and artificial trans fats.

    These are some of the unhealthiest but most common ingredients in the modern diet. Thus, the importance of reading labels cannot be overstated.

    This even applies to so-called health foods.

    Alternatives

    Aim for nutrient-dense, whole foods, such as fresh fruits and whole grains.

    20. Most Highly Processed Foods

    The simplest way to eat healthy and lose weight is to avoid processed foods as much as possible.

    Processed goods are often packaged and loaded with excess salt or sugar.

    Alternatives

    When you're shopping, make sure to read food labels. Try to load up your cart with plenty of veggies and other whole foods.

    The Bottom Line

    Though the Western diet packs plenty of junk food, you can maintain a healthy diet if you steer clear of the processed, high-sugar items mentioned above.

    If you focus on whole foods, you'll be well on your way to feeling better and reclaiming your health.

    Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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