In this brief article, we will answer the question,” Is a coconut a fruit?” We will also talk about the nutritional composition of coconuts. We will discuss the health benefits of coconuts and also some potential risks of eating coconuts.
Is a coconut a fruit?
Yes, if we look at a coconut botanically it is a type of fruit called a dry drupe. Coconuts have however been a bit confusing to classify as they tick the boxes for many things. They are sweet and most people eat them like fruits, they also have a hard outer shell and require to be cracked just like nuts.
However, despite having the word “nut” in their naming, coconuts are fruits and not nuts. They fall into a subcategory of fruits known as drupes that have an inner flesh and a seed which is covered by a hard shell. Some other types of drupes are pears, peaches, walnuts and almonds.
Seeds In drupes are usually protected by outer layers which are called endocarp, mesocarp and the exocarp. However, nuts don’t usually have these protective layers because they are hard-shelled fruits that don’t open to release seeds.
What is the nutritional composition of coconut?
A 100 grams of raw and unsweetened coconut meat can typically provide the below nutrients:
- Calories: 354
- Fat: 33.5g
- Sodium: 9mg
- Carbohydrates: 15g
- Dietary Fiber: 9 g
- Sugars: 2.8g
- Protein: 3.0 g
- Potassium: 8 percent of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 65 percent of the RDI
- Copper: 48 percent of the RDI
- Selenium: 18 percent of the RDI
- Phosphorous: 9 percent of the RDI
- Iron: 14 percent of the RDI
- Potassium: 8 percent of the RDI
What are the potential health benefits of consuming coconuts?
Good source of potent antioxidants
Coconut meat has phenolic compounds which are powerful antioxidants that assist to protect cells from free radicals by neutralizing them, hence preventing oxidative damage. Some of the key phenolic compounds in coconuts are:
- caffeic acid
- gallic acid
- salicylic acid
- p-coumaric acid
Laboratory studies have found that coconut meat is effective in neutralizing free radicals which increase the risk of chronic diseases. They can also assist in protecting against DNA damage.
Further test tube studies have indicated that antioxidants present in coconut oil can protect cells from damage and death as a result of oxidative stress and chemotherapy.
They may help promote blood sugar control
Coconuts are low in carbohydrates and high in both dietary fiber and fats which are all important for blood sugar control. Coconut oil possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can thus assist in lowering blood sugar levels.
A study which incorporated people with metabolic syndrome deduced that the use of virgin coconut oil was instrumental in improve triglyceride levels and lowering fasting blood sugars.
Coconut meat also has a high fiber content which assists in slowing down digestion and can improve the level of insulin resistance hence regulating blood sugar levels.
It has antibacterial properties
Some studies have found that coconut oil can assist in inhibiting the growth of certain strains of bacteria, however the research is not conclusive.
A test-tube study indicated that virgin coconut oil had the ability to block the growth of the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus which usually causes various skin and soft tissue infections such as furuncles, cellulitis and abscesses (boils)
In another study it was found out that rinsing the mouth with coconut oil after brushing teeth was as effective as using chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is a potent antiseptic and disinfectant which inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans.
One test-tube study also showed that an emulsion that has coconut oil and water was able to inhibit growth of Staphylococcus epidermidis and Escherichia coli, which can result in food infections.
What are the potential risks of eating coconuts?
Coconuts have a very high content of fats and also calories. If you overconsume and depending on your calories needs and intake they can result in unwanted weight gain.
Some studies have also indicated that coconut oil can increase the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL) which is known as the bad cholesterol and that can put you at risk of heart diseases.
You should therefore ensure you only consume oils in moderation and include them as part of a healthy and varied diet.
Some people may also be allergic to coconuts and such people should steer clear of any coconut-derived products.
In this brief article, we have answered the question,” Is a coconut a fruit?” We have also talked about the nutritional composition of coconuts. We have discussed the health benefits of coconuts and also some potential risks of eating coconuts.