Is Coconut Good for Your Health?

Coconut is delicious and is often used to add a bit of fun and luxury to dishes –but is it good for you or not? The question is a bit controversial, with strong feelings on both sides. 

Coconut is nutritious

If you were to sit down with a coconut and eat one cup of the flesh, you would get 3 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, along with 13 grams of carbohydrates and 33 grams of fat. You probably won’t eat a cup of coconut at one time, but this macronutrient profile shows that coconut is generally nutritious.

It also contains lots of minerals. Again, you’re not likely to eat coconut in large enough quantities to provide impressive amounts of any one nutrient, but it is a nutritious food.

While coconut is high in saturated fat, the type of fat in coconuts is mostly medium-chain triglycerides. This type of fat is used by the liver more quickly than animal fats, providing quick energy and less fat storage in the body. Some research has shown that it can lower bad cholesterol, but its effect on heart health is uncertain. However, Harvard Health recommends using coconut oil sparingly, since research on its long-term effects is limited. 

Coconut is often sweetened

Like chocolate, coconut may be nutritious in its natural state, but it is often eaten in a highly sweetened variation. One tablespoon of the shredded coconut usually used for baking doesn’t have measurable amounts of fiber or protein, but it has 3 grams of sugar.

This is not a large amount of sugar in the scheme of things, and it can add flavor and character to whole-grain muffins or oatmeal, making it a part of a nutritious dish.

Unsweetened coconut brings flavor and texture to curries, salads, and other savory dishes without the extra sugar. Two tablespoons bring 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.

Coconut milk and coconut flour

Like coconut meat, coconut milk is usually consumed in very small quantities in the typical American meal. You might use coconut milk to finish a soup or flavor a curry. It will add fat and flavor to your dish, but not much nutritional value.

Coconut flour, like coconut milk, is made by processing coconut meat. It contains more protein, fiber, and iron than wheat flour, and contains no gluten and no grains. 

This makes coconut flour a useful alternative to wheat flour for people who are allergic to wheat or trying to avoid gluten. However, it can’t be substituted directly for wheat flour. It looks like flour, but it doesn’t behave the same as flour made from grains. 

Here is a recipe for cookies using coconut flour along with wheat flour. They have a delicate coconut flavor and a crumbly texture, and are slightly more nutritious than they would be without the coconut flour.


Coconut Shortbread

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 large egg

Combine all ingredients and chill 30 minutes. Roll out and cut with cookie cutters. Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Decorate as desired.