The coconut is the much loved fruit of the coconut tree, found in many tropical regions of the world. The coconut tree is one of the most versatile trees in the world, and its fruit is no exception. Technically, the coconut is a fruit, but in cooking, it is considered as a nut.
Consisting of a hard outer shell which is fibrous, and flesh which lines the inner layer of the shell, the weight of coconut is largely the result of liquid/juice within its cavity, which tastes slightly sweet and somewhat opaque in color; often drunk with just a straw poked into it. The flesh is white, and contains a high amount of saturated fat and fiber.
As for the other nutrients found in coconut, they are relatively sparse. Coconut flesh contain good potassium and some iron which is useful on hot, sunny days (since potassium is lost in the sweat), but beyond that, coconut hasn’t as much vitamins or minerals compared to many other fruits. The nutritional content also varies with age. If grated, the flesh can provide valuable fiber to the diet, but at the same time, the high fat content of coconut is a little worrying, since it is largely saturated. Strangely though, coconut flesh contains no cholesterol.
An average serving of 50g coconut flesh contains about 2g of protein, 18g of fat, 7g of fiber and 170 calories. This calorie content is quite high, and therefore, coconut flesh should only be consumed in moderation.
Coconut water or juice is a very popular drink in many countries, and called by many names in many countries. In the Philippines, coconut water is fermented to make a solid, translucent jelly called nata de coco. The water is most abundant in young fruits, but gets reduced in older fruits. The main value of the juice is a natural isotonic drink, helping to replenish the electrolytes in the blood. The calorie content of coconut water/juice is low, unlike that of the flesh.
The flesh, if grated and mixed with some water, is called coconut milk. It is white in color, and has a rich taste, and much cream. The cream is actually the thick, almost solid layer floating on top of the water in milk that has been refrigerated, or standing for some time. Coconut milk is high in saturated fat since it is just a derivative of the flesh, and therefore has similar nutritional content. But since it is much more concentrated, the calorie and fat content of coconut milk is pretty high. Just a 250ml cup of coconut milk contains about 8g of protein, 63g of fat, and 575 calories.
Since coconuts have such high saturated fat and calorie content, it is advisable to keep their consumption to a minimum. The high saturated fat may be responsible for the higher incidence of heart disease in countries that traditionally consume much coconut, like India (South Asia) for example. But, the juice or water is perfectly alright to drink on a frequent basis, especially after heavy exercise or workouts.