Is Raw Coconut Fattening?

Raw coconut is a tasty tropical treat, but coconut meat nutrition is tricky. It's high in fat, but is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals. Like many other things in our diet, it's a good choice in moderation.

One cup of shredded coconut contains 27 grams of fat. Credit: S847/iStock/GettyImages

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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of shredded coconut contains 27 grams of fat.

Coconut Meat Nutrition

Shredded coconut nutrition facts, according to the USDA for a one cup serving are as follows:

  • Calories: 283
  • Protein: 2.6 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 12 grams
  • Fat: 27 grams; 24 grams saturated fat
  • Sugar: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams

The Food and Drug Administration provides information on the amount of minerals you're supposed to consume daily.

  • Manganese: 60 percent of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Selenium: 15 percent of the DV
  • Copper: 44 percent of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 13 percent of the DV
  • Potassium: 6 percent of the DV
  • Iron: 11 percent of the DV
  • Zinc: 10 percent of the DV

What makes coconut unique is the fact that even though 89 percent of the total fat is saturated, the majority of the fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which metabolize differently than long-chain fatty acids. That is what provides much of the coconut meat benefits.

According to a January 2014 article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (JAND), MCTs don't require protein binding to move through the body. As such, they are a preferred source of energy for the body.

According to a June 2016 study in the Journal of Lipid Research, MCTs enter the cells easily and are not broken down, allowing them to be used as an immediate source of energy. This reduces the chance of them being stored as excess fat.

Read more: Dietary Fat: What It Is and How to Choose Healthy Fats

Coconut Meat Benefits

Coconut meat benefits include:

  • May aid digestive health: Though coconut calories are high, one cup contains 7 grams of fiber, representing more than 20 percent of the recommended daily value. Most of the fiber isn't soluble so it isn't digested. Because of that, it helps food move through your digestive tract and helps to keep the bowels healthy.
  • May boost immunity: The antioxidants and manganese in coconut meat nutrition may strengthen your immune system and reduce inflammation due to the fruit's antiviral and antifungal effects.
  • May improve heart health: Coconut meat is a source of coconut oil, which may help boost the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your body. A small-scale study with 91 participants, published in March 2018 in BMJ Open, showed that those who were given coconut oil every day saw an increase in their good cholesterol compared to those who were given olive oil or butter.

Read more: Side Effects of Eating Too Much Coconut

Coconut and Weight Loss

While eating too much of it could lead to trouble losing weight, a February 2015 study in JAND showed swapping long-chain fatty acids with medium-chain fatty acids could promote weight loss without negative side effects. Though promising, more research is needed to confirm this and to determine the right dose for weight management purposes.

According to a small-scale study with 80 adults published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine in February 2018 showed that adding fresh coconut to your diet helps to reduce blood sugar levels and body weight compared to the ground nut group. Though the ground nut group also saw a reduction in their fasting blood sugar, they didn't see the weight loss and they also experienced an increase in their diastolic blood pressure.

Until more research is done to confirm the direct effect of coconut on weight on a large scale, it's best to keep it in your diet in moderation. Coconut calories still add up, so eating too much can derail your weight loss efforts.

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