Cuckoo for Coconuts!

It’s the latest health craze sweeping the nation. Coconut oil, coconut shavings, coconut flour, coconut milk, coconut water…the list goes on and on! Americans have been going cuckoo for all things coconuts.  The internet is full of websites stating that consuming coconut products can improve your memory, boost immune health, is heart healthy and even aid in weight loss. It’s not surprising that most of these websites are also selling coconut based products for you to use on your journey towards a healthier, slimmer new you 

Here are the facts:

  • One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories and 14 grams of fat, of which 12 grams are saturated fat.
  • A 2 inch square of coconut meat has 160 calories and 15 grams of fat (13 grams are saturated).
  • One cup of coconut milk contains 552 calories and 57 grams of fat (51 grams are saturated)
  • One cup of coconut water has 46 calories and less than 0.5 gram of fat

Saturated fat is fat that is solid at room temperature (like butter, shortening, lard, etc). Typically, our diet should include no more than 25% dietary fat per day and of that saturated fat should be no more than 10%. The fat in coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat! Valid research has shown that saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease, blocked vessels, stroke and other heart health issues. I say valid because there are many studies that claim coconut oil actually does the opposite.

These studies point to countries in the South Pacific and India which have been using coconut oil and its products for thousands of years without health issues but what they fail to mention is that these same people also do intense physical labor as part of their daily routine (serious calorie burning going on here) and that the rest of their diet is mostly plant based with very little meat and almost no processed foods consumed. If most of us lived this lifestyle, we wouldn’t have to worry about our health or weight either. But the majority of Americans don’t, so the data isn’t very reliable now is it??

If weight loss is your goal, then a daily dose of coconut is probably not the best idea. Coconut products are very calorie dense so if you enjoy the taste of them in your cooking, use them sparingly…a little bit goes a long way!

The one exception is coconut water which is low in calories and high in potassium. When you sweat, your body loses potassium and coconut water can function as a good recovery drink post exercise. Make sure to look for ones with no added sugars to get the most benefit!

Coconut oil does have one great benefit…it’s a great moisturizer so it is wonderful to use for dry, damaged hair and on your skin. So if you’re trying to lose weight, most coconut products won’t help in getting you to your goal quicker but if you use them to moisturize your hair or body…you will definitely smell yummy (and that’s calorie free).

Vijaya Botla RDN, LD

Vijaya is the lead dietitian and president of Alamo Nutrition Consultants LLC, a private nutrition counseling practice located in San Antonio. If you would like to schedule an appointment to jump start your weight loss goals, ANC can help. For more information, call 210-971-0044 or visit their website at

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