​The humble coconut, once only seen in drinks stalls at hawker centres or used in your local favourites like nasi lemak and bubur cha cha, has seen a surge in popularity lately. From hip and innovative coconut infused drinks, to the deluge of coconut oil products, this tropical produce has slowly seen mass market appeal and success.

But are the many health benefits surrounding a coconut actually true? Let our dietitians from Dietetic & Food Services at Changi General Hospital (CGH), a member of the SingHealth group, lay down the facts for you!

Coconut water vs coconut milk vs coconut oil vs coconut flesh

Coconut water / juice

Coconut water is touted as a great tool to rehydrate after exercise or a bout of diarrhoea as electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and manganese are present. However, plain water works just as well for hydration under most circumstances. Do note that coconut water contains at least 50kcal and up to 10g of sugar per 250ml (1 cup).

Coconut milk

Not to be confused with coconut water, coconut milk does not occur naturally, but instead refers to the reconstitution of coconut flesh and water.

Coconut milk is a source of several vitamins and minerals essential to our body. One cup (250ml) of coconut milk contains 600 calories and one cup of coconut cream (canned) contains 1500 calories, most of which come from fat. Coconut milk is rich in saturated fat, which has been shown to raise harmful Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. High LDL cholesterol levels increases one’s risk of heart diseases and stroke.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil should be taken in limited quantities due to high saturated fat content. Coconut oil has also seen a boom in topical use as a product for the hair and skin due to its postulated moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties. While hairstylists and beauty specialists swear by coconut oil products, these benefits have yet to be substantiated by medical studies.

Many health claims for coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are posited to aid in weight loss, because they are more efficiently turned into energy. However, studies have yet to be conclusive, and any excess MCT will still be stored as fat in the body. It should also be qualified that commercial coconut oil contains mostly lauric acid, which is not an MCT.

Coconut flesh

The fleshy interior of the coconut provides 175kcal per coconut (50g of flesh). It contains 4g fibre, which may be useful for digestion and satiety. Similar to coconut oil and milk, the flesh also contains high levels of saturated fat.

The coconut contains many vitamins and minerals, and if you are a fan, please enjoy your use of coconut! The keyword is: Moderation! Don’t go (coco)nuts!

Ref: L20

Check out other articles on food tips:

Kai-lan: Tasty, Easy, Healthy!

Health Benefits of Spinach

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Dried Fruits: Nutritional Benefits

Tea, Is It Healthier Than Coffee?

5 Super Foods for Beautiful Skin

Easy Tips to Eat Healthy

Best Foods for Period Cramps

10 Must-Eat Foods for the Growing Child

Food Tips for Seniors