Is Coconut A Nut?
So why is coconut a fruit? Get this—the coconut is actually a fleshy, brown, juicy, fibrous drupe, that’s also called a coconut. But for cooking, coconuts are often thought of as vegetables. And although they’re a bit tough to crack open (much like coconut nuts), they’re worth eating.
The coconut isn’t actually a coconut at all. It’s an achen fruit, with the edible end containing mostly water and small amounts of fat. The fruit is oval in shape, with a hard shell covering the inside. That makes it distinct from most other fruits, including oranges and apples, though it is not fruit in the strictest definition of the word.
The coconut has a long history in South America. Indians were the first to eat coconuts. They considered them an important source of protein and used them to heal wounds and treat several other conditions. For centuries, coconuts were traded between various South American cultures. In some areas, coconuts are still used as staples, used to prepare meals and salt. But coconut isn’t the only fruit from the coconut family; the other fruits have their own distinct characteristics that make them interesting.
While we used to think of coconuts as a tropical fruit, we now know that coconuts are a tropical tree native to the Caribbean and south Indian oceans. Since the tree is native to these warm, damp places, coconuts tend to have a low tolerance to dryness and heat. To test the resistance of coconut to climate change, divers from the American College of Nutrition in Jamaica measured the resistance of four coconuts submerged in water for up to 24 hours. They found that all four tested positive for tree allergy. Tree allergy is the likely reason why, when the coconuts were exposed to further temperatures, they sank.
Tree allergy may not be the only reason to avoid consuming coconuts, however. Because the outer skin of the nut is covered in a bitter substance called saponin, this food doesn’t agree with most people’s taste buds. Saponin is the main factor in food allergies, and coconut is one of the highest contributors of saponin. This is why many Americans, when they start having problems with food allergies, they substitute coconuts for nuts. They aren’t able to digest the nut’s bitter contents, so they wind up feeling sick after eating it.
The fact that it s not a nut also means that it is not a good source of protein. Like many nuts, the coconut contains high levels of calories and low levels of protein. As stated above, this is both a good and bad thing. When consumed in moderation, proteins are beneficial to your body and your digestive system, but consuming too much can cause serious problems like kidney stones.
Finally, it is important to note that the meat of the coconut is not edible. The meat is often chewed, but the endocarp is left on the ground to decompose. The small pieces of endocarp contain a rich mix of nutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and minerals. The fiber and potassium in the endocarp are not absorbed in this process, so they are not good dietary sources.
To summarize, while the coconut is an excellent choice for cooking (as long as you aren’t allergic to the coconut oil), the coconut is not a nutritional powerhouse. Also, as a food, it has a very low fiber content and very little protein. As a nut, it is inefficient at providing energy, is difficult to digest, and has very few nutritional benefits. If you’re going to eat coconuts, stick with the extract and leave the meat behind. It’s better for your health!