What are coconut benefits and side effects? Are coconuts vegan? Gluten free? Acidic or alkaline? Low fodmap? Good for you? Healthy? Sustainable? Here are coconut pros and cons: all the info on coconuts that every ethical consumer wants to know…
Food is something we consume every day and if you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on coconut benefits and side effects.
You are going to learn all about coconut benefits and side effects. This will include coconut benefits for your health and potential risks, coconut water footprint and coconut carbon footprint, coconut sustainability, if coconuts are vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more.
After learning if coconuts are good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be prepared to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.
This post is all about coconut benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.
Coconut Benefits and Side Effects
Coconuts benefits for health may include:
- boosted metabolism
- increased energy
- bone health
- heart health
- increased HDL (good) cholesterol
- lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol
- reduced risk of heart disease
- regulated blood sugar
- reduced belly fat
- weight loss
Coconut side effects may include:
- allergic reaction for some which includes rash, difficulty breathing, etc.
- saturated fat consumption
- do not over-consume, be sure to eat in moderation as with any food
Additionally, coconuts are…
- Alkaline 7.5 pH level (fresh) once digested
- Gluten Free
- Not a common Food Allergen
- Note: Coconuts are not “nuts” and therefore do not effect those with nut allergies
- Note: Coconut Milk is not dairy “milk” and therefore do not effect those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance
Water footprint: moderate, it takes 2,687 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of coconuts / 322 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of coconuts
Carbon footprint: moderate, 2.1 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of coconuts, a car driving equivalent of 5 miles or 8 kilometers
Destruction: moderate, there is no significant damage to air or water but land, soil and forests may be affected, growing coconuts doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides, and coconuts are harvested by hand, instead of by tractor, however monoculture farming is an issue where coconuts are grown, this means deforestation and farmers replacing native plants and biodiversity to meet the demand for coconuts, can reduce soil quality and ultimately lead farmers to use chemical fertilizers to boost their productivity *be sure to buy organic and sustainably sourced coconut products
Kills: none, coconut production does not require any animals to be killed
Harms: none, coconut production does not require any animals to be used
Indirectly kills or harms: possibly monkeys, in some regions of the world (notably Thailand) monkeys are intentionally bred and trained to harvest coconuts, they may be punished, are always tethered to their handler and are not permitted to eat the coconuts they collect, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat
- May involve monkeys to harvest coconuts
- Harmful to wildlife and ecosystems unless organic
Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible
Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation
Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits
The world’s top coconut producing country is Indonesia, followed by Philippines and India.
The world’s top coconut exporting country is Thailand, followed by Mexico, Spain, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, UK, India and USA.
Check out this post on Food Miles: How Far Does Your Food Travel?
Yes! Coconuts are high in fiber, manganese, potassium and copper.
Are coconuts alkaline or acidic?
Coconuts are alkaline.
What is the pH level of coconuts?
Coconuts have a 7.5 pH level, once digested.
Coconut yogurt is acidic if sugar has been added. Additionally, most processed foods are acidic. Since coconut is alkaline and diary yogurt is acidic, the dairy-free coconut yogurt alternative is likely to be less acidic than yogurt made with cow’s milk.
When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.
Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List
Are coconuts gluten free?
Yes, coconuts are naturally gluten free. Coconuts do not contain gluten.
While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…
Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:
- recurring abdominal pain
- chronic diarrhea
- numbness in hands and feet
- chronic fatigue
- joint pain
- unexplained infertility
- low bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.
Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List
Are coconuts a common food allergen?
No, coconuts are not a common food allergen. Coconuts are drupes, not actual nuts. Some people may experience allergic reactions to coconuts but it is not part of the big 8 food allergen categories.
A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:
- crustacean shellfish
- tree nuts
These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States.
Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.
Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List
Water footprint of coconuts?
Coconuts have a relatively moderate water footprint compared to other foods.
It takes 2,687 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of coconuts / 322 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of coconuts.
Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?
How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?
We need to be aware of something referred to as a “water footprint”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.
Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List
Carbon footprint of coconuts?
Coconuts have a moderate carbon footprint.
It takes 2.1 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of coconuts, a car driving equivalent of 5 miles or 8 kilometers.
Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.
When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…
- farm equipment
- animal feed production
- hothouses (greenhouses)
- food processing
- package waste and more
But that’s not all!
It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:
- shopping locally reduces transportation emissions
- food without packaging reduces waste as well as the carbon footprint
- refrigerated and frozen foods increase carbon emissions
- seasonal foods reduce carbon emissions from hothouses (greenhouses)
- growing plant-based foods at home is the most environmentally sustainable method with zero carbon footprint
Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List
Are coconuts sustainable?
Coconut production is moderately sustainable.
There is no significant damage to air or water but land, soil and forests may be affected. Growing coconuts doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides and coconuts are harvested by hand, instead of by tractor. However, monoculture farming is an issue where coconuts are grown, which means deforestation and farmers who replace native plants and biodiversity to meet the demand for coconuts. This can reduce soil quality and ultimately lead farmers to use chemical fertilizers to boost their productivity. Be sure to buy organic and sustainably sourced coconut products.
A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.
Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.
A 2010 United Nations report said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world the worst impacts of climate change.
Read more about ‘What Makes Food Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’
Are coconuts vegan?
Yes, coconuts are vegan. Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. However, in Thailand and some other countries monkeys are likely used to harvest coconuts.
Animals of factory farming are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. Growth hormones allow all kinds of animals to become fatter faster and live short lives.
Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.
Go vegan for animals!
It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.
Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List
Do coconuts have human rights issues?
At this time, there are no known specific reports of worker mistreatment regarding coconut farming but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Coconuts may or may not have labor issues.
Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized.
Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even be subjected to harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death!
Such mistreatment has been likened to modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation.
Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards.
We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade.
Be sure to read up on this list of ‘Foods You Should Always Buy Fair Trade‘
This post was all about coconut benefits and side effects.
Nuts, coconut meat, raw – FoodData Central
Coconut Development Board
Coconut Brands That Don’t Support Monkey Labor | PETA Asia
Is a coconut a fruit, nut or seed? | Library of Congress