Coconut Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 12/12/21 •  11 min read
coconut benefits and side effects

HEALTH

Energy: coconuts are good for / help boost metabolism, increase energy

Longevity: coconuts are good for / helps bone health, detoxification, heart health, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, regulate blood sugar

Appearance: coconuts are good for / help reduce belly fat, weight loss

Coconuts are…

ENVIRONMENT

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

Coconuts are…

ANIMALS

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

Coconuts are…

LABORERS

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

Coconuts…

Where do most coconuts come from?

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.

Are coconuts nutritious?

Yes! Coconuts are high in fiber, manganese, potassium and copper.

coconuts are alkaline.

acidic foods and alkaline diet benefits that improve ph levels

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 is broken 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 found in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

coconuts are gluten free.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

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:

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

coconuts are not a common food allergen.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

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:

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

coconuts have a moderate water footprint.

water footprints of food and products

Do coconuts have a high or low water footprint? Coconuts have a relatively moderate water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of coconuts? 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?

We must do what we can to conserve fresh water and a major way to reduce needless water consumption is to change the way we eat. That’s not to say we need to reduce our water intake….quite the opposite. It’s important for our health to drink lots of water and eat foods that hydrate. The kind of water conservation we’re talking about here is behind the scenes.

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

coconuts have a moderate carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Do coconuts have a high or low carbon footprint? Coconuts have a moderate carbon footprint.

What is the carbon footprint of coconuts? 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…

There are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce energy output. According to Oxford Martin School researchers, if the world went vegan, eliminating animal-derived products, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

coconuts are moderately sustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, are coconuts eco friendly? 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.

coconuts are vegan but may involve monkeys for harvesting.

monkeys used in the food industry for coconut harvesting

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, it should be noted that in Thailand and some other countries monkeys are likely used to harvest coconuts.

According to Sentient Media, “more than 200 million land animals are killed for food around the world every day. Including wild-caught and farmed fishes, we get a total closer to 3 billion animals killed daily.”

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

coconuts may have labor issues and human rights concerns.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Are coconuts a product that has known labor 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. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers. 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.

Sources:

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

Adriane Marie

As an educator, author and conscious consumer advocate, I study and organize ethical info for you to quickly see how our purchases impact animals, people and the planet. I hope you find this HEALabel knowledge useful and can apply it to your life for personal and societal improvement and empowerment.