Do We Need To Worry About Our Coconut Water Having Saturated Fat?

We know coconut oil is loaded with it, but what about the stuff we drink?
A look inside a mature coconut.
5PH via Getty Images
A look inside a mature coconut.

Last week, the American Heart Association released a report that warned of coconut oil’s high saturated fat content. The report riled many people up about the actual link between saturated fat and heart disease, while others were left wondering: what does this mean for coconut water and its health claims? We’re going to clear it all up, right here, right now.

There’s a lot going on inside a simple coconut. Not only does a coconut provide coconut water, but it also gives us coconut oil (among other things). Even though both of these popular products are produced from the same fruit (which is technically a one-seeded drupe, according to botanists), their nutritional content is vastly different.

What is coconut water?

Coconut water is the liquid found inside of the coconut. Young coconuts (about seven months old) are full of coconut water. In parts of the world where coconuts grow, it is not uncommon to see people drinking the water of a young coconut straight from the fruit with a straw.

For the past few years, coconut water has been touted as an all-natural answer to sports drinks. That’s why it is being sold commercially on such a large scale. Its reputation might be inflated, but overall it is generally accepted as a healthy choice. An eight-ounce serving of plain Zico coconut water has zero fat in it (that means zero saturated fat, too), just 40 calories, 9 grams of sugar and 13 percent of your daily recommended intake of potassium.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is made from the meat of a mature coconut. A young coconut, like the one full of coconut water we mentioned above, has hardly any meat in it. But as the coconut continues to mature, it uses the water to make its meat. This happens over a period of about five months. Coconut meat has a lot of fat in it ― one cup boasts over 28 grams ― which is why we can turn it into oil.

Because coconut oil is made from the high-fat coconut meat, it is also high in fat ― and not just any fat, but saturated fat. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains almost 12 grams of saturated fat. That’s why coconut oil’s relationship with the public is a tumultuous one, with regard to health. At times it has been feared for its high saturated-fat content, other times it’s been loved for its medium-chain fatty acids.

So, how can the oil and water have such different fat contents?

The answer is simply that they are derived from different parts of the coconut. Even though they are both housed underneath the same husk of the fruit, they aren’t the same thing at all. So treat your coconut water and coconut oil differently, just like you would your bunch of grapes and a glass of wine.

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