Coconuts are a nutrient-dense plant food widely available worldwide and come in many forms, including coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut sugar, and coconut cream. Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm tree (Cocos nucifera) and are considered one of the most naturally widespread fruit trees on the planet.¹ Native to Southeast Asia and the islands between the Indian and Pacific oceans, coconuts are popular for their flavor, culinary uses, and health benefits.¹
This article will explore how coconuts may impact blood sugar levels and the health benefits of including this fruit alternative in your diet.
The glycemic index for coconut is 51, which is considered to be in the low glycemic index range. This rating means that eating coconut will not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels and is a great option for those looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
However, since coconuts come in numerous forms, it is important to note that the above glycemic index is for raw coconut fruit (meat). The glycemic index of coconut milk is 41, which is still in the low glycemic index range. The glycemic index for coconut sugar and coconut flour is 35 and 65, respectively.
The below glycemic index and glycemic load data is for 55 grams of raw coconut meat: ¹ ²
Coconuts are unique from other fruits, mostly containing fats instead of carbohydrates.³ The minerals in coconuts are involved in important processes in the body. Specifically, coconuts are high in manganese, which is essential for bone health and the metabolism of carbs, proteins, and cholesterol.⁴
The nutritional information below is for 100 g (3.5 oz) of raw, unsweetened, dried coconut meat.³
B6 (0.06 mg), C (3.3 mg), Magnesium (32 mg), Phosphorus (113 mg)
Coconut meat could aid individuals in their weight loss journey. Studies have suggested that the MCTs in coconut meat could promote satiety, calorie burning, and fat burning, supporting weight loss.²⁰ ²¹ ²² The fiber content of coconuts can also increase feelings of fullness and curb overeating.²³ ²⁴
A 90-day study with 8 adult participants found that supplementing with 1.3 cups of fresh coconut daily caused significant weight loss, compared with groups that supplemented with peanuts and peanut oil.²⁵
If you are looking for ways to incorporate coconut into your meals, here are some ideas to try out:
Coconuts are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and fat, which can be beneficial for those looking to control their blood sugar levels. One review suggested that coconut oil can help lower blood sugar levels due to its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant content.16
Another study involving participants with metabolic syndrome found that replacing fats with virgin coconut oil improved triglyceride levels and reduced fasting blood sugar levels after four weeks compared to the control group.¹⁷
The high fiber content of coconut meat also helps slow digestion and improves insulin resistance.¹⁸ However, one recent review concluded that adding coconut fat to meals could increase insulin resistance.¹⁹ More research is needed to better understand the long-term effects of coconut on blood sugar regulation.
Coconut allergies are extremely rare; however, they can occur. Symptoms of a coconut allergy include itchiness of the mouth, lips, or throat, swelling, and redness. In severe cases, allergic reactions can cause hives, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis. Please consult a healthcare professional if you suspect an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to coconut.
Contact dermatitis is common if you use skincare products and shampoos containing coconut. This may appear as an itchy, blistering rash. Contact your healthcare provider or dermatologist if you experience this condition.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.
Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.
There is some evidence to suggest that coconut oil may have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, but more research is needed to confirm this. Some studies have shown that consuming coconut oil may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, other studies have found no significant effect on insulin levels. It is important to note that coconut oil is high in saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet.
Yes, coconut is low glycemic due to its high fiber and healthy fat content, which slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.
Yes, people living with diabetes can eat coconut in moderation as it has a low glycemic index and contains healthy fats. However, it is important to consider the overall carbohydrate intake and monitor blood sugar levels. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.