Is Your Coconut Water A Source Of Hidden Sugar?
In a coconut shell… No.
All coconuts contain sugar. How much they contain depends on the type of coconut and its age. Something to note: Even coconuts with higher levels of sugar still only contain around 2.95ml of sugar per 100ml, which is relatively low in the context of a balanced diet. Of course, a bottle of coconut water—which is how any of us not living in a tropical paradise get our coconut water—is generally about 300ml. In one bottle that translates to up to 9g of sugar, which is a little over 2 teaspoons.
But how much of that is fructose?
Well. Not so much. And this is what counts, as we know that only our livers can metabolize fructose, which can become problematic when it comes to your metabolism. A Brazilian study found the sugar content of an average baby coconut to be made up of:
- Glucose 50%
- Sucrose 35%
- Fructose 15%
So fructose makes up a maximum of 32% of the total sugars (remember: sucrose is 50/50 fructose and glucose), and often a lot less (depending on the age of the coconut).
All of which means that when you look at that total sugar value on the label, it’s a little misleading. Unlike Coke or fruit juice, in which half (or more) of the sugar content is fructose, coconut water’s sugar content is mostly glucose (which is fine, metabolically speaking).
So can we drink it?
Yep. Go for it. The amount of fructose is minimal. But do check the label, and think about keeping your intake to about 200ml (a small cup). Oh, and don’t drink the favored ones—the fruit pulp turns it into a fructose fusion!
If you're buying a coconut, go for the younger ones.
The concentration of sugars in the water of a coconut increases in the early months of maturation. This process slowly falls back again at full maturity of the coconut. But, as the coconut ages, there’s less water. So, if you’re buying a whole baby (green) coconut, pick a fresh one between four to six months, if you have the choice.
Sarah Wilson is a journalist, entrepreneur, and the New York Times best-selling author of many books and cookbooks including I Quit Sugar. She is the former editor of Cosmopolitan Australia, and now writes about philosophy, anxiety, minimalism, toxin-free living, and anti-consumerism. Wilson was ranked in Greatist.com’s 100 Most Influential Health Experts in 2015 and as one of the top 200 Most Influential Authors in the world in 2017 and 2018. She lives in Sydney, rides a bike everywhere and is a compulsive hiker, and is eternally curious.