Friday, April 04, 2008

Young and Mature Coconut Comparison

Young or mature, coconuts are one of the most nutritious fruits (specifically, drupes) you can eat. Although you won't find many in the United States, the coconut remains a staple crop in many tropical islands and nations, including the Philippines and most of southeast Asia, as it has for centuries.

Young and Mature Coconuts Compared

Before I came to the Philippines, I always thought of the coconut as the hard, brown, hairy variety. This is also what most Americans are familiar with as it is what they see in the grocery store, if their grocery store carries any coconuts at all. However, I remained oblivious of the young variety with the green shell and white "husk"/fiber that is actually tastier and sweeter than the older version. I first saw such young coconuts in the market as it is what coconut (buko) juice vendors in the Philippines use to make their popular cold concoctions.

The nutrients and physical characteristics change as a coconut matures. Young coconuts have more ‘water’ and soft, gel-like meat, and mature coconuts have firm meat and less ‘water.’ The nutrient values per 100-gram (edible) portion vary significantly as you can see in the chart below.

Nutrient Content of Young and Mature Coconut

Energy (kcal)
Moisture (g)
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Sugars (g)
Dietary fiber (g)
Potassium (mg)
Iron (mg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Water Immature Water Mature
16 22
97.0 92
NA 0.3
NA 0.2
4.1 5
0 0
NA 310
NA 1.1
NA 2
Flesh Immature Flesh Mature
77 389
84 50
1.4 3.5
3.6 39
10 4
0.7 7.5
257 360
1 1.1
6 2
Source: Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Coconut Milk, Juice and Oil

Most people think that coconut milk is the liquid inside the coconut, but this is not the case. The liquid inside the coconut is known as coconut water or juice, and coconut cream is made from pressing mature coconut meat. Coconut milk is made from the expressed juice of grated mature coconut meat and water.

Coconut oil, on the other hand, is the fatty oil that comes from the coconut meat. It’s important to note that coconut oils on the market vary dramatically in terms of quality. Low-quality coconut oils, which should be avoided, are processed by chemical extraction, using solvent extracts, which produces higher yields and is quicker and less expensive. However, the oils contain chemical residues and many are also hydrogenated, bleached and deodorized.

High-quality coconut oil is a completely different product and is truly the healthiest oil you can consume. It is a much safer alternative to other popular oils such as canola oil, where most of its omega-3s are transformed into trans-fats during the deodorization process, which increases the dangers of chronic diseases.

Virgin coconut oil, which is derived from fresh coconuts (rather than dried, as in copra), is the ideal oil for use. Getting virgin coconut oil that is organic, including no GMO ingredients, bleaching, deodorizing, refining or hydrogenation, would be the best.

Young vs. Mature Coconuts

Based on the chart, although it would appear that mature coconuts are more nutrient dense, you cannot really count the nutrients from its flesh as people typically cannot handle to drink coconut cream straight or eat very much ground coconut flesh as it is very rich; thus, you can get just about the same amount of nutritional benefit from mature coconuts as you can from young coconuts if you consume both the liquid and its meat. Moreover, you can actually get more energy consuming young coconut liquid and meat than you can from consuming mature coconut liquid, and not only that, but young coconuts taste much better (in my opinion). However, the mature coconut usually has an edge in fatty acid content (medium chain triglycerides like lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, caprylic acid, etc.), which are known for being antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal, and boosts the immune system.

Health Benefits

Apart from the obvious nutritional benefits, fresh coconut juice is one of the highest sources of electrolytes known to man, and can be used to prevent dehydration, for instance in cases of diarrhea or strenuous exercise, instead of a sports drink. Some remote areas of the world even use coconut juice intravenously, short-term, to help hydrate critically ill patients and in emergency situations.

Other health benefits of coconuts and coconut oil include:
- weight loss and/or maintenance
- reduces risk of heart disease
- lowers cholesterol
- improve conditions in those with diabetes and chronic fatigue
- improve Crohn’s, IBS, and other digestive disorders
- prevents other disease and routine illness with its powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents
- increases metabolism and promotes healthy thyroid function
- boosts your daily energy
- rejuvenates your skin and prevent wrinkles

Where to find Coconuts

Unfortunately, most U.S. grocery stores or supermarkets do not carry fresh coconuts. However, they are widely available in ethnic grocery stores, such as Asian or Latino markets, farmers’ markets and health food stores. Walmart sometimes carries mature coconuts. If you are unable to locate a source near you, try requesting them at your local health food store, as many will carry them upon request.

In tropical countries though, apart from coconut (buko) juice vendors selling refreshments and whole coconuts on the streets, one can actually find bottled young green coconut water in grocery stores.

Sources & References:
Nandyala (for image)
Mercola & Droege
Secretariat of the Pacific Community


Anonymous said...

wow, you have a great blogs everything was very interesting topics.

thanks for sharing all of this:)

Anonymous said...

Hi, From age point of view when is a coconut still considered tender, and when mature?

Also does the mature look all hairy, or is it still green, and do you need to remove the husk to get to the hairy nut?


Anonymous said...

hi, what are the chemical components of coconut sapal when burned?
can we use it as a mos
quito repellant?

Kiril Arshinkoff said...

wow what a great blog, seriously i needed that information.
much love!

Page said...

Great information on the coconut. Really disappointed to see a blog I would consider about healthy eating have McDonalds Advertising.

jerryf01 said...

Philippino's discard the liquids from the mature coconut for some reason. I bought some fresh grated coconut to make some milk to try and use for ice cream.
I mixed the coconut water with the resultant Coco milk, (1) extending the volume, (2) reducing the waste. Anyway, I thought it created some loose bowel movements. Still not sure, but still have more of the frozen coco milk which I intend to use today.
Oh yes, love the P 10/500g for the fresh grated coconut.

Kathy Bollerud Markovich said...

In addition to helping in other areas, Thai or baby coconuts have been proven to stop or help seizures in epilepsy patients. I have epilepsy which was the cause from a head injury 8 years ago. I have a rare form, and have been through 16 different anti seizure meds, most of which have given me very serious, (and once) almost deadly side effects. A few months ago, I read an article about the health benefits in using coconut oil to help seizures. I have a market which is nearby, that sells both baby and mature coconuts...and I bought and tried both. I'd like to report that I'm seizure free, but alas, I'm not that lucky. What I can tell you though, is that I go weeks longer between seizure events, and my clusters used to last 3-5 days, with as many as 50 seizures during that time, and this last cluster event I had last week, lasted just one single day, it the coconut? We shall see in time. I will tell you though, something has changed, my seizures are getting better, and it am not currently taking any anti seizure meds whatsoever. Just thought I'd toss my two cents in. Kathy from Michigan

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