You’ve probably seen plastic packets of white desiccated coconut on supermarket shelves, but other than being sprinkled over a dessert, do you know what else it’s used for, or what desiccation actually means?
Don’t worry, the majority of people have no idea either! With that said, let’s get the lowdown on what desiccated coconut is and why, moving forward, you might choose to make it a regular in your health and fitness regime:
What is Desiccated Coconut?
The word ‘desiccated’ is often assumed to be a variety of processing not dissimilar to shredding, but actually, it means ‘to dry out and remove all moisture’. Desiccated coconut, therefore, is dried out and grated coconut flesh or ‘meat’, as it is known in the food industry.
Desiccated coconut is made by grating the white, mature coconut flesh finely, before drying out in hot air at about 55°c. It retains about 3% of the coconut’s moisture but is dry to the touch and taste. The desiccated coconut you’ll find most often is finely grated but it can also be shredded, flaked or processed into granules or chips. Most desiccated coconut is completely unsweetened and has nothing added to it, bar the occasional preservative to prolong shelf life. However, it may also have artificial sweeteners, flavourings or colours added to it, which means it’s important to check the label.
Shredded coconut is similar to desiccated coconut but retains more moisture, although it still feels dry to the touch. Shredded coconut is grated into larger pieces than desiccated, so is not as easily dried out.
Desiccated coconut is found frequently in Indian and South-East Asian cooking and cuisine but is commonly stirred into or used to ‘top’ a variety of desserts, cereals and baked goods in the UK and Europe. However, more and more individuals are now including desiccated coconut into food and drink recipes, in order to enjoy its many health benefits – which we’ll cover soon.
Is Desiccated Coconut Good for You?
Compared with dried fruits, desiccated coconut is much less popular as a topping or dietary addition and is often overlooked.
When included as part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle, desiccated coconut is good for you. Not only does it make for a flavoursome addition to food and drinks, but it also provides a healthy dose of essential vitamins and minerals.
Desiccated Coconut: Nutrition Guide
There is no doubt that coconut is high in fat, but there’s actually a lot of goodness in coconut flesh – interestingly, it’s technically a fruit and a nut.
You probably don’t want to be adding in a whole coconut into your daily diet, but there’s definitely some sense in adding desiccated coconut as a topping or texture to your already nutritionally well-balanced meals or drinks. Don’t opt for synthetic sweeteners or unhealthy snacks; instead, add in a sprinkle of desiccated coconut. This way, you can enjoy something sweet but nutritious over empty calories and damaging excess sugar.
Desiccated coconut is pure coconut flesh, and when it doesn’t have anything added to it, its nutritional values are approximately as follows for a 100g portion:
- 280 calories
- 3g of protein
- 10g of carbohydrates
- 27g of fats
- 5g of natural sugars
- 6g of fibre
- 60% of the adult RDI (recommended daily intake) of manganese
- 44% of the adult RDI of copper
- 15% of the adult RDI of selenium
- 13% of the adult RDI of phosphorous
- 11% of the adult RDI of iron
- 10% of the adult RDI of zinc
- 6% of the adult RDI of potassium.
The latter ingredients listed there are powerful and important minerals for the body. In particular, desiccated coconut is a rich source of manganese and copper. Just a small amount supplies a big dose, so you can reach your recommended daily intake of these minerals easily with a well-balanced diet without having to specifically seek out too many other sources of it.
4 Impressive Health Benefits of Desiccated Coconut
You may think of coconut as a nut, because – duh – their name, but actually, coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm plant (technically known as Cocos Nucifera). There’s no surprise, therefore, that coconuts are high in natural sugars.
But some cultures consume considerably more coconut than Western ones, and when you understand the health benefits held within this delicious tropical fruit, you’ll be looking to eat more of it too! Just make sure it’s part of a balanced diet and not a cocktail… well, at least once in a while!
It’s Packed with Dietary Fibre for Weight Loss
Dietary fibre is indigestible plant material, and so, is never properly digested by the body. When it mixes with fluid and passes through your stomach and intestines, fibre turns into a gel-like substance which sticks to the stomach lining. This slows down your metabolism, and so, releases the food into your stomach slower than it would normally; promoting satiety and keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Specifically, fibre intake has been proven to reduce the risk of developing ‘visceral’ belly fat – and can make losing excess fat in this region far easier.
What’s more, having a reasonable amount of fibre in your system has been shown to help diversify gut bacteria. A rich mix of bacteria in the gut has been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Indeed, those with a diverse mix of bacteria are scientifically less likely to develop belly fat, so fibre helps with that area in numerous ways!
Its High Iron Content Can Help to Prevent Anaemia
You may not think of coconuts when you consider foods high in iron, but they’re a surprisingly good source of it. Iron is most commonly found in red meat, liver and beans. It’s a mineral, and its purpose is to carry oxygen in the red blood cells which travel around the body. Red blood cells transport oxygen straight from the lungs and into your internal organs, to keep them in healthy working order and functioning as they should at all times.
In the womb, an unborn baby stores up enough iron to see them through the first 4-6 months of life healthily; up until they would usually be weaned onto ‘proper’ food. From there on in, it’s expected that you’ll be able to consume enough iron through your normal diet, but certain demographic groups – including pregnant women, teenage girls, young children, and those eating restrictive diets – may need to consume more than usual in order to maintain a healthy iron level and keep producing sufficient haemoglobin.
If sufficient iron isn’t consumed, anaemia develops. Anaemia is a condition developed as a direct result of a red blood cell deficiency. It can cause pale skin, extreme fatigue and dizziness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations and is frequently discovered when an individual faints or collapses.
In order to best avoid anaemia, you should aim to eat a balanced diet, rich in iron and try to meet your RDI (Recommended Daily Intake). If you feel you could be lacking, adding desiccated coconut to food or drink is a convenient and easy way to boost your iron levels.
It’s an Amazing Osteoporosis & Arthritis Preventative
The fatty acids in coconut have been proven to help strengthen the bones and prevent the degradation of bones during clinical tests on animals. Indeed, the studies on the impact of coconut consumption and topical use on the weakened bones of osteoporosis sufferers have proven so positive, that coconut oil is now regularly used as a treatment for those with the condition!
What’s more, the antioxidant properties of coconut make it both an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic. The main antioxidant compounds found in coconut are gallic acid, caffeic acid, salicylic acid and p-coumaric acid; all of which scavenge for free radical cells and prevent them causing damage to other cells in the body. Arthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joint, but the consumption of desiccated coconut (or other coconut products) can help soothe the symptoms, as well as help solve the issue before it arises or flares up.
It’s a Rich Source of Several Minerals which aren’t always the Easiest to Consume
Desiccated coconut is rich in both manganese and copper, which aren’t commonly found in high quantities in foods.
Manganese is vital for bone health (specifically spinal health, but does benefit general bone health, too) as well as the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and cholesterol. It’s also been proven to lower the risk of diabetes, as those with the disease tend to have lower levels of manganese in their system. Similarly, it can lower the risk of seizures or convulsions, as individuals suffering from these conditions tend to have lower levels than usual in their brain.
Copper is also a super important mineral and has generated lots of interest amongst scientific communities notably for its capability of treating several chronic medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (or CJD, the human form of mad cow disease). Studies into copper as a treatment against cancer are continuing, but indicative first results show that it may be as successful, if not more so, than cisplatin, which is a commonly used chemotherapy drug.
Desiccated Coconut: Things to Consider
Desiccated coconut is delicious, but it’s not the healthiest fruit in the world and if consuming it for its nutritional value, it’s important not to overdo it! It is unique in that 89% of the fat within coconut flesh is saturated. Most of these fats are MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), which are absorbed whole into the intestine and used to produce energy.
Too heavy an intake of saturated fats is linked heavily to the development of heart disease… but you would struggle to eat enough desiccated coconut for this risk to occur, particularly when eating a diet made up of ingredients sourced in the western world.
The Bottom Line
Coconuts are a delicious tropical fruit unlike any other and their uniqueness comes from their nutritional content, as well as their incredible and versatile taste and texture.
There are several minerals found within coconut flesh (or meat, as it’s often known) which aren’t commonly found in many other foods. These important minerals, when teamed with the antioxidants and rich iron content within, make for a fantastic nutritional blend which has been proven to yield numerous health benefits.
Much of the clinical research into the consumption of coconuts focuses on its fat content, but the vitamins and minerals contained within them are fantastically beneficial too (and have been proven in other studies and tests previously).
Desiccated coconut is dried and grated coconut flesh and makes for a fantastically convenient addition to food and drink – to give it a new flavour, thicker texture or just a nutritional boost. When searching out desiccated coconut to use as a dietary addition, it’s important to find a brand which allows their product to remain unsweetened and doesn’t use any artificial additives. Such additions can quite heavily impact on the nutritional benefits of coconut, so the above information could very easily be rendered irrelevant should they be included! As with any food you’re choosing to consume, it’s usually best to stick to as natural and as simple an ingredients list as possible – and ideally, just coconut.
There’s a long way to go until we see desiccated coconut stacked in the health food aisles of supermarkets, but for now, when understood how it can contribute to a well-balanced diet, it makes for a great topping or texture to already healthy foods and drinks. If you have a coconut at home, be sure to use up any spare flesh by grating it and drying it out to make desiccated coconut: and you can negate food waste and have a tasty snack to spare!
If you’re hesitant about adding desiccated coconut to your food and drink due to its high fat content or taste, why not incorporate it into your diet via a tasty shake? The Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake and Shake Complete both contain these nutritious white flakes and come in a variety of delicious flavours (trust us, you can’t taste the coconut!). They’re also nutritionally balanced and super healthy, so you don’t have to worry about consuming too much saturated fat – winner!