Is Coconut Good if You Have Diabetes?

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may wonder if coconut is a good choice for you to eat. After all, it’s high in saturated fat, which can raise your risk for heart disease. But does it also have benefits?

First, some nutrition facts:

A 55-gram serving of coconut has 9 grams of carbohydrates. Its glycemic index, or GI, is 42. The glycemic index measures how much some foods and drinks raise your blood sugar when compared to pure glucose. There are three categories:

  • Low glycemic index, 1-55
  • Medium glycemic index, 56-69
  • High glycemic index, 70 or higher

Although the glycemic index is a good starting point, it can be tricky. It doesn’t consider how the amount, or serving, of a food affects your blood sugar. That’s called glycemic load, or GL. It also has three categories:

  • Low glycemic load, 1-10
  • Medium glycemic load, 11-19
  • High glycemic load, 20 or higher

The glycemic load for a 55-gram serving is 4. So you’d have to eat a lot of coconut for it to dramatically raise your blood sugar.

Types of Coconut

Coconut flakes are what you might see most often at the supermarket. But there’s also coconut water, milk, oil, sugar, and flour.

Unsweetened coconut water is low in carbs and has no saturated fat. A 5-gram serving of coconut sugar has 5 grams of carbs. The glycemic index is 54, and the glycemic load is 3.

Coconut Oil and Weight Loss

You may have heard that it’s good for weight loss or low-carb diets. But there are no magic foods that help you lose weight. And coconut oil has nearly 100 calories per tablespoon.

Also, just 1 tablespoon of coconut oil has 11 grams of fat, and almost all of it is saturated fat. Experts recommend eating no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. It’s what raises your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. That puts you at greater risk for heart disease. And having type 2 diabetes already makes you more likely to get heart disease. So you don’t want to raise that risk even further.

The Bottom Line

Coconut water is fine, and coconut flakes are OK occasionally. But you should avoid or limit coconut oil because it’s so rich in saturated fat. Canola, olive, and peanut oils are better choices. And always follow the nutrition plan your doctor or diabetes educator gave you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 12, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Heart Association: “Saturated fat,” “Healthy cooking oils.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002.”

Mayo Clinic: “Glycemic index diet: What's behind the claims,” “Mayo Clinic Minute: Why coconut oil is bad for your heart.”

U.S Department of Agriculture: “Coconut water, unsweetened,” “Coconut oil,” “Butter, salted,” “Lard.”

The University of Sydney: “Coconut sugar.”

American Diabetes Association: “Fats.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “FoodData Central Search Results: oil, coconut.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.