This was something I got asked on my I Quit Sugar forums a lot. I promised to get to the bottom of the conflicting information…Et voila!

coconut water green smoothie, via The Alkaline Sisters. Recipe below

In a coconut shell.

1. yes, there is in fact sugar in coconut water

All coconuts contain sugar. The levels depend on the type of coconut, and it’s age. Something to note though, even the coconuts with the higher levels of sugar still only contain around 2.95ml of sugar per 100ml, which is not a lot. As I’ve shared in my I Quit Sugar ebook, best to stay under 4.7ml of sugar per 100ml. Of course, a bottle of coconut water – which is how most of us get our coconut water – is generally about 300ml. So. In one bottle there can be up to 9g of sugar, which is 2.5-ish teaspoons.

 2. yeah, but how much of that is fructose?

Well. Not so much. And this is what counts. A Brazilian study found the sugar content of an average baby coconut to be made up of:

glucose 50%, sucrose 35%, and fructose 15%

So fructose makes up a maximum of 32 per cent 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 when you look at that total sugar value on the label, it’s a little misleading. Unlike coke or fruit juice, where we know half (or more) of the sugar content is fructose, coconut water’s sugar content is mostly glucose (which is fine, metabolically speaking).

4. can we still 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 flavoured ones…the fruit pulp turns it into a fructose fusion!

5. go for the younger coconuts

The concentration of sugars in the water of a coconut increases in the very 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 4 – 6 months, if you have the choice.

6. what’s the deal with coconut water and fructose malabsorption?

People with fructose malabsorption are often told to steer clear of products with coconut. I contacted Dr Sue Shepherd for her advice on this. Sue is an advanced accredited practicing dietician who lectures in gastroenterology at Monash University. Her PhD research was in aspects of coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and fructose malabsorption. Sue developed the Low FODMAP Diet, which has been accepted worldwide as the first-line dietary therapy for someone with IBS and fructose malabsorption.

Sue:  There are two pathways by which we absorb fructose. Firstly, fructose is absorbed freely across the intestine. In people with fructose malabsorption, this pathway is impaired. The second pathway is where fructose is carried across the intestine by glucose (glucose “piggy backs” fructose). This pathway is still active in people with fructose malabsorption, so they can still consume foods with fructose in them, as long as there are equal [or more] amounts of glucose present.

Since coconut water contains a lot more glucose than fructose, all is good. I hope this makes sense??

Sue again: Coconut water is a healthful drink, and is suitable for people with fructose malabsorption. I recommend C Coconut Water. It is 100% organic, nothing added. Great taste – not too strong, and also a great price. I get mine from Spelt Quinoa. It is an amaaazing shop full of organic goodness. Gemma, the owner is extremely knowledgeable and very helpful.

Do you drink coconut water? Any particular recipes you love?

 

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Emma

    Is coconut cream fructose friendly as well?

  • Linda dc

    There are many options online just google “buy coconut water online Australia”

  • Linda dc

    half a cup of coconut milk is low in fodmaps,but if you are buying canned check the label(from the Monash University booklet available to buy online or app available all proceeds go to more research on fodmaps)

  • Noams

    Thanks. The c coconut link seems to be broken / blocked.

  • Lana

    I love coconut water! I add a teaspoon of spirulina into mine – it’s delicious!

  • Christine

    Hi Sarah,

    Has anyone asked you about chestnuts? I’ve googled like mad and haven’t found anything conclusive…I like to not only eat roasted chestnuts, but also bake with the flour…

  • Chava Angela Whibberley

    This is great to know thanks Sarah and the Team! I do have concern on the impact on the environment I think most of Australia’s coconut come from Thailand? If you have more info on this and the carbon impact would love to know more. In the mean time guilt free coconut a day sounds good to me! Xx

  • Lynnieannie

    Fresh is so superior. WW and Coles sell them. The more people buy them the more they will stock. Yum!!!

  • Guest

    You know you have it good when the carbon footprint of coconuts is actually a “concern”.

    • Frances Welford

      Right? Haven’t most people figured out the carbon foot print is a scam? Trading carbon credits (look it up) should be your first clue. The second clue is that that the people with the most money and who claim to care about the environment are STILL using massive amounts of fossil fuels while preaching to the serfs about how they need to reduce their carbon foot print.

  • Linda

    http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/fodmap/diet-updates/coconut.html had recently updated their studies to include Coconut water and only a 100 ml serving is recommended for a low FODMAP dier:

    • Though the FODMAPs involved seem to be polyols and oligos, not fructose. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to differentiate between FOS and GOS, which means a world of difference for me. I’m assuming it’s GOS, as I can drink 250 ml of plain coconut water comfortably and my issues are fructose and FOS. But that’s just me.

  • anon

    Wow, you don’t know the difference between fructose and high fructose corn syrup? Amazing…….. Fructose is one of the best sugars there is. You should so some research on sugars and how they work.

  • Frasier Linde

    Pure coconut milk and cream should have little to no fructose—Sweetened products can be a different story. With the meat, fructose still isn’t an issue, but the the oligos-fructans (fermentable fibers) can be problematic for anyone with FODMAP intolerance.

  • Tien

    “Great taste – not too strong, and also a great price. I get mine from Spelt Quinoa.” I’m sure Sue, the advanced accredited practicing dietician who lectures in gastroenterology at Monash University with a PhD research in aspects of coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and fructose malabsorption and developer of the Low FODMAP Diet, included as part of her interview this aaaaaamazing bit of product placement.

  • Sue

    I have just been to Thailand in November. A coconut grower revealed a secret and showed me the injection of young coconuts with fragrant glucose without labeling or disclose this treatment to consumer. This includes those exported to US and other countries. So are other fresh fruits like pineapple and papaya.

    CONSUMER BEWARE!

  • Kathy S

    You are aware that almost everything (ingredient wise) that ends in “ose” is a sugar, right? Which means that the glucose, sucrose and the fructose you mentioned are all sugars. Yes, they are natural sugars, but they are all sugars.

  • Sally

    If eat even a little bit of coconut, im running to the bathroom with yellow/orange stools. It makes me go to the loo terribly. I’m always shocked by people who eat massive amounts of fruit and/or veg because i cannot tolerate both…or gluten…or milk…or soya. I wish i didn’t have to eat. I absolutely love coconut, all fruits and of course veg but my intestines disagree. I am on the Fodmap diet but there are certain foods that are on that list, that are low in Fructose, that i still cannot eat, even in small quanities. Not long ago, i could eat a load of grapes, now, even if i eat 2 or 3 or drink grape juice, i just get diarrhea.

  • Essie

    Which brand do you use?

  • Eboucher

    I am quite confused by this. I just got the low FODMAPS diet app produced by Monash university and coconut water is definitely coded as red, to avoid because of high fructose content.

  • Michael

    Keep up the good work Sarah, this is a very important topic and people are in dire need of helpful education.
    most commercial fruit juices are SO sweet they can be used like cordial – 15% apple juice with 85% purified water for example is a nice tasting drink, much healthier that pure juice or soft drink, and can help people wean themselves off juice without going “cold turkey”
    Thank God coconut water gets the ok because I love the stuff, I heard that in WW2 in the pacific medics would give it to the wounded in an intravenous drip when they ran out of blood because it is so pure, it was either that to get the blood pressure up or certain death. I’m going to google it now to see if it’s true, yes I know I should have done that before.
    I recently read that stevia isn’t so good because it “tricks” the body into thinking it is going to get some glucose when it isn’t, apparently that can cause some problems with the adrenal glands and other things, the writer said it isn’t so bad if you have some fruit or other source of fructose or glucose with it.