Is there fructose in coconut water?

Posted on March 6th, 2012

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?

 

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  • seeker

    YEEEEHAAAH!!

    I drink between 2 & 5 coconuts a day. But at least always one first thing in the morning and one before bedtime.
    Excellent before & after yoga (or any exercise). Excellent when racing around and not eating properly, excellent to kill a hunger pain and give you a bit of energy, and …. Im pretty sure … and for anyone who has suffered from this will agree this is a huge claim …. coconuts have, I believe, had a huge role to play in the disappearance of my rosacea …. I eat the flesh too …. yummy!
    I know I will have to consider the carbon footprint at some point, just not yet …. maybe we need to know more about that. Haven’t tasted a bottled one yet that didn’t make me gag – I love the real thing. do we grow them here?
    Love your work Sarah!
    :)

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Oh yes, the carbon footprint issue. It concerns me too….

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  • Lena

    Thanks so much for finding this out!! You have made my day, for the last 2 years I have only drank water, milk or a glass of red wine because everything else sugar in it. You have put a smile of my face!! Love the blog.

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  • Ms Jane

    Woo hoo!!! Thanks soooooo much Sarah for clearing this up for me. Off to buy some now. You’re ace xxx

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  • Netta

    I have been having 2 lots of coconut water everyday for a while now .. I make protein shakes out of them and I honestly believe that it is the coconut water that has stopped cravings for anything sweet.

    The coconut water is fairly filling as well and since I have been diagnosed with UAT I have had to alter my diet a lot, so by using the coconut water & some of the pulp it has certainly helped my stick to my plan and actaully enjoy it.

    I have often wondered if I was getting too much sugar in my diet because of the c/water but it does not seem to be affecting me in any way so I will continue to use it and enjoy the good health benefits from it. :)

    Thanks Sarah for your blog. :)

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  • June

    Thanks Sarah for giving us this valuable information. Like Netta, I have 2 cans each day in my shakes. This has also stopped my cravings for sweet things so helping me quit sugar & less champagne!
    Until I read “I Quit Sugar”, I had never tried it, now I have the perfect brand. I did try a few, I guess it comes down to one’s individual taste.

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  • http://www.alkalinesisters.com/ Julie the Alkaline Sister

    Hey Thanx Sarah for sharing our healthy coconut smoothie! Your post was filled with some really great detailed info. I truly believe in the power of whole unprocessed foods and this is most likely why fresh young coconut water’s sugar content is safe and very beneficial since the body metabolizes the nutritional elements as a whole. Thus said, pasteurized waters are void of heat sensitive nutrients making them a little less beneficial, but still a whole lot better than a can of soda! Green Smoothie Cheer to you!

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  • Katherine

    the smoothie looks delicious, I’m off to buy the ingredients. thank you!

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  • http://www.kitsaskitchen.com.au Kitsa

    A more healthful way to drink coconut water is to culture it first. By using a starter culture the bacteria will consume the sugar in the coconut water so it can’t feed the bad bugs in your gut. What you end up with is a fizzy “champagne like” drink which is more tangy than sweet. We call this young Coconut Kefir- YCK for short. It is a powerful alkalizer and detoxer as well as lining the gut with good probiotic bacteria. Full of electrolytes and mineral rich to support the adrenals.You can drink it neat, add to smoothies or turn into a mocktail by adding bubbly mineral water with mint and berries. Similarly you can culture the meat from young coconuts to make a pudding or yoghurt. As a nutrition consultant I get asked this question a lot and this is what I recommend to my clients following the GAPS and Body Ecology Diets. There are lots of videos of the process on youtube if you google – Body Ecology Diet – how to make young coconut kefir. I’m in the process of writing instructions which I’ll post on my Facebook page next week if anyone is interested http://www.facebook/Kitsas.Kitchen

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    ms jane Reply:

    That sounds very interesting. Thanks Kitsa I’ll check it out .

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  • http://www.kiwiatheart-leonie.blogspot.com Leonie

    Oh so happy to read this! I drink water and nothing else, ditched the coconut water when I ditched sugar as I wasn’t sure…yay, something I love I can have!

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  • Meg

    I fell in love with coconut water in Thailand it was a life saver when the heat became to much. Being at home now it’s not quite the same but I use it instead of powerade (suggested by doctor) for some bouts of low BP I’ve been having. Brilliant stuff!

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  • http://wabiblog.com amber

    I love fresh coconut water, but I always have to get someone to open up the coconut for me! Does anyone have a trick for a delicate sort of dame with sore wrists?

    I also wondered what brands of tetra-packed, canned, or bottled coconut water people preferred. I always buy products with “100% coconut water” and “no added sugar” on the packaging, but the flavour and supposedly natural sugar content differ vastly.

    The best I have tried is Beyond coconut water in a glass bottle. Pandaroo (canned) tastes excellent, but way too sweet to have no added sugar despite its labelling. Any ideas/comments?

    [Reply]

    Cate M Reply:

    HI Amber
    I couldn’t open coconuts either and it really frustrated me. So, my brother and I invented a coconut opener. It’s called cococut. We sell online and in some Harris Farms.
    Hope that helps.
    Cate

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    Liz Reply:

    Best. Idea. Ever! Will be making a purchase as soon as I get home from travelling! :)

    [Reply]

    Pippa Reply:

    Oh god, don’t bother with $25 dollar options and will hurt your wrist, just go to Bunnings and get a nail punch and apply with hammer to desired spot on coconut to insert a straw.

    cate Reply:

    Hi Pippa,
    Sorry you hurt your wrist using the CocoCut. The key is not to put too much downward pressure while turning back and forth. Meanwhile the base must be held very firmly to keep the coconut from spinning in your hand. Remember coconuts have a wooden shell so they are hard to open. The CocoCut provides a safe way to open them to get the meat as well as the water. Here are some videos with tips for easy use.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AbAwpUrU5E
    http://youtu.be/-PIZopBYIE4
    Hope that helps.
    Cate

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  • Rebecca

    Awesome, thanks for that Sarah! I love coconut, but I’ve been avoiding it because I thought it might flare up my IBS, which I had found had become far more mild since cutting out the sweet stuff. I’ll try bringing some in and see how it goes!

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    Vicki Reply:

    Hi Rebecca. Check my reply to you which I replied to the post after you by Belle.

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  • Belle

    Sarah, I’m following the IQS ebook but I’m having a lot of trouble with yoghurt. There is not one brand I’ve seen that has only 4.7g sugar per 100g as you mentioned. Even the ones where the ingredients are only whole milk and live cultures, the sugar is up around 7g at least. You seemed to say this means there’s around 2.3g added sugar (above the lactose component). Where’s this sugar coming from? What’s the story? Cheers.

    [Reply]

    Vicki Reply:

    Hi Rebecca, I use Barambah Organics All Natural Yoghurt (light blue label) which has a sugar content of 4.7g per 100g. It is creamy and yummy and readily available. I get mine from Harris Farm.

    [Reply]

    Vicki Reply:

    Sorry, first post, replied to Belle instead of Rebecca.

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    L Reply:

    Hi belle, chobani only has 3g per 100g.

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  • Sharon in Philly

    The coconut I use has 15g per 300m, I shouldn’t have it is my thinking. Is that right?

    [Reply]

  • Kate

    Hi there, only on 4th day of quitting sugar and today was the test surrounded by an office full of sweetsa nd cookies for a birthday celebration. I had couple of sips of c/water when i got home and after reading this post and comments i will try other brands as im not so sure about the taste just yet. Is it normal to be this dehydrated? I drink a lot of fluids anyway as I exercise most nights but am very thirsty from waking to sleeping.

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  • Debra

    were about in melbourne can i get a real good coconut water and cooking oil i live near cranbourne thank you so much

    [Reply]

    Kez Reply:

    Debra, I’m not so sure about Cranbourne, but you can definitely find both coconut water and quality oil from good health food stores. I get mine from GoVita at Knox and have seen products sold in other shops around Melbourne. I know that’s far-ish for you, but it’s most definitely around!

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  • http://www.coconutwateraustralia.com.au Richard

    Interesting article, we have reviewed a variety of coconut waters at our website in regards to taste, personal benefits and packaging. We have found it is perfect after exercising and I have to admit I only got sick after I hadnt consumed any coconut water in a few months, coincidence or not I’m not sure.

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  • bella

    hm… wouldn’t say FODMAPS is the best for IBS. Did that and been there, it made me worse. Good luck for anyone trying it though! :)

    [Reply]

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  • Melanie

    People with fructose malabsorption still cant have coconut milk or cream though, or so i’ve been told. :( i find this strange. i’m assuming the actual coconut meat must contain more fructose and little glucose, bringing the overall fructose level up significantly without the glucose to counteract that?

    [Reply]

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  • http://www.twomoderncavewomen.com.au Two Modern Cavewomen

    Chi has the lowest natural sugar levels of all the brands.

    [Reply]

  • Tracey

    Thank you so much for this info I’m gluten free and have fructose malabsorption Sooo Happy I can try coconut water now :)

    [Reply]

  • Anna

    Can anyone explain the difference between coconut water and coconut juice?? I prefer the taste of the juice and the sugar content didn’t seem to bad. Thanks!!

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  • Rory

    great news for someone with fructose malabsorption!

    [Reply]

  • http://www.goodiesgrains.com.au Katie Bailey

    Hi Sarah

    I love your blog! Its insightful and intelligent and I really trust your advice.

    We have been running a health food shop for 20 years and I would love to send you some of our products to taste/ try. Could you please let me know how I do this?

    We are also interested in advertising on your site. Could you please send me the information?

    Kind regards,

    Katie Bailey

    [Reply]

  • Noams

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

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  • Lana

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

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  • 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…

    [Reply]

  • 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

    [Reply]

  • Lynnieannie

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

    [Reply]

  • JackCuntsler

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

    [Reply]

  • Natty

    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.

    [Reply]

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  • 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.

    [Reply]

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  • 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.

    [Reply]

  • 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.

    [Reply]