Pregnancy Benefits of Coconut Oil and Coconut Flesh

Coconuts contain many vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial in pregnancy, but how many benefits you can get depend on what form the coconut takes.

In this article, we’ll look at the nutritional benefits of coconut for you and baby, and whether popular products like coconut oil are safe.

Finally, we’ll also break down some common ways of eating coconut, from fresh chunks, to dried coconut on a cake.

This article is our general coconut overview. If you’re looking for specific information on drinking coconut water during pregnancy, then we have a separate article here for that. There’s also one on eating and using coconut milk, too.

Everything else coconut is right here!

Is Coconut Oil Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?

Coconut oil comes in a couple of different forms when it comes to eating it – you can cook with it, or it’s also available as a supplement-type liquid.

Using coconut oil as a cooking fat is likely to be safe during pregnancy as it’s not consumed in large amounts. It’s good for high-heat cooking, as coconut oil has a very high smoke point.

Regardless, fried and fatty foods should be eaten in moderation during pregnancy.

The safety of coconut oil (the supplement type, which is meant to be taken on its own) is a grey area when it comes to pregnancy. There are studies, but these are limited.

You may wish to consume coconut oil in moderation in the first trimester of pregnancy, or avoid it altogether, as one animal study shows that virgin (unrefined) coconut oil could affect infant growth (Source: NCBI).

The results, however, are not conclusive, and no human studies have yet been conducted.

coconut flesh and coconut oil

Another Malaysian study cautioned that increased coconut oil consumption in the first trimester may result in an increased risk of miscarriage (Source: PubMed).

The same study also suggested that consuming coconut oil later in pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, could help protect against perinatal mortality (Source: PubMed).

However, the coconut oil was given at the same time as other herbal medicine, so it’s not clear if coconut oil itself had these effects.

There are some sources on the internet that promote coconut oil for weight loss since it increases satiety (feeling full after eating), but there has been no scientific proof of this.

In fact, professionals recommend coconut oil be eaten within limits, and no more than 10% of the current recommendations of SFA intake which are up to 10% of your overall calories per day (Source: ScienceDirect).

Overall, coconut oil is best consumed as a cooking oil only, rather than taken in supplement form, and if you wish to use it in cooking or in other foods, use it sparingly.

Is Coconut Yogurt OK When Pregnant?

Coconut yogurt is popular among those who can’t tolerate dairy, or just for its delicious taste.

Coconut yogurt is safe to eat when pregnant as long as it is pasteurized. It would also be a good idea to choose brands that have no added sugar.

The main difference between coconut yogurt and cows’ milk yogurt is that coconut yogurt will not offer you any added protein. It is higher in fat than cows’ milk yogurt, so it is best eaten in moderation.

We have a guide to the ‘best’ cow milk yogurts for pregnant women, but a lot of the suggestions apply to coconut yogurt, too. You can see what to look for here.

coconut yogurt and fruit

Is Fresh Coconut Flesh Safe During Pregnancy?

Coconuts are usually sterile until they’re opened, so freshly cracked coconut is fine for pregnant women to eat. Choose fresh coconuts without any cracks, flaws, or holes in the shell.

Fresh raw coconut that has not been heat-treated is best avoided while pregnant. As with raw coconut milk, there may a risk of contracting salmonella (Source: Journal of Applied Microbiology).

For this reason, you should avoid pre-cut, pre-cracked raw coconut during pregnancy (this is often the type portioned into ‘convenience’ chunks in a store).

Can I Have Coconut in Early Pregnancy?

Coconut meat in early pregnancy is safe to eat, particularly given the many nutrients it contains. The benefits are covered later in this article.

Coconut oil, however, has complications, which we mentioned earlier.

Is Dried / Shredded (Desiccated) Coconut Safe For Pregnant Women?

Dried or desiccated coconut is often found in baking, such as in cakes or cookies.

This type of dried, shredded, or grated coconut is fine, provided it has been heat-treated. Almost all commercially-produced coconut products will be, and are therefore safe.

However, bear in mind that the vast majority of dried coconut is sweetened with a large amount of sugar.

One cup of sweetened desiccated coconut has a whopping 40g of sugar, and comes in at 466 calories (source: NutritionData).

Therefore it might be a good idea to opt for lower sugar or unsweetened versions when using dried coconut for cooking, baking, and other ways of eating it, such as in curries or Asian-style food.

Dried coconut chips (the crunchy type for snacking), coconut crisps, and similar products are also fine to eat if you’re pregnant – though you should keep an eye on any additives or added sugar, too.

Powdered coconut and coconut flour are also fine to eat in pregnancy. Both are dried coconut and have been heat-treated and are therefore safe.

A slice of coconut cake topped with desiccated coconut

The Benefits of Coconut During Pregnancy: Is it Healthy?

Coconut has not only fiber, but also a wide range of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial during pregnancy.

The important nutrients here to note if you are pregnant are many.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the nutrients in the flesh of one medium, mature coconut, and the potential benefits:

Fiber

An average coconut contains 35.7 g of fiber (source: USDA).

Coconut meat is particularly high in fiber. Consuming higher amounts of fiber in the diet have been linked to a lesser risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as better overall gut health (Source: Nutrients Journal).

Healthy Fats

A medium coconut contains 133 g of fat, which is in the form of coconut oil.

Whether you consume the meat or the oil, you are getting an excellent healthy fat that is heart-friendly, as virgin coconut oil can help reduce the formation of blood clots (Source: ScienceDirect).

Potassium

Coconuts are rich in potassium, with around 1410 mg potassium in an average coconut (source: USDA).

The potassium in coconut is beneficial in pregnancy as potassium helps your body store glucose and protein, both of which are crucial for healthy growth (Source: Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism).

Calcium

An average coconut has 55.6 mg calcium.

The calcium in coconut helps with the healthy development of the bones and overall skeletal structure of the fetus, particularly starting from the middle of the second trimester (Source: Springer).

There is also a decreased risk of preterm birth caused by hypertensive disorders developed during pregnancy when calcium levels are correct.

Furthermore, the risk of high blood pressure towards the middle to the end of pregnancy (preeclampsia) can be decreased through calcium intake (Source: NCBI).

Finally, making sure your calcium levels are appropriate during pregnancy (at least 1,000 mg daily) can lower your risk of losing bone mass when your unborn baby is drawing calcium from you.

Good bone mass is important for preventing problems later in life such as osteoporosis (Source: NCBI).

Magnesium

The daily recommendation for levels of magnesium is 280 mg per day, and this increases in pregnancy.

One coconut can contain around 127mg of magnesium (source: USDA).

Insufficient levels of magnesium are common and are associated with a higher risk of placental dysfunction, premature labor, preeclampsia, and chronic hypertension (Source: Journal of Advanced Biomedical Research).

Iron

One coconut has around 9.65 mg of iron (source: USDA).

Iron during pregnancy is really important (so much so, we put together this list of 25+ iron-rich foods to boost your intake).

Iron deficiency is the nutritional deficiency that is most common during pregnancy, and pregnant women need 27 mg per day (compared to the adult standard need of 15-18 mg per day).

Iron is important for a healthy pregnancy and correct amounts can prevent postpartum and breast-feeding anemia for up to six months after delivery.

Iron deficiency has been related to preeclampsia, preterm labor, and premature membrane rupture (Source: Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research).

Other Vitamins and Nutrients in a Coconut

An average coconut also contains 449 mg phosphorus, and smaller amounts of zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.

In terms of vitamins, one coconut contains 13.1 mg vitamin C, as well as amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, and vitamin B6 (Source: USDA).

Copper is important during pregnancy as it helps build connective tissues and it helps metabolize iron.

Copper also helps us produce melatonin and aids in the development of the central nervous system.

Copper also helps remove pregnancy oxidative stress (an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals), without which there is a greater risk of preeclampsia, impaired fetal growth, and miscarriage (Source: NCBI).

Zinc is important during pregnancy, as it contributes to healthy fetal growth and milk secretion.

In the third trimester of pregnancy, pregnant women’s need for zinc doubles (15 mg per day) compared to non-pregnant women (Source: Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research).

Phosphorus is also important and, although phosphorus deficiencies are rare, they can lead to conditions such as anorexia, vertigo, or confusion.

Whether you are pregnant or not, you should aim for 700 mg phosphorous per day (Source: NCBI).

Finally, selenium helps restore and maintain muscles, fights against infection, and regulates growth and development.

The body gets 55-70% of selenium from foods. Fortunately, selenium deficiencies are rare (Source: NCBI).

Eating coconut meat may also help stabilize your blood sugar by lowering your fasting blood sugar (Source: De Gruyter).

Coconut can also be beneficial to treating insulin resistance and hypertension (Source: PubMed) and has been shown to help improve cognitive function as well as reduce oxidation in the body (Source: Journal of Pharmaceutical Biology).

Overall, coconuts pack a nutritional punch, so if you choose to eat coconut meat, crack it fresh yourself, or make sure it is pasteurized. If you’re using coconut oil, use it sparingly – and look out for the added sugar in many coconut products.


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This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Gina Waggott

Gina is the owner and founder of Pregnancy Food Checker. She holds a Certification on Nutrition and Lifestyle during Pregnancy from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a Diploma in Human Nutrition.

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