I Want to Know: Does Coconut Contain FODMAPs?
Great question – to which there are many answers. We are going to break it down for you, one coconut product at a time. Some of the answers are clear cut; others, not-so-much. As always we strive to bring you the most up-to-date FODMAP science and information so that you can thrive on the low FODMAP diet. With no further ado, here is coconut in all its glory, from fresh to dried, sweetened and unsweetened, milk, water, flour, oil, yogurt and more.
Low FODMAP Coconut Products
Let’s get to the good news first. Here are the coconut products that you can incorporate into your diet, many of them even during the Elimination phase.
Canned Coconut Milk: This product has been tested by Monash University and is recommended at amounts of 1/3 cup (80 g). In this case the margin is small as it becomes high FODMAP at 1/2 cup (120 g). In an email with Monash, they clarified that they tested full fat versions (center, below). “Lite” or “Light” version exist (as seen in left of image, below); they just have a higher water content, so they should be fine, from a FODMAP perspective.
Coconut Water: This is the clear liquid from the center of fresh coconuts (seen above, right). Monash has tested it and it is Green Light at 100 ml, which is slightly less than 1/2 cup. They give this go-ahead for both fresh and packaged.
UHT Long Life Coconut Milk: This is coconut milk that comes in shelf-stable, un-refrigerated cardboard containers. Monash gives this a Green Light at 1/2 cup (125 ml/120 g).
Coconut Oil: Both refined and unrefined coconut oils are low FODMAP. They are fats and therefore we don’t have to worry about FODMAP content. Refined will be less “coconutty” in flavor. Both are high in saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation.
Fresh Coconut: Fresh coconut refers to the fresh, moist flesh harvested from a freshly cracked-open coconut. You can also sometimes find fresh coconut in freezer sections of supermarkets. Note that this fruit is given a Yellow Light on the Monash University app, but if you click through you will learn that it is Green Light and low FODMAP in 1/2 cup (48 g) servings. Larger amounts contain the polyol sorbitol.
Dried Coconut: Dried coconut comes in many forms. The one tested by Monash and listed on their app is for unsweetened shredded dried coconut. Just as with fresh, Monash gives it a Yellow Light, but you will see that inside the listing they approve and Green Light it at 1/4 cup (18 g) servings. Larger amounts contain the polyol sorbitol.
You can see in the images above and below that dried coconut comes in many forms. Left to right: Unsweetened grated (sometimes called desiccated), in the middle is long shred coconut, sometimes called “angel flake”. This can come sweetened or unsweetened. On the right are large coconut flakes, sometimes called chips; these happen to be toasted. These also come both sweetened and unsweetened.
As Monash has only tested the finely grated kind you have to use your common sense with other textures as they measure differently. And remember they have only tested the unsweetened kind.
Coconut Sugar: This granulated sugar is made from the coconut palm tree and is not to be confused with palm sugar, which is made from the date palm. Monash gives this a Green Light at a small serving of 1 teaspoon. Fructans and fructose are present in larger quantities.
Coconut Treacle: This is a liquid sweetener that has been given the Green Light by Monash in small servings. They recommend it at 1/2 tablespoon, however, remember that these are Australian tablespoons. Their recommendation would be the equivalent of 10 ml, which is the equivalent of 2 teaspoons everywhere else in the world. In larger amounts the fructan level makes this high FODMAP.
High FODMAP Coconut Products
Coconut Milk with Inulin: Monash has a separate line item for coconut milk with inulin. As inulin is a known FODMAP, it should be clear that you should not use coconut milk that contains it. This type of coconut milk is high in fructans.
Coconut Flour: This is a high FODMAP, albeit a gluten-free, product. It is made by grinding up the leftover mass after coconut oil and/or milk has been produced. It is very high in fiber and does not work as a 1 to 1 replacement for all-purpose flour in baking. The 2/3 cup (100 g) serving tested by Monash showed that it was high in Oligos, Fructose and Polyols. As it is a triple FODMAP threat you should just steer clear.
Canned Cream of Coconut: This is more sugar than coconut and is hardly ever used in actually cooking like real canned coconut milk or coconut cream. Cream of coconut is a sugary, syrupy concoction commonly used to create pina colada drinks and we won’t be having any of those either due to the fact that they are based on high FODMAP rum! Cream of coconut might be made with high fructose corn syrup or other potentially high FODMAP ingredients (we do not know the FODMAP content of) such as sorbitan monostearate, which is a sorbitol (polyol) derivative.
Coconut Products You Might Like to Try
Refrigerated Coconut Milk: Our supermarket’s refrigerator shelves are jam-packed with coconut milk. It comes unsweetened, sweetened, with vanilla or without. The ingredient lists are not bad. They start with coconut milk, there are many sweetened with plain cane sugar and the added vitamins and gums would not be high FODMAP red flags. These products are not tested, but they are very popular and we suggest that you do a test for yourself.
Coconut Cream: This is NOT the same as Cream of Coconut, mentioned above. Note the difference in nomenclature. This entry is for Coconut Cream. The highly sweetened product mentioned above is always called Cream of Coconut. Canned coconut cream is manufactured the same way as canned coconut milk, but it is higher in fat, thicker and richer. Since its fat content is higher it is possible that it is actually lower in FODMAPs than the regular canned coconut. As it has not been formally tested, use judiciously and see how you do with it.
Coconut Ice Cream: There are many coconut ice creams on the market so it is impossible to assess them as a group. Certainly some have cleaner labels than others and you should definitely steer clear of any with inulin, high fructose corn syrup, agave, honey or flavors like cherry or mango, all of which are high FODMAP foods. It is possible to find some brands with cleaner labels and you could try small amounts.
Coconut Yogurt: Monash has given coconut yogurt a Green Light at a serving of 125 g, which is about 4 ounces and a very small size, usually not an entire container. We can only recommend coconut yogurt with a caveat. Just as with coconut ice cream there are many brands on the market and they are not equivalent from a FODMAP point of view. You must read individual labels and assess for FODMAPs. Even within the same brand, one flavor could be okay such as vanilla, but another flavor such as mango would not be.
Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk: A few companies (such as Nature’s Charm and Let’s Do…) have come out with a Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk product and their ingredients vary. Most brands have very clean labels such as: Organic coconut, water and organic cane sugar, occasionally with salt added. Brand content will vary. This product has not been tested for FODMAPs and while it is based on coconut, it is very high in sugar. You could try small amounts for yourself.
Powdered Coconut Milk: This is a product that you might not come across unless you are in an Asian food store or shopping in a specialty food store. (King Arthur sells it for baking, for instance). It is a shelf stable product that allows you to whip up coconut milk for cooking and baking at a moment’s notice. Ingredients will typically be coconut milk, and/or maltodextrin and/or modified food starch and/or possibly some sort of sweetener. Neither this product, nor some of its commonly included ingredients have been formally tested, so tread very carefully.
If you want to see coconut in action, check out our Coconut Macaroons, Chocolate Macaroons, Turkey Coconut Curry, Toasted Almond Coconut Fudge Brownies, Poppy Seed Carrot Banana Bread, The Best Popcorn Ever! and our Glorious Morning Muffins.