Is Unsweetened Shredded Coconut Paleo?


Nutritional Value of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Serving size: 3 Tablespoons (15 g)

  • Calories: 100
  • Total Fat: 10 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Lauric acid: 6 g
  • Carbohydrate: 4 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg
  • Fiber: 2 g

Health Benefits of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Unsweetened shredded coconut is composed mostly of fat, 90% of which is saturated in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, also called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are associated with many health benefits and have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, provide an immediate source of energy, increase satiety, and increase metabolic rate. Furthermore, the MCFAs in coconut, namely, lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid are antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. In addition to these benefits, phenolic compounds in coconut act as antioxidants.

Therapeutically, due to their ability to form ketones, MCFAs have been used to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients as well as uncontrolled seizures in children. For people with limited GI function, MCFAs provide an easily digestible and absorbable form of fat because they do not require the assistance of pancreatic enzymes or bile salts for processing and they transport directly from the intestinal tract to the liver via the portal vein.

Inulin, a fructan, is a prebiotic fiber found in coconut meat that promotes the proliferation of healthy bacteria. However, fructans can aggravate symptoms in people with IBS, SIBO, or FODMAP intolerance and may need to be limited.

Seasonality of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Coconuts are available year round but are at their peak October thru December. Green coconuts are immature and are harvested for coconut water. Mature coconuts have a very hard brown shell that is covered with stringy fibers and are harvested for coconut water and meat from which coconut milk, oil and all other coconut products are made.

How to Make Your Own Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

To make your own unsweetened shredded coconut, look for brown mature coconuts that are heavy, have no soft spots other than the eyes, and have a good slosh of liquid when shaken. Using a hammer and a large nail, tap a hole in the softest eye of the coconut and bake in a 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes or so until it cracks. Pull apart or carefully pry open with a strong knife or screwdriver. Once you get your coconut open, cut the meat out of the shell with a paring knife, remove the brown skin and grate by hand or shred in a food processor. One medium coconut will yield three or four cups of shredded meat. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for up to six months. Whole coconuts can be kept at room temperature for up to six months.

If you’re not making your own, you can find unsweetened shredded coconut at the supermarket in bulk bins, the baking isle, the specialty food isle or the freezer section. You may have to go to a health food store to find organic products that contain no added sugar, sulfites or preservatives, or you can order these products online.

Selected References:

The Weston A. Price Foundation
US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health

Sally Barden JohnsonSally Barden Johnson

Sally Johnson, RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian and health coach. She is an avid CrossFitter and enjoys working with clients to find the best nutritional solutions within a Paleo/Primal framework to solve their health issues. She also enjoys spending time with her family. She can be found on Instagram at