Green coconuts are the same variety as the brown, hairy ones with which you may be more familiar.
Both come from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) (1).
The difference lies in the age of the coconut. Green coconuts are young and not completely ripened, while brown ones are fully mature (2).
Green coconuts have far less meat than mature ones. Instead, they’re prized for their refreshing and healthy water (2).
This article reviews green coconuts, including their health benefits and uses.
During the ripening process, the outside color gradually darkens (2).
The inside goes through various stages as well (2):
- At six months. A bright green coconut contains only water and no fat.
- At 8–10 months. The green coconut has more yellow or brown spots. Its water becomes sweeter, and jelly-like meat forms, which gradually thickens and firms up.
- From 11–12 months. The coconut begins to turn brown, and the meat inside thickens, hardens, and develops its high fat content. The coconut is much lower in water.
Green coconuts are young and not fully ripened, so they contain mostly water with little meat. As they mature, their water becomes sweeter, and the meat starts to develop.
Both green coconut water and meat offer impressive nutrition and health benefits.
Packed with nutrition
The water and tender meat of green coconuts are packed with electrolytes and micronutrients.
As a coconut ripens and transforms from mostly water to mostly meat, its nutrition content changes tremendously.
|Coconut water||Raw coconut meat|
|Protein||Less than 1 gram||3 grams|
|Fat||0 grams||33 grams|
|Carbs||4 grams||15 grams|
|Fiber||0 grams||9 grams|
|Manganese||7% of the Daily Value (DV)||75% of the DV|
|Copper||2% of the DV||22% of the DV|
|Selenium||1% of the DV||14% of the DV|
|Magnesium||6% of the DV||8% of the DV|
|Phosphorus||2% of the DV||11% of the DV|
|Iron||2% of the DV||13% of the DV|
|Potassium||7% of the DV||10% of the DV|
|Sodium||4% of the DV||1% of the DV|
May prevent dehydration
Also, many people prefer it to bottled sports drinks as a natural rehydration beverage (5).
A study in eight men who cycled in hot conditions for as long as they could determined that drinking coconut water allowed the participants to exercise longer, achieve a higher heart rate, and experience less dehydration, compared with a sports drink or plain water (6).
Possible heart health benefits
Coconut water may help improve metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by high blood pressure, blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, as well as low HDL (good) cholesterol and excess belly fat.
Researchers also noted higher levels of antioxidant activity in the animals’ bodies, which they suggested may protect against oxidative damage to blood vessels (
Rich in antioxidants
In a test-tube study, coconut water from one of the most common varieties of coconut protected cells from oxidative damage caused by hydrogen peroxide (
The water and tender meat of young coconuts are very nutritious. The water can be used as a natural sports recovery drink. Plus, green coconuts contain nutrients and antioxidant compounds that may protect against cellular damage and heart disease.
How to enjoy a green coconut
While you can buy packaged coconut water, green coconuts are a much fresher and more natural way to enjoy it.
A young green coconut contains about 11 ounces (325 ml) of refreshing water (11).
If you choose a slightly more mature green coconut, you’ll find that the meat is much more tender than that of brown ones.
When choosing a green coconut, choose one that’s heavy (2).
When you shake it, you shouldn’t hear water sloshing around. That indicates that it’s full of water and still immature (2).
Green coconuts have a softer outer husk and inner shell, so they’re much easier to open than hard, brown ones.
To drink the water:
- Pop off the petal-like top of the coconut with a knife.
- Cut into and around the area that was covered with the petal. Alternatively, use a pointed coconut opener, and poke the end of it into the petal area and twist.
- Pull the core out, and either drink the water through a straw or pour it into a glass.
To see whether your coconut has any meat, cut it in half lengthwise with a very sharp knife or cleaver. If there’s any meat, you’ll be able to scrape it out with a spoon.
Green coconut water and meat are a delicious and refreshing treat to eat right out of the coconut, or you can add them to a protein shake for a perfect post-workout recovery snack.
Delicate green coconut meat can also be used to make desserts like ice cream.
Green coconuts are perfect for drinking, but if you choose one that’s a bit more mature, you can enjoy its very soft and tender meat along with its water. Green coconuts are much easier to open than mature ones, though they require a little bit of work.
The bottom line
Green coconuts are young coconuts that haven’t fully ripened and turned brown.
Their sweet water and very tender meat are nutritious treats.
They’re great for preventing dehydration and contain nutrients and compounds that may offer antioxidant benefits, helping reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
If you want to add this refreshing, tropical delicacy to your diet, go green next time you hit the supermarket.