I Am Coconut … A Killer Nut? Not Even Close
Reader's Digest US|October 2021
The FOOD ON YOUR PLATE
Kate Lowenstein and Daniel Gritzer

IN 2010, BARACK OBAMA was to pay a visit to Mumbai’s Gandhi museum, where palm trees full of me dotted the grounds. The president knew me well; coconuts are a part of life in Indonesia, where he spent his boyhood. A later video of him in Laos, coolly sipping my sweet water straight from my green shell as if he’d done it a thousand times, became a popular meme. Yet, before his visit, Indian authorities methodically removed every last sign of me from the premises. Why? They were afraid the president of the United States would be taken out by one of me falling on his head.

Let’s get this out of the way: My rep as the “killer fruit” of countless innocents was then and still is a myth. A repeatedly misinterpreted 1984 study greatly exaggerated the number of deaths I cause by beaning, and the vicious rumor spread. Today, the only things about me “to die for” are the sometimes too-delicious foods you humans make with me, which include macaroons, piña coladas, rich curries, and custardy pies. A decade ago, health nuts briefly gave me a halo because some of my saturated fats, called medium-chain triglycerides, may raise beneficial HDL cholesterol. But ask a heart doctor today and they’ll tell you that coconut oil will raise your bad LDL cholesterol as much as it’ll raise HDL. Death by coconut, indeed!

You have other wrong ideas about me. I never look brown and hairy on the tree, despite what cartoons might have you believe. In my whole form, I’m smooth and green, yellow, orange, pink, or even sometimes red. And you may think I’m a nut, but I’m actually a drupe (a fleshy fruit with a single seed in the center), as is a cherry, an apricot, or a peach. And even if you already knew that botanical factoid, you’re likely mistaken about what part of me you’re eating.

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