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Is Coconut a Nut? What you Probably Don’t Know.

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Is coconut a nut?

Coconut has gained a lot of popularity in the American diet with many claims of coconut having significant health benefits.

There are many popular products such as coconut water, coconut oil, coconut milk, and coconut aminos as a few examples. It seems like we’ve all gone coconuts. 

With all of this heightened popularity it tends to bring up questions in the food allergy world. Individuals with a tree nut allergy may find themselves wondering, is coconut a nut? Or is coconut a fruit? Or is it a seed? 

Keep reading to see what the research says about coconut and food allergies.

Updated 2/16/23

What is a coconut? Is coconut a nut or fruit?

I am definitely not a botanist so bear with me as I learned a lot writing this post! I’ve also confirmed I do not want to be a botanist.

According to the Library of Congress, (1) coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe. Drupe? I never heard that word either.

A drupe is a stone fruit. Although the word “nut” is in coconut, a coconut is not botanically classified as a nut, but as a fruit. At least typically.

However, using loose definitions, a coconut could possibly be defined as a nut, fruit, and seed due to the definition of a coconut being a one seeded fruit.

A coconut is not considered a tree nut as a coconut does not open at maturity to release its seeds. Therefore, a coconut is not a true nut, as its seeds are only released when the fruit wall decays or when digested by an animal. 

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, &Immunology (2) notes that coconut is not a botanical nut. It further states that coconut is classified as a fruit.

What is a Tree Nut?

Tree Nut Allergies are listed as one of the most common allergies in the United States. Tree nuts include walnuts, pistachios, cashews, almond, pecans, hazelnuts, etc.

FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) (3) notes that approximately 50% of children with an allergy to one tree nut are allergic to another tree nut.

The Food and Drug Administration (4) classifies coconut as a tree nut, but that could change. There has been much debate about this subject matter. The Coconut Coalition of the Americas does not agree with coconut being classified as a tree nut.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (2) also cites that they view coconut as a fruit and not a tree nut.

So The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology answer to “is coconut a tree nut” is no and the Food and Drug Administrations answer to “is coconut a tree nut” is yes.

How Do I Know If I am Allergic to Coconut?

See a Board Certified Specialist to find out. Food allergy symptoms include:

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting

Additional symptoms may be present. It is important to talk to your board certified allergist if you feel you may have a coconut allergy.

How Common is a Coconut Allergy?

At this time, coconut allergies are considered rare (5). However, it is definitely possible to be allergic to coconut.

Am I Likely Allergic to Coconut if I Have a Tree Nut Allergy?

There does not appear to be a correlation between a tree nut allergy and a coconut allergy. (5, 6).

Keep in mind that if you have been cleared by your provider to eat coconut, you still need to be mindful of potential cross contamination with tree nuts in facilities where coconut may be manufactured.

Final Thoughts

So is coconut a nut? No…well yes…maybe.

Coconut, most commonly appears to be classified as a fruit, although there is a lot that can be left up to interpretation from a botanical perspective.

The Food and Drug Administration classifies coconut as a tree nut, however, many Board Certified Allergists do not view coconut as a tree nut.

If you think you may be allergic to coconut, see a Board Certified Allergist.

Coconut allergies are not common, but are possible. If you have a tree nut allergy it does not mean that you necessarily have a coconut allergy.

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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Last Updated on February 16, 2023 by Amber DeVore, RD, CSSD, CLT

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2 thoughts on “Is Coconut a Nut? What you Probably Don’t Know.”

  1. A drupe is not a fruit with a hard stony covering, it is simply a stone fruit. Plums and cherries are drupes. The brown hairy thing with a hard shell, and white flesh and milk inside is the stone.

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