Can Baby Eat Coconut?
Coconut is not actually a ‘nut’, though there is still debate as to what it is exactly – some say it is a seed, others say it a fruit… and both seem to be correct!
- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists coconut as a ‘tree nut’ – this means that you should not give coconut to your baby if he or she has been identified as having an allergy to tree nuts.
- Foods and other products that may contain coconut will be labelled: ‘Includes tree nuts’.
- Recorded allergic reactions to coconut are quite rare and most of those with an allergy to coconut are not allergic to other tree nuts.
- Be aware, though, that allergy to coconut is associated to latex allergy – if your baby is allergic to latex, discuss this with his or her doctor or paediatrician before introducing any new foods, particularly coconut.
Coconut is a healthy food…
- In countries where coconuts grow in abundance, they are part of the staple diet as they contain many nutrients – including B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, protein and iron.
- Research also indicates that the fat in coconut is beneficial to health, as it is high in lauric acid – the main fatty acid found in breast milk that makes breast milk so digestible and is believed to protect against infection and boost the immune system.
- Coconut oil is possibly the healthiest of dietary oils – as long as it is organic, hand-pressed or extra-virgin (not the refined coconut oil found in most stores).
- If kept at room temperature, coconut oil is actually solid,so it may be used as a healthy alternative to butter or margarine.
Coconut in your baby’s diet…
With the consent of his or her doctor or paediatrician, begin adding coconut products to your baby’s diet once he or she is safely enjoying other fruits and vegetables – but be sure not to introduce coconut at the same time as any other new foods, so that you can identify it as the cause of any problems that arise.
Until your baby has ‘chewing teeth’, he or she will not be able to deal with pieces of fresh coconut -and there will always be the danger of choking.
There are various safe ways of giving your baby the nutrition of coconut:
- Shake a whole, fresh coconut and you should hear liquid moving about – this is the coconut water which is very nutritious, and is completely sterile until the coconut is opened.
- Fresh coconut water makes a healthy alternative to commercial juices as a drink for the older baby.
- Fresh coconut water should be refrigerated and used within 24 hours.
Coconut milk and coconut cream…
- This is made from fresh coconut flesh that is grated, soaked in boiling water, and the liquid strained off – the liquid separates into ‘cream’ and ‘milk’
- Commercially produced coconut milk and coconut cream are available in most supermarkets. Coconut cream is mainly used for dessert recipes.
- Coconut milk may be used in many dishes.
- Buy unsweetened coconut milk – with no extra additives – for use in your baby-food recipes.
- Very young coconuts (sometimes known as jellied coconuts) are particularly delicious and nutritious.
- Not easy to find, they are usually sold still in the husk by health food and natural food stores- where they will be in the chilled food section.
- At home, you should store them in your refrigerator.
- The flesh of young coconuts is very soft and gelatinous (hence ‘jellied’) and sweeter than the flesh of mature coconuts.
- Young coconut flesh is easy to puree for adding to your baby’s food.
- Coconut flesh that has been dried (desiccated) and shredded is an acceptable alternative to fresh.
- It may be used to make coconut milk by following the same procedure as for fresh coconut.
- Check the label on packaged desiccated coconut – it is often sweetened, and it may contain other ingredients, so it may not be suitable for your baby.
- Look for pure, unsweetened desiccated coconut – usually found in health and natural food stores.
Ideas for using coconut in your baby’s food…
- Pour coconut milk over pieces of butternut squash or pumpkin before baking then mashing – or use it to thin purees of these two vegetables.
- Add some coconut milk, (maybe plus a small pinch of dried ginger) to cooked sweet potato before mashing.
- Cook rice in coconut water, rather than ordinary water.
- Cook vegetables in coconut milk.
- Use coconut milk to poach boneless white fish.
- Mash a banana with a small amount of coconut cream, or milk.
- Use a little coconut milk or cream when you make oatmeal (porridge) for your baby.
- Make smoothies using coconut milk.
- When your baby is old enough, mix some freshly grated coconut intohis or her cooked rice.
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.