Monday, July 13, 2009

Goin' Coconuts!

A lot of you have had questions for me about coconut products, particularly because coconut oil shows up in so many foods such as popcorn, ice cream and many other foods.

Because of the name, many people believe that coconuts are nuts. In fact, they are a fruit. So if you have an allergy to nuts, you don't necessarily have to avoid coconut. For some odd reason, the FDA has recently put coconut under the umbrella of "tree nut." This is not helping with the confusion people have about nut allergies.

Big medical disclaimer: you can be allergic to coconut. If your doctor has advised you to avoid coconut, please do so. You can be allergic to fruits. So ask your allergist before giving an allergic person any food.

OK, with that out of the way: my message is that coconut is not a tree nut. If you or your tree nut/peanut-allergic child enjoy the taste and you don't have a fruit allergy, you can eat products that contain coconut or coconut oil--provided they don't also have a nut allergy warning or if there are other cross-contact concerns (such as the food was made lines with nut-containing foods, etc.).

My kids and I like the taste of coconut--in cookies, cakes and sorbets. Also, coconut cream or milk can be a great substitute for dairy in recipes, if you have a dairy allergy. Click this link for a blog entry I posted recently that contains a dairy-free, nut-free ice cream recipe using coconut cream.

A lot of you may not like coconut, but since people with nut allergies already have several limitations on what we can eat, I thought that it's nice to expand the list a little bit.

As always, if you're unsure of what's safe for your particular situation, ask your allergist!


Linda Coss said...

Thanks for reminding people about this. I know I was shocked when the FDA, in its infinite wisdom, decided to classify this fruit as a "tree nut." It's not. My son -- and all of the other tree nut allergic people I know -- has been safely eating coconut products for almost 19 years.

As you point out, why add unnecessary limitations to an already limited diet?

Anonymous said...

Glad you are clearing up the record. Our allergist told me that coconut was safe, so I have been feeding it to my kids and they love it - and have been reaction free. One of their favorite treats are SoyNut Butter Snowballs which is super simple to make: equal parts IM Healthy SoyNut Butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and honey. Roll into balls and roll in coconut. Refrigerate until firm.

Anonymous said...

Can your daughter safely eat fish or any type of cooked sushi, such as california rolls? Is there a higher incidence of fish allergy b/c of peanut allergy? I am afraid to introduce this into my daughter's diet!

Jenny said...

I have never heard of a higher incidence of fish allergy if a child has a peanut allergy. Both of my kids like fish and in fact, they do enjoy California rolls. :)

However, both of my children have been tested for all of the most likely food allergens. So if you are new to allergies and are worried, I would contact your doctor and ask about appropriate tests for your child.

Good luck to you!

kelly said...

I LOVE coconut...and the FDA really needs to change this misleading label. We are all so limited by our diets already...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post! I've been reading the debates about whether or not coconut is a tree nut or fruit everywhere! Always thought it was a fruit and was shocked to read all the discussion on it! Thankfully, DS has been fine w/coconut ever since he enjoyed a homemade coconut creme pie at Christmas! But, I do have it on our list to ask the allergist about next week! :)

Jane Anne said...

One of the early questions I had when I was struggle with what my son could eat was whether or not a coconut was a nut. Thanks for this informative post!