There’s no survival fantasy more classic than being stranded on a tropical island. We’ve seen it on TV, in books, and in movies. And in all of them, the diet is always coconuts. But could you really survive on nothing but coconuts?
My wife brought home a coconut the other day. Still unopened, she left it on the counter until she was ready to try and open it (which I eagerly await watching from a safe distance). And it got me thinking about how good they are as a survival food. Coconuts contain both food and water on the inside (coconut water, pooled in a layer of shavable coconut flesh).
It can store in room temp for a long time, and provides food and water in one. The only concern left was nutritional value. People need a lot of various nutrients to survive. So I did some research. What I found online was inconsistent. Some folks claimed that you COULD survive on coconuts alone, for years. Others, however, pointed toward various aspects of the nut as an indication toward unsustainability. Let’s get these facts organized.
What Coconuts Do Right
Nutritionally speaking, coconuts are top-notch. They have vitamin C, E, and several B. They also have iron, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Many of those are good and healthy.
They’re dense, too. You can get about 750 to 1,500 calories per coconut, depending on the size. With a target daily calorie count of 1,200, you can get a good bit of body fuel from one coconut.
What Coconuts Do Wrong
They’re not flawless, by any means. Coconuts have a few drawbacks that reduce their viability of being a survival food.
The first problem being their water. At first thought, something that produces drinkable water sounds great, especially when it’s that nutritious. There’s a catch, however. Coconut water is a slight diuretic. This means that while it’s a liquid, it produces more urine than the amount of water it provides. Which is a long-winded way to say that it’ll gradually dehydrate you. You will need to consume clean water elsewhere to survive.
Now lets take a closer look at those nutrients. Coconuts are still high in sugar. While that’s good for calories, it’s not terribly healthy. This will likely lead to teeth issues and other concerns. It’s somewhat lacking in the protein department, as well.
There’s also the potassium levels. While it sounds nice, too much potassium can lead to hyperkalemia. This can lead to kidney failure.
Can You Survive on Only Coconuts?
Short answer: No.
While a rather nutritious food source, it’s not something you can solely rely on for survival. The sad truth is that there isn’t a single item that humans can purely live off of. We need diversity. But as far as food goes, this one comes pretty close. We can at least admit that.
Yet again. I live in the Midwest, so coconuts aren’t exactly a common wild crop around here.