Is Coconut a Fruit or a Nut?

One of the most common questions we are asked by patients with tree nut allergy is whether coconut is a fruit or a nut.  Unfortunately, the answer is a little complicated.  Botanically, the coconut is classified as a fruit--more specifically, it is a drupe.  Drupes are more commonly called stone fruits.  Other stone fruits include peaches and nectarines; blackberries and raspberries are drupes comprised of aggregates of drupelets.  The United States Food and Drug Administration consider coconuts to be a tree nut.  The federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that all packaged food products sold in the U.S. that contain tree nuts as an ingredient must list it on the label.  This act does require coconut to be listed specifically.  Ultimately, allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, but most patients with a tree nut allergy are able to tolerate it.  If you have a tree nut allergy, you should discuss adding coconut to your diet with us first.  It should be noted that peanuts are actually not a nut…they are a legume.  Some other common foods that are mistaken for nuts are nutmeg, butternut squash, and water chestnuts.