Can you Survive by Only Eating Coconuts if Stranded on Deserted Island?

If you were stranded on a deserted island, you could probably survive by eating coconuts. Just maybe.

Coconuts are high in fiber, fats, and calories as well as vitamins and minerals. They’re not a complete diet, but they would provide enough nutrients to keep you alive.

Though it might not be everyone’s first choice to live on, you may not have a choice if you are stranded on a deserted island. So while you may not remain in optimal health, it is likely that you would survive by eating only coconuts – for a time.

Can you survive by only eating coconuts – if you were stranded on a deserted island?

A personal anecdote supporting this possibility; I actually met a man who claimed to have lived off of coconuts for two years while in Indonesia.

The Philipino man was also traveling at the time I met him and said that he, at one point, was living on a deserted island in the Philippines for 2 years by himself and only ate coconuts. In fact, he ate so many coconuts that “his poop turned white!” or so he claimed. If that’s true he must have been eating ALOT of coconuts.

He said that he had went to the island because he had a massive awakening and this was the only way he knew to getaway.

Later I came to find out that this man had a bit of a reputation and even was dubbed “the Jesus of the Philippines”. While I don’t know about that story, what I do know is that he definitely looked like he possibly could survive such a trial of labours. Or he looked like he could anyways.

The man was impossibly thin, long-haired, and a bit wild-eyed. While it is easy to doubt him, there was nothing in him that seemed bothered whether I believed him or not.

There are also other stories of people who have tried to live off coconuts, with those tales not ending so well.

August Engelhardt, a wild back-to-earther type, from Germany moved to Papa New Guinea in 1901 in an effort to get back to the land and away from modern civilization.

He extolled the virtues of the coconuts, wrote books of the powers of the coconut so much so he created a cult-like following, calling himself and his group “the order of the Sun”.

He preached that they would not only survive but would rise and become god-men telling his followers that coconuts are the closest thing to god.

An NPR piece on the man states, “He believed that since the coconut grew high up in the tree, closest to God and closest to the sun, it was godlike,” says Kracht. “And since it had hair and looked like a human head, he thought it came closest to being a man. According to his rather crackpot theory, to be a locavore was to be a theophage — or eater of God.”

Unfortunately for him, he died early at age 44, of disease in Papa New Guinea although it is not mentioned if there were other circumstances surrounding his death. Being a cult leader might prove that he had a number of other “health issues”.

So it seems coconuts may not make you immortal either.

benefits of coconuts

I guess the real question is how long could you survive on only coconuts?

Can you live forever? As our friend Engelhardt shows, maybe not. How about two years? Like our friend Jesus of Philipines claims – perhaps, but maybe a stretch.

But if you were stranded on an island and were waiting to be rescued, you could certainly survive some weeks or months. This is because of all the goodness it contains. Coconut meat and water contains a number of minerals and vitamins that would keep you going for awhile. More on that later.

So could you survive just by drinking coconut water?

Can you survive only by drinking coconut water?

YES, you can survive just by drinking coconut water, but NO you can not survive the rest of your life on only drinking coconut water. Ok, so the next logical follow-up question is – how long can you survive on coconut water?

Well, this guy below survived 7 days while on an island only drinking coconut water, so we know at least that is possible.

How long can you survive by drinking coconuts? – This guy does a 7-day coconut water challenge on a deserted island

He did eat other food. He just did not drink any other type of water beside the water found in coconuts.

Luckily for him, the deserted island had coconuts a plenty.

Now, if you are stranded on a deserted island, you could survive on coconut water – but for how long?

Now you might think that you could survive on coconut water forever; however, that might not be the case. As coconut water is a slight diuretic with high levels of potassium and sodium so chances are that if you only drink coconut water, after some time you will get dehydrated.

There has been a case of a 42-year-old man who got very ill from a condition called hyperkalemia. He almost died by drinking 8 glasses (each 11 oz) of coconut water over the course of a day to replenish himself after a hot day and sweating a lot while playing tennis.

Now, why did he become ill?

According to a study called Death by Coconut,

“Coconut water is a hypotonic solution that is more acidic than plasma. It contains high concentrations of sugars and potassium, with lower amounts of sodium, chloride, and phosphate”.

“When consumed in excess, coconut water has been shown in case reports to cause severe hyperkalemia.3 The suggested adequate daily intake of potassium for an adult without chronic kidney disease is ≈4.7 g per day.4” 

While the man consumed just over that amount at, ≈5.5 g of potassium, together in combination with acute kidney injury and rhabdomyolysis, his potassium level was life-threatening.

While death by coconut might be only an extreme example, it does show that there are limits. What that limit is might be different for everyone.

We know it is possible to survive on coconut water for some period of time, but for how long is anyone’s guess.

The main issue to prevent the kidneys from failing is getting other liquids in the system. Eating high water content fruits, for instance, might be enough to help lower your potassium levels and save your kidneys if you were only able to have coconut water.

It is not something you want to try unless you absolutely have to, though.

There just isn’t enough research or case studies to say for certain how long you could survive on just coconut water.

If you want to learn how to survive off coconuts while living on an island

Extreme adventure travel and eco survival travel is on the rise and with it, you now can learn how to survive on an island.

There are several companies online that now offer remote island living as a means of getting back to our primitive selves.

As a survival experiment or digital detox, you can strand yourself on an island for a week where you are taught how to survive, how to make fire and how to get the most out of the coconuts.

They teach you how to get the most out of coconuts, how to use them for food, water, shelter and just about everything in between.

What are the benefits of eating coconuts?

According to Healthline,

“Coconut meat is particularly high in calories, saturated fat, and fiber. It also contains a variety of minerals, including manganese, copper, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.”

This would support the argument that you could survive on coconuts.

That is a lot of what you might need to survive as oftentimes are body can adapt and get by with less in an emergency situation; although optimal health might not be there, the body does compensate remarkably well. But for how long?

What nutrients do coconuts contain?

Coconuts have a lot of what you are you need including having antibacterial effects, helping regulate blood sugar and having loads of antioxidants.

Here is a list of all the nutrients that can be found in coconuts.

Water221g
Calories130mg
Calories From Fat72mg
Carbohydrates15g
Protein0.9g
Cholesterol0mg
Dietary Fiber7g
Niacin0.2mg
Total Fat27g
Sugar5.9g
Riboflavin0.0mg
Vitamin A0
Vitamin C4mg
Vitamin E0.4mg
Sugar5g
Sodium16mg
Potassium285mg
Calcium11mg
Iron1.94mg
Magnesium26mg
Phosphorus90mg
Zinc0.88mg
Copper0.348mg
Manganese1.2mcg
Protein3.3g
Selenium8.1mcg
Statistics taken from https://www.finelib.com/about/tropical-fruits-and-vegetables/about-coconuts-and-its-health-benefits/223

However, despite all of this, coconuts are not a complete diet, as they are missing some pretty important nutrients such as Vitamins A, K, B6, and B12, all of which are pretty essential.

Without having Vitamin B12 you will feel pretty terrible, can cause anemia and lead to heart failure. Not having Vitamin K will also lead you to feeling miserable.

Like most diets, the key is in variety, something you do not have if you are just eating a single fruit.

How to identify a healthy coconut?

So let’s say you are stranded on a deserted island, one of the most important things to find is water. They are a great source of not only water but also food and are packed with nutrients and energy. However, not all coconuts are created equal. In order to survive by eating only coconuts, you need to identify healthy ones.

There are a few things you can look for to identify a healthy coconut:

The coconut should be heavy for its size – obviously. Though this means that it is filled with water. If you shake the coconut and it is filled with water, that’s a good sign, though not always a must, if there is no water, that means it has ripened and the inner meat will thick and tough.

It can be brown, green or yellow, none of which can actually tell you if it is good or not. Different types of coconuts will have different colors. If they are light in weight, that is usually the best sign to keep looking.

The best way to tell if a coconut is ripe is by cutting it open. A fresh coconut will have a clear odorless water inside, whereas an old one will have cloudy water that smells slightly sour, or will have mold. It should be pretty obvious if its gone bad as the color, texture and taste will be off. 

How to crack a coconut open?

There is not just one way to open a coconut, and how to open one will depend on what you have with you. The easiest way to open a coconut is with a machete, but since you are on a deserted island, we are going to assume you have nothing on you.

In that case, finding a boulder that has sharp edges can be used. Hold the coconut in your hand, raise it over your head and smash it against a sharp rock. You need to get the first layer of husk removed, once you are able to get it started you can usually peel it off with your hands.

Next, you have a hard shell, and to get that open you are going to have to be more careful if you want to save the liquid inside. Smashing against the rock and you will lose all the precious liquid.

Tap the hard shell against the rock around the circumference which should leave you with a clean cut. Or cut open a small hole at the top of the coconut where you can drain the water out before breaking it open

So can you survive just off of coconuts?

Well, I guess it all depends on what your definition of surviving is. If you are stranded on a deserted island and your goal is to just stay alive and wait for rescue, then certainly eating coconuts can help you do that.

But if you are looking for optimal health, then this approach along with any mono-diet, may not be the best solution since there are other essential nutrients missing from coconuts that your body needs to function properly.

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