Are coconut macaroons unhealthy?

Coconut macaroons are a popular cookie made with coconut, egg whites, and sugar. They have a light, crispy exterior and a soft, chewy interior. Coconut macaroons are enjoyed around the world, but some people wonder if they are unhealthy because of their high fat and sugar content. This article will examine the nutritional profile of coconut macaroons and discuss whether or not they can be part of a healthy diet.

Nutritional Profile of Coconut Macaroons

The main ingredients in coconut macaroons are shredded coconut, egg whites, and sugar. Coconut is high in fat, providing 9 grams of total fat and 7 grams of saturated fat per 1 ounce serving. However, over 90% of the fat in coconut is in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which have unique health benefits compared to other forms of saturated fat. MCTs are easily absorbed by the body and are preferentially used for energy production rather than being stored as body fat. Some research suggests that MCTs may enhance fat burning and even aid in weight loss.

Aside from coconut, the other primary ingredient in coconut macaroons is sugar. A typical recipe calls for 1 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut and 1/2 cup of sugar for a batch of cookies. Per macaroon, this equates to around 5 grams of sugar. So while coconut macaroons are relatively high in natural fats from coconut, they are also high in added sugars.

Here is the full nutrition information for a typical homemade coconut macaroon (22g each):

Calories 79
Total Fat 6g
Saturated Fat 5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 16mg
Carbohydrates 7g
Fiber 1g
Sugars 5g
Protein 1g

As you can see, coconut macaroons are high in fat and saturated fat compared to other cookies, providing over 20% of the daily value for saturated fat in just one cookie. However, they contain no trans fats or cholesterol. Fiber, protein, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals will be minimal in this treat.

Are the Fat and Sugar Concerning?

The high amounts of fat and saturated fat in coconut macaroons may be concerning for some people trying to follow a heart healthy diet. Saturated fat has long been vilified for raising LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby increasing risk of heart disease. However, more recent research has called into question the role of saturated fat in heart disease. Several meta-analyses of population studies have failed to find clear evidence linking saturated fat consumption to cardiovascular disease risk.

It appears that saturated fats behave differently depending on their food sources. For example, saturated fat from meat and dairy may be more harmful than saturated fat from plant sources like coconut. The MCTs in coconut oil are unlikely to negatively impact cholesterol levels. Overall, coconut fat from macaroons is probably not as concerning as it was once thought to be in terms of effects on heart health.

The sugar content of coconut macaroons is a bigger potential issue. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men. One coconut macaroon already provides 5 grams, so the sugar can add up quickly if you eat multiple cookies. Consuming excess added sugars is linked with weight gain, higher blood triglycerides, inflammation, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease.

Can Coconut Macaroons Fit Into a Healthy Diet?

Coconut macaroons can fit into a healthy diet in moderation. As discussed earlier, the saturated fat from coconut is not considered detrimental to health like some other forms of saturated fat when consumed in reasonable amounts. The sugar content is a bigger concern, but coconut macaroons are relatively low in sugar compared to many other cookie recipes.

Here are some tips for enjoying coconut macaroons healthfully:

– Stick to 1 or 2 macaroons at a time and be mindful of your overall sugar intake for the day. Avoid going over the recommended limits for added sugars.

– Enjoy coconut macaroons as part of an otherwise well-balanced diet focused on whole foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, fiber-rich grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The fat and nutrients in these foods help mitigate any potential adverse effects of coconut macaroons.

– When baking coconut macaroons at home, cut back on the amount of added sugar in the recipe. You can reduce it by 1⁄4 cup or more and the cookies will still turn out well.

– Pair macaroons with other healthy foods like fresh fruit for better nutrition and satisfaction. The fruit provides fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and displaces some cookie calories.

– Choose dark chocolate dipped coconut macaroons over milk chocolate varieties to get the health benefits of dark chocolate with less sugar.

– Pay attention to portion sizes and stop eating when satisfied rather than overindulging in these sweet treats.

Healthy Coconut Macaroon Recipe

This recipe makes 16 coconut macaroons with less added sugar than traditional recipes:


  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1⁄4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1⁄4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the shredded coconut, honey, vanilla, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy and fold into the coconut mixture.
  4. Drop tablespoons of batter onto the baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool completely.
  6. Optional: melt the chocolate chips and drizzle over cookies for chocolate macaroons.

This healthier recipe cuts the added sugar down to just 1⁄4 cup for the whole batch. The cookies still taste delicious thanks to the coconut flavor, vanilla, and touch of honey or maple syrup. Enjoy the chocolate dipped variation in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Healthier Substitutions

There are a few simple substitutions you can make to lighten up coconut macaroons:

Coconut oil: Replace some of the shredded coconut with virgin coconut oil to cut back on saturated fat. The oil will add moisture and coconut flavor.

Coconut flour: Use a smaller amount of coconut flour instead of some of the shredded coconut to reduce calories, fat, and carbs.

Unsweetened coconut: Cut back or eliminate added sugar by using more unsweetened shredded coconut, which still provides sweetness.

Vanilla protein powder: Substitute 1-2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder for some of the flour to increase protein.

Canned light coconut milk: Replace some egg white with a small amount of light coconut milk for more moisture and richness.

Are Store-Bought Healthier?

Store-bought coconut macaroons may have slightly different nutrition than homemade versions, depending on the brand. Some store-bought macaroons contain processed coconut instead of fresh shredded coconut, as well as more added sugars and preservatives. Always check the nutrition label when purchasing pre-made macaroons. Your healthiest bet is to bake your own using the recipe provided earlier in this article so you control the ingredients.

Other Healthy Coconut Desserts

If you enjoy the flavor of coconut, there are several other healthy coconut-based desserts you can make at home beyond macaroons:

Coconut yogurt pudding – Made by blending together full-fat canned coconut milk, coconut yogurt, vanilla, and sweetener. Top with fruit and granola.

Coconut chia seed pudding – Chia seeds soaked in coconut milk create a delicious, high protein and high fiber treat.

Coconut fruit salad – Toss fresh fruit with unsweetened shredded coconut and a drizzle of coconut milk.

Coconut ice cream – Blend coconut cream or canned coconut milk with frozen banana and other mix-ins for a creamy dessert.

Coconut avocado mousse – Blend together coconut milk, avocado, cocoa powder, and touch of sweetener for chocolatey mousse.

Coconut date energy bites – Mix together coconut, medjool dates, nuts, vanilla, and oats for an easy no-bake snack.


Coconut macaroons can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. The fat from coconut provides MCTs that may have beneficial effects on metabolism and is not as damaging to cholesterol levels as once believed. However, the added sugar content should be kept under control. Homemade coconut macaroons made with less added sugar, portion controlled, and paired with other nutritious foods like fruit make for a great occasional treat. Just be mindful of your overall calorie, sugar, and saturated fat intake. When preparing coconut macaroons and other coconut-based desserts, you can modify recipes to further boost nutrition. Overall, coconut macaroons are not an ideal everyday food, but with some savvy modifications, they can be a relatively healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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