Coconut Milk: Nutrition, Facts, Health Benefits, Recipes

By , Category : Food and Nutrition

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Coconut Milk
Credit: iStock.com/asab974

The coconut produces some of the healthiest foods you can get, especially coconut oil and coconut water. However, today we are going to talk about the creamy and naturally sweet coconut milk.

It is so tasty that you may even think it is bad for you, but nothing can be further from the truth. Like its coconut relatives, coconut milk contains saturated fats that can actually help lower your cholesterol, prevent stroke or heart attacks, and improve blood pressure.

Full-fat coconut milk is also a good option for those allergic to nut-, dairy-, or grain-based milks. Coconut milk will also help you build muscle, lose weight, prevent fatigue, improve digestion, manage blood sugar, boost immunity, and prevent ulcers, anemia, and joint inflammation.

Essentially, adding coconut milk to your diet can be a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle. Coconut milk can be easily used for chia pudding, chocolate mousse, green smoothies, or Indian-inspired dal, curry, or masala. This article will provide a useful overview of coconut milk, including its nutrition profile, health benefits, how to purchase it, and how to make it, along with a helpful coconut milk recipe.

What Is Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk is one of the many products you get from the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera). Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines are known to use coconut milk. It is also a popular ingredient in India, Hawaii, and certain Caribbean and South American countries.

It is important to note that there are clear differences between coconut milk and coconut water. First off, coconut milk is not actually milk at all. It is the liquid from mature coconuts that is stored within the coconut’s meat. The milky white substance in a fresh coconut is natural coconut water. However, when you blend coconut meat and strain it, you get something thicker called coconut milk. When a coconut matures, the water is replaced with coconut meat. That is why mature coconuts tend to be better for coconut milk.

At the same time, younger coconuts that are around five to seven months will best produce coconut water, which is higher in certain electrolytes and sugar. On the other hand, coconut milk is a better source of calories and healthy saturated fat.

Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts

What are the coconut milk nutrition facts? Well, there are 5.3 grams of fiber, 5.5 grams of protein, and a whopping 57.2 grams of total fat, including 50.7 grams of saturated fat. Coconut milk also has a very impressive micronutrient profile. In fact, it contains more than 100% of the daily recommendation of manganese in just one cup. It also contains an impressive amount of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, folate, and vitamin C. There are also trace amounts of calcium, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and choline.

There are also 552 calories in coconut milk, which may seem like a lot, but about 93% of its calories come from fat. This includes healthy saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and lauric acid in particular.

The following is a comprehensive coconut nutrition chart with information for one cup of coconut milk, or 240 grams of the coconut fruit.

Nutrient Amount Daily Value
Calories 552 28.00%
Carbohydrates 13.3 g 4.00%
Fiber 5.3 g 21.00%
Protein 5.5 g 11.00%
Total Fat 57.2 g 88.00%
Saturated Fat 50.7 g 254.00%
Monounsaturated Fat 2.4 g N/A
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g N/A
Iron 3.9 mg 22.00%
Manganese 2.2 mg 110.00%
Copper 0.6 mg 32.00%
Calcium 38.4 mg 4.00%
Magnesium 88.8 mg 22.00%
Phosphorus 240 mg 24.00%
Potassium 631 mg 18.00%
Selenium 14.9 mcg 21.00%
Zinc 1.6 mg 11.00%
Folate 38.4 mcg 10.00%
Vitamin B1 0.1 mg 4.00%
Vitamin B3 1.8 mg 9.00%
Vitamin B5 0.4 mg 4.00%
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg 4.00%
Vitamin C 6.7 mg 11.00%
Vitamin E 0.4 mg 2.00%
Vitamin K 0.2 mcg 0.00%
Choline 20.4 mg N/A

* N/A—Not Applicable

5 Health Benefits of Coconut Milk

What are the health benefits of coconut milk? Well, coconut milk helps nourish the digestive lining due to its healthy fats and electrolytes. As a result, coconut milk could prevent dehydration and help improve gut health, while also preventing constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Electrolytes are also important for preventing heat strokes, exhaustion, muscle aches, cramps, heart problems, and low immunity. The iron in coconut also provides a good plant-based iron source that could help prevent anemia. The MCTs in coconut milk, especially lauric acid, can decrease levels of bacteria and viruses that lead to infection.

On top of all that, coconut milk health benefits also include preventing ulcers, building muscle, helping with weight loss, preventing joint inflammation, balancing blood sugar levels, and improving overall heart health. Let’s take a brief look at some of the key health benefits of coconut milk.

1. Joint Inflammation and Arthritis

The MCTs in coconut milk can help reduce inflammation, which is linked to general joint pain, muscle aches and pain, and even arthritis. Sugar causes inflammation and worsened pain and swelling. As a result, arthritis sufferers can benefit from replacing refined sugar with coconut milk in dessert recipes. Animal studies have also found that coconut milk can decrease swelling and inflammation in injured rats and mice.

2. Muscle and Weight Loss

Research shows that MCTs in coconut milk can boost energy and enhance physical performance. After exercise, coconut milk can help provide the muscles with nutrients needed to repair and strengthen them. The healthy fats in coconut milk will also fill you up, and prevent overeating or irrational snacking throughout the day.

A study published in the journal Obesity Research in 2003 found that a diet high in MCTs would result in better fat loss compared with long-chain fatty acids. As a result, MCTs may help prevent obesity or stimulate weight loss.

3. Heart Health

Studies show that the lauric acid in coconut milk could help protect and improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. For instance, an eight-week study of 60 men published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2013 found that coconut milk porridge reduced LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol better than soymilk porridge. The coconut milk porridge also increased HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol by 18% compared with just 3 percent in the soymilk. Coconut milk also contains minerals important for circulation, blood flow control, and overall heart health, including magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

4. Ulcers

A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2008 found that coconut milk could help decrease ulcers even better than coconut water. The coconut milk reduced ulcer size by 54% in rats with ulcers. The coconut milk had a protective effect on the ulcerated gastric mucus, which is known to lead to ulcers.

5. Blood Sugar Levels

The fat in coconut milk can help slow the rate that sugar is released into the bloodstream. This helps control insulin and blood sugar levels and prevents diabetes. As a result, it is a good idea to use coconut milk rather than dairy milk in desserts. The MCTs in coconut milk are also a better energy source for the body than sugar.

How to Purchase Coconut Milk

Want to know how to buy coconut milk? When purchasing coconut milk from the store, you will find them in cartons or cans. The best coconut milk is organic without any sweeteners or added sugars, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives. You will also want the non-pasteurized coconut milk that’s been cold pressured. Therefore, it has only been lightly heated and processed, but hasn’t been exposed to high heat that leads to the depletion of valuable nutrients. Also, avoid coconut milk cartons with questionable ingredients like carrageenan.

Store-bought coconut milk should contain 100% coconut milk, and maybe a little coconut water. Some companies will also add guar gum—a natural texture stabilizer. If you are buying canned coconut milk, be sure to avoid cans made with the chemical BPA (bisphenol A). BPA is linked to a number of health problems, including behavioral issues, fertility problems, insulin resistance, heart disease, and more.

Some people will tell you to choose light coconut milk since it is the lower-calorie option. However, it is full-fat coconut milk that contains most of its natural fatty acids. On the other hand, light coconut milk is strained to remove some of this beneficial fat for thinner, lower-calorie milk.

How to Make and Use Coconut Milk

Although you can easily buy coconut milk, it doesn’t compare to making your own. You use fresh coconuts, coconut meat, or even unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut. When using a coconut you know it’s fresh when you shake it and you can still hear some liquid moving inside. Next, with a heavy knife or sturdy cleaver crack open the coconut. Then, strain the coconut water and put aside for smoothies or drinks. Remove the coconut flesh with a pairing knife or hit the coconut to remove the rest of the meat from the shell. Rinse the coconut meat, and chop it into small pieces. Add the coconut to a blender with about two cups of filtered water. Blend it for a thick liquid; then, strain it with a metal strainer or cheesecloth for separating the coconut meat from the coconut milk. Squeeze the coconut pulp with your hands to help strain most of the milk.

For shredded or flaked coconut, use the following recipe instead:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • 4 cups of filtered water

Directions:

  • Soak the coconut for two to four hours, and drain.
  • Place the coconut, water, and vanilla in a blender, and blend for about a minute. Strain the mixture through a nut bag over a bowl, and press down to release all of the milk.
  • Transfer to a jar, and store in the refrigerator for about five days.

Coconut milk can be used to make everything: coconut whipped cream, dairy-free coconut yogurt, kefir, and ice cream, curries, breakfast porridges, baked goods, iced drinks, non-dairy cheese, soups, smoothies, elixirs, and even chia puddings. For a healthy treat, the following is a chocolate chia pudding recipe with coconut milk for your enjoyment.

Ingredients:

Blender ingredients:

  • 1 can (14 oz./400ml) of full-fat coconut milk or 1 cup of homemade coconut milk
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup of raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp of hemp hearts
  • 4 medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup of raw cacao
  • 2 tbsp of flaxseed oil
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of Celtic grey sea salt

Topping ingredients:

  • Fresh organic strawberries
  • Shredded coconut

Directions:

  • Place all blender ingredients into the blender, and combine until smooth.
  • Refrigerate overnight or a minimum of 30 minutes, until thickened.
  • Top with shredded coconut and fresh strawberries when ready to serve.

Final Thoughts on Coconut Milk

Unless you are allergic to coconuts, you likely won’t have a problem with coconut milk. That is because coconuts are a low-allergen food, especially when compared to soy, nuts, or dairy products. Overall, coconut milk is a health choice, and it seemingly benefits people with inflammation, and improves weight loss, digestion, blood sugar balance, while also preventing ulcers and promoting heart health. If you are working toward weight loss goals, it is best to control coconut milk consumption due to its high fat content.

Related Articles:

Coconut Butter: Nutrition, Health Benefits, and Recipes

10 Health Benefits of Coconut Water

Coconut Oil for Yeast Infections


Sources:
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“Coconut Milk Health Benefits and Uses,” healthline; http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coconut-milk#section1, last accessed Aug. 2, 2017.
“What Is Coconut Milk Good For?” FoodFacts Mercola; http://foodfacts.mercola.com/coconut-milk.html, last accessed Aug. 2, 2017.
Huang, C.B., et al., “Short- and medium-chain fatty acids exhibit antimicrobial activity for oral microoganisms,” Archives of Oral Biology, July 2011; 56(7): 650-654, doi: 10.1016/j.archoralbio.2011.01.011.
Hornung, B., et al., “Lauric acid inhibits the maturation of vesicular stomatitis virus,” The Journal of General Virology, February 1994; 75(Pt 2): 353-361, doi: 10.1099/0022-1317-75-2-353.
Nneli, R.O., et al., “Antiulcerogenic effects of coconut (Cocos nucifera) extract in rats,” Phytotherapy Research, July 2008; 22(7): 970-972, doi: 10.1002/ptr.2318.
St-Onge, M.P., et al., “Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men,” Obesity Research, March 2003; 11(3): 395-402. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12634436.
Ekanayaka, R.A., et al., “Impact of a traditional dietary supplement with coconut milk and soya milk on the lipid profile in normal free living subjects,” Journal of Nutrient Metabolism, Oct. 24, 2013;2013:481068, doi: 10.1155/2013/481068.
Nordqvist, C., “Bisphenol A: How does it affect our health,” Medical News Today; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/221205.php, last updated May 25, 2017.
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Jon Yaneff, CNP

About the Author, Browse Jon's Articles

Jon Yaneff is a holistic nutritionist and health researcher with a background in journalism. After years of a hectic on-the-go, fast food-oriented lifestyle as a sports reporter, Jon knew his life needed a change. He began interviewing influential people in the health and wellness industry and incorporating beneficial health and wellness information into his own life. Jon’s passion for his health led him to the certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) program at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He graduated with first... Read Full Bio »