Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is one of the most preferred non-dairy milk substitutes. Thick coconut milk retains more fat than thin coconut milk.

Drinking coconut milk in moderation can be good for you. It is however high in fat content. Coconut milk may be thick or thin or be available in powder form. Thick coconut milk retains more fat than thin coconut milk. Low fat coconut milk is also available.

Coconut milk is a white, milky substance extracted from grated mature coconut. Coconut milk is distinct from coconut water, which is a colorless liquid present inside the coconut cavity.

Coconut milk has gained popularity in recent times and an alternative to dairy milk, making it a good option for vegans, people who are lactose intolerant, or those who want to reduce consumption of dairy milk. Coconut milk is very versatile, it may be consumed as it is, or with breakfast cereals, blended with smoothies, or used in soups and curries (it’s commonly used in Southeast Asian dishes) because of its creamy texture and delicious taste. Coconut milk is promoted for being nutritious and having several health benefits, such as promoting weight loss and an improved immune system. However, more studies are required to confirm their various health effects.

What are the health benefits of drinking coconut milk?

The benefits of drinking coconut milk include:

  • Coconut milk is nutritious: Coconut milk contains high levels of saturated fat, making it a high-calorie food. It is rich in essential vitamins and minerals. The nutritional value per 113 gm (half a cup) of raw coconut milk is:
    • Total calories: 222.5
    • Total fat: 24 g
    • Sodium: 14.5 mg/milligrams
    • Potassium: 248.5 mg/milligrams
    • Protein: 2.3 g/grams

Depending on the content of coconut kernel, it also contains varying amounts of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and a small amount of iron.

Nutritional contents may vary in packaged coconut milk like coconut milk drinks and vary with the manufacturer. Manufacturers may fortify coconut milk drinks with additional vitamins, such as Vitamin A, B-12, and D2.

  • Promotes weight loss: Coconut milk contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are believed to stimulate energy through heat production, a process called thermogenesis. The process of thermogenesis has been found to reduce body weight and waist size. Medium-chain triglycerides increase insulin (a hormone that breaks down glucose and regulates blood sugar levels) sensitivity, which helps promote weight loss.
  • Improved immune system: Coconuts contain lauric acid (a lipid) which helps boost the immune system and reduce the risk of infection. Lauric acid also has anti-inflammatory properties. Lauric acid may cause cell death of cancer cells in certain types of cancers. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • Increased stamina: Coconut milk is rich in calories and electrolytes, which can improve stamina and reduce fatigue. Coconut milk also helps build muscle.

What are the risks of drinking coconut milk?

Foods rich in saturated fat have an increased risk of heart diseases because of the high-cholesterol content. Coconut milk has a high-fat content. However, different sources of saturated fats affect the body in different ways and depending on genetics, the way the body metabolizes saturated fats vary with individuals. Not much research has been done to study the effects of coconut milk on cholesterol levels. However, it has been found that coconut oil does not significantly increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also called bad cholesterol.

Coconut-based products are usually high in fat and calories. Though coconut milk can promote weight loss, consuming large amounts of coconut milk regularly can result in weight gain (especially combined with a high fat and carbohydrate diet). Several manufacturers sell coconut milk with a reduced-fat percentage, which can also be a good option. 

Coconut milk can cause digestive issues, in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some people may have coconut allergies and may experience abdominal pain after consuming coconut milk. Coconut milk is nutritious and has several health benefits, hence coconut milk is good for you if coconut milk and coconut-based products are consumed in moderation. Other plant-based milk alternatives to coconut milk include rice milk, cashew milk, almond milk, or macadamia milk.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/11/2020
References
Frey M. Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts. Very Well Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/coconut-milk-nutrition-facts-calories-and-health-benefits-4110358

Alyaqoubi S, Abdullah A, Samudi M. Study of Antioxidant Activity and Physicochemical Properties of Coconut Milk (Pati Santan) in Malaysia. J Chem Pharma Res, 2015; 7(4):967-973.

https://www.jocpr.com/articles/study-of-antioxidant-activity-and-physicochemical-properties-of-coconut-milk-pati-santan-in-malaysia.pdf Nutritionix. Coconut Milk. https://www.nutritionix.com/food/coconut-milk