If you are lactose intolerant or looking for a healthy alternative to dairy, coconut milk is just the drink for you. You can add it to your tea or coffee, mix it with porridge and even use it for cooking and baking. Coconut milk nutritional facts include magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, sodium, vitamin C, E, B1, B3, B5, etc.
This sweet, creamy milk is considered a miracle liquid by many health experts. It is rich in healthy fats and is known to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure and prevent heart attacks.
In this article, you will learn more about coconut milk nutrition and its health benefits.
What is coconut milk?
Coconut milk is made from the white fleshy part of mature coconuts. The coconut flesh is grated and then strained. The resulting liquid is known as coconut milk.
It is different from coconut water, which is the clear liquid you get from the young coconut. While coconut water low in fat and rich in easily digestible carbs, coconut milk contains unique fatty acids that help in weight loss, boost immune function and improve skin and hair.
Coconut milk nutrition
Coconut milk is highly nutritious as it contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, sodium, and vitamin C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6. Coconut milk is rich in fat, but most of these fats are medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs).
Lauric acid is one of these MCFAs, which is converted into monolaurin, an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal compound. Unlike other saturated fats, MCFAs are metabolized into energy in the liver and are less likely to be stored as fats.
Coconut milk is high in calories, so we must consume smaller portions than regular milk.
One cup (240 grams) of full-fat coconut milk contains (1) –
- Calories: 552
- Fat: 57 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 13 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Vitamin C: 6.7 mg (11% of DV)
- Folate: 38.4 mcg (10 % of DV)
- Niacin: 1.8 mg (9% of DV)
- Manganese: 2.2 mg (110% of DV)
- Copper: .6 mg (32% of DV)
- Phosphorus: 240 mg (24% of DV)
- Iron: 3.9 mg (22% of DV)
- Magnesium: 88.8 mg (22% of DV)
- Selenium: 14.9 mcg (21% of DV)
Health benefits of coconut milk
1. Improves heart health
Coconut milk was demonized earlier for its high-fat content. However, researchers have now discovered that not only is coconut milk heart-healthy, it also helps in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
Almost 50 percent of the fats in coconut milk is lauric acid, which has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and has been linked to lower cholesterol levels.
During a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 60 healthy volunteers were given coconut milk porridge for five days per week for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers found a significant decrease in the levels of LDL in the volunteers. Their HDL levels also increased significantly (2).
Coconut milk also contains essential minerals that help lower blood pressure and free plaque up in blood vessels. The high magnesium content in coconut milk helps keep muscles relaxed, thus preventing heart attacks.
2. Boosts immunity
Coconut milk contains a fatty acid known as lauric acid. Lauric acid gets converted to monolaurin, a compound that has antiviral and antibacterial properties (3).
Coconut milk also contains zinc, which plays several essential roles in the body. It is vital to the way in which our tissues function. It is also significant for immunity. A deficiency of zinc in the body could make you more vulnerable to infections.
3. Helps build muscles
Coconut milk is packed with healthy fats, including lauric acid. These fats are quickly absorbed and digested in the body. They are converted into energy as opposed to being stored as fat, which makes them ideal for athletes.
Our muscles need a lot of nutrients post-exercise, and coconut milk is a rich source of nutrients. It contains magnesium and potassium, which are vital for the repair of broken down tissue and they also help them to grow back stronger.
Coconut milk contains the least amount of sodium, as compared to other milk alternatives. The high healthy fat content of coconut milk also improves satiety, and this helps you lose fat and gain muscle.
4. Improves digestion
Coconut milk helps promote digestive health in many ways. It can help with irritable bowel syndrome, slow motility, inflammation, poor nutrient absorption, and regularity.
Since coconut milk is lactose-free, it helps people who suffer from lactose intolerance.
FODMAPs or fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols are osmotic carbohydrates, which means they pull water into the bowel.
People have a hard time digesting FODMAP containing food as they can lead to constipation, gas, abdominal bloating, and diarrhea. Coconut milk is a low FODMAP food, which means it is easy to digest.
Coconut milk is a good source of fiber, which helps prevent constipation. This milk also contains electrolytes and healthy fats which nourish the digestive lining and prevent conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
5. Helps control diabetes
With only one gram of carbohydrates in one cup of unsweetened coconut milk, it is an excellent option for people with diabetes.
The fat content in coconut milk slows down the rate at which the sugar is released into the bloodstream. This slow down helps prevent a sharp rise in blood sugars and prevents diabetes, and this makes coconut milk a healthy alternative to add to smoothies, cereal, and desserts.
The medium chain triglycerides in coconut milk are helpful in weight loss. During a study by the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University, 24 overweight men consumed a diet rich in MCT for 28 days.
The study concluded that consumption of a diet rich in MCTs results in more significant loss of adipose tissue when compared with long-chain triglycerides, perhaps due to increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation observed with MCT intake (4).
Since it is high in healthy fats, coconut milk improves satiety and helps prevent overeating, which can lead to weight gain. The fat in coconut milk also helps enhance metabolism by hydrating and improving the functioning of the liver and kidneys.
7. Prevents ulcers
Researchers have found that coconut milk helps reduce the reoccurrence of ulcers. According to one animal study, when albino rats were given coconut milk, their ulcers shrunk by 54 percent, as compared to 39 % when they were given coconut water.
The study concluded that coconut milk offers stronger protection against indomethacin-induced ulceration than coconut water in rats (5).
8. Helps reduce inflammation
Coconut milk aids in the reduction of inflammation and pain. The medium chain triglycerides present in coconut milk help lower inflammation which is generally associated with painful conditions like arthritis.
People with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases should avoid sugar and switch to unsweetened coconut milk as it helps lower joint or muscle aches associated with arthritis. Sugar, on the other hand, is pro-inflammatory and can make pain worse.
Animals studies have found that coconut contains antioxidants such as flavonoid, saponin, and polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties (6).
9. Prevents anemia
Deficiency in iron can lead to anemia. Anemia can lead to weakness, joint damage and other health issues. One cup of coconut milk provides us almost a quarter of our daily requirement for iron.
So, incorporating coconut milk into your diet helps prevent anemia.
10. Prevents fatigue
Coconut milk contains medium chain triglycerides that help energize the brain. Electrolytes are essential for boosting physical performance and preventing fatigue.
Drinking coconut milk helps prevent fatigue as it provides vital minerals needed to maintain blood volume and prevent dehydration.
11. Prevents premature aging
Coconut milk can keep your skin hydrated and improve its appearance and health. It contains vitamin C which helps maintain skin elasticity and prevents wrinkles.
Coconut milk also contains zinc which is helpful in preventing age spots and sagging skin. You can use coconut milk as a face mask to enjoy its benefits for your skin.
12. Helps soothe sunburns
If you have sunburnt skin, apply some coconut milk on the affected area. Its beneficial nutrients help restore moisture, reduce redness and decrease pain.
How to select and store coconut milk?
If you go to the supermarket, you will find a plethora of different kinds of coconut milk, which can be quite confusing. The best kind, however, is organic milk which contains no added sugars.
Opt for coconut milk which is cold pressed, which means it is only slightly heated to remove bacteria but has not been exposed to high heat. If you buy canned coconut milk, try and avoid cans made with BPA.
If you get fresh coconut milk from the market, make sure you use it the same day as it can go bad very quickly. You can store canned coconut milk at room temperature for a long time.
Once you open it, you must shift its contents to a resealable container and store it in the refrigerator.
How to make coconut milk?
You can easily make coconut milk at home with coconut and water. Look for a coconut that still has some water in it. That means that the coconut is fresh.
Crack the coconut open and strain the water. Remove the flesh from the shell with a paring knife.
Now wash the coconut fresh with water and add it to a blender along with two cups of water. Blend it into a thick liquid and strain it with a cheesecloth. Squeeze it well to take the maximum coconut milk out.
Ways to use coconut milk
Coconut milk is extremely nutritious, and it benefits health in many ways, but it is also rich in calories. You must keep this in mind while using it in your recipes.
- Add a few tablespoons to your coffee.
- You can add up to half a cup of coconut milk to your protein shake or your smoothie.
- Pour a small amount over fruits like papaya or berries to add a unique flavor.
- You can also add coconut milk to oatmeal or other cereals.
- Coconut milk can add a creamy texture to curries.
- You can also use coconut milk to make desserts like chocolate mousse.
Coconut milk is a tasty, healthy and lactose-free alternative to dairy products. It is rich in medium chain fatty acids and many minerals and vitamins. Coconut milk improves heart health, helps in weight loss, boosts immunity, and reduces inflammation.
You can buy coconut milk at the supermarkets or make it easily at home. Go on, give this health drink a try and enjoy its benefits.