Coconut milk has become a favorite in health food stores. It substitutes cow’s milk with a creamy texture, flavor, and natural sweetness.
Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, which has generated a lot of controversy about whether it is suitable for your health.
This article details the properties, benefits, and nutrients of coconut milk to be able to say yes or no to this food.
What is coconut milk?
Coconut milk is a liquid made from the pulp of brown coconut palm fruit. It should not be confused with coconut water, naturally found in unripe green coconuts.
Unlike water, coconut milk does not occur naturally. To make it, the solid coconut pulp must be mixed with at least 50% water.
In contrast, coconut water is about 94% water. It contains virtually no fat and other nutrients that are in coconut milk.
Nutritional properties of coconut milk
Due to its creamy texture and rich sweet taste, it is often believed that coconut milk can be unhealthy. However, it is considered one of the milk substitutes with the best nutritional properties.
While it is true that the calories in coconut milk are usually higher than other substitutes for cow’s milk, in moderate amounts, it is very nutritious.
Coconut milk is one of the best sources of medium-chain fatty acids. These fats are easy to digest, and they have numerous health benefits. (3)
Coconut milk has essential nutrients like manganese and copper. Including moderate amounts in your diet have health benefits.
In addition, one of its properties is that it does not contain lactose, so it is food allowed for those who are lactose intolerant.
The nutritional properties of coconut milk can be seen in the following table (1):
Types of coconut milk
There are different types of coconut milk, depending on how it is made. The consistencies are usually different, so they are given other uses in the kitchen. The two types of coconut milk are:
- Thick – Solid coconut meat is finely grated and simmered. The mixture is then strained through cheesecloth to obtain a more dense product.
- Lightweight: After making thick coconut milk, the remaining pulp is simmered in water. The straining process is repeated to produce lighter milk.
How to use coconut milk in meals?
Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines include coconut milk in most meals. It is also used in India and some Latin American countries.
Thick coconut milk is typically used in dense textured desserts and sauces. Light dairy is used in savory soups and dressings.
Although coconut milk has good nutritional properties, it is also high in calories. Therefore, the quantity should not be exceeded when using it with meals. It is not recommended to use more than 1 cup per meal for reference.
Its flavor goes well with coffee, oatmeal, sauces, and fruits. The most common uses of coconut milk in meals are:
- Simmer (100) mL of coconut milk with 10 mL of teriyaki sauce, curry, and one teaspoon of brown sugar to prepare sauces.
- For coffee – Add 60 mL to black coffee
- With oats – Add 60 mL to cooked oats.
- Process coconut oil, fruits, and coconut milk in a blender and freeze to make vegan ice cream.
- To prepare healthy desserts – Combine 60 mL of coconut oil with cocoa, stevia, flaked coconut, and nuts and bake for 10 minutes in the form of truffles.
Is coconut milk good for your health?
Because coconut milk is so rich in saturated fat, it is customary to wonder if it is good for your health.
Research has clarified that MCT fats are good for your health in moderate amounts. (2,3,4)
They have properties similar to those of vegetable oils. When comparing the health benefits of olive oil, the results were identical. (3)
Long-chain fats go directly to the liver, used for energy. So they are less likely to be stored in the body. (4)
Also, some coconut milk added with vitamins and minerals has extra health benefits. In summary, coconut milk can be considered reasonable.
Coconut milk benefits
In addition to the contribution of nutrients, coconut milk can:
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent stomach ulcers
- Fight viruses and bacteria in the mouth
- Hormonal balance
- Regulate blood sugar levels
How to make coconut milk at home?
Many people feel that the taste of canned or boxed coconut milk cannot be compared to homemade. Fortunately, you can easily make your coconut milk at home by purchasing fresh ripe coconuts.
You also ensure that your coconut milk is free of artificial ingredients or preservatives.
Just be sure to find coconuts or coconut pulp that are still fresh. The fresher the coconut, the longer the homemade coconut milk will last. Before buying the coconuts, shake them well and make sure you can hear and feel a little liquid moving inside.
Here’s how to make homemade coconut milk:
- With a blade, hit the coconut until you hear a crunch.
- Strain the coconut water and save it for last.
- With the knife, extract the pulp from the coconut. Help yourself with strokes to detach it completely from the shell.
- Rinse the pulp well and process it in a blender with two cups of water.
- Squeeze the coconut pulp well with your hands to get the most of the coconut milk out.
- Strain it through a coffee strainer or cheesecloth. Refrigerate it in the fridge.
Side effects and contraindications
Coconut milk is considered a safe food for most of the population.
However, some digestive disorder experts recommend that people with irritable bowel limit coconut milk to 1/2 cup (120 ml) per meal.
People with diabetes should always choose unsweetened coconut milk added.
Also, some brands that sell coconut milk use BPA on the packaging. This type of packaging can cause damage to health. If possible, choose boxed or canned coconut milk without BPA.
Coconut milk is a substitute for cow’s milk with excellent nutritional properties. Although it is rich in saturated fats, these are medium-chain, a type of fat with numerous health benefits.
You can buy coconut milk in most natural stores, as well as in supermarket chains. To enhance its properties, make sure it is sugar-free, whole, and boxed.