Coconut Milk: A Healthy Alternative

Coconut and coconut byproducts have recently become very popular. From coconut oil to coconut meat, the health benefits are numerous. Coconut milk has reached the top of this list, since it is a tasty alternative to cow's milk and also provides a number of health benefits. It's easy to see why this has shot up in popularity.

What is Coconut Milk?

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Coconut milk should not be confused with coconut water. Coconut water is found naturally in immature green coconuts. Unlike Coconut water, the milk does not occur naturally in liquid form. 

Coconut milk comes from the white flesh of brown coconuts. The solid flesh is mixed with water to make the milk, which is 50 percent water. By contrast, coconut water is about 94 percent water. Coconut water contains much less fat and fewer nutrients than coconut milk.

The milk has a thick consistency and a rich, creamy texture. Because of this, many southeast Asian cuisines include this milk. This has also become popular in Hawaii, India, and certain South American and Caribbean countries.

Coconut milk is classified as either thick or thin, based on consistency and how much it's processed:

Thick: Solid coconut flesh is finely grated and either boiled or simmered in water. The mixture is then strained through cheesecloth to produce thick coconut milk.

Thin: After making thick coconut milk, the grated coconut remaining in the cheesecloth is simmered in water. The straining process is then repeated to produce thin milk.

In traditional cuisines, thick coconut milk is used in desserts and thick sauces. Thin milk is used in soups and thin sauces.

Most canned coconut milk contains a combination of thin and thick milk. It's also very easy to make your own coconut milk at home, adjusting the thickness to your liking.

Nutrients in Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a high-calorie food. About 93 percent of its calories come from fat, including saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). The milk is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals. In addition, some experts believe coconut milk contains unique proteins that may provide health benefits.

Benefits on Weight and Metabolism
New research has revealed that not eating enough fat can actually make you gain weight and retain fat. People who include more healthy fats in their diet, such as the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut milk, eat less than those who don't get enough fat.

There's some evidence that the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) fats in coconut milk may benefit weight loss, body composition and metabolism.

About half the fat in coconuts comes from a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid. Unlike longer-chain fats, MCTs go from the digestive tract directly to the liver, where they're used for energy or ketone production. They are therefore less likely to be stored as fat.

Research also suggests MCTs may help reduce appetite and decrease calorie intake, compared to other fats. Considering this, drinking Coconut milk can help reduce appetite and decrease the calorie intake. This, in turn, can help reduce weight gain.

Immune system and your health
Since coconuts have lauric acid, they can also aid in giving your immune system a boost. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which helps to fight the viruses and bacteria that cause herpes, influenza and even HIV, by reducing their levels.

Healthy Skin and Hair
Coconut milk is highly nutritious when ingested, and these nutrients may help fortify and condition skin and hair as well. The fatty acids in coconut milk are a natural antiseptic and may help treat dandruff, skin infections, wounds and dry, itchy skin. Furthermore, the high fatty acid content in coconut milk serves as a natural moisturizer for healthy skin and may help repair wrinkles and sagging in aging skin.

Adverse Effects
Unless you're allergic to coconuts, the milk is unlikely to have adverse effects. Compared to tree nut and peanut allergies, coconut allergies are rare. Some digestive disorder experts recommend that people who have a FODMAP intolerance limit coconut milk to one half-cup portion at a time.

How to Select the Best Coconut Milk
With many people looking for ways to make their nutritional diets healthier, there are many ways to make the best selection. Here are tips for selecting the best Coconut milk:
-Read the label: When possible, choose a product that contains only coconut and water. We recommend to avoid ingredients such as carrageenan.
-Choose BPA-free cans: Purchase coconut milk from companies that use BPA-free cans. This will appear on the can or on the label.
-Use cartons: Unsweetened coconut milk in cartons usually contains less fat and fewer calories than canned
coconut milk. In addition, look for brands without carageenan.
-Go light: For a lower-calorie option, select light canned coconut milk. It's thinner and contains about 125 calories per half cup (120 grams).
-Make your own: For the freshest, healthiest coconut milk, make your own using shredded coconut.

In the end, coconut milk is a tasty, nutritious and versatile food that is widely available. The benefits are numerous and can make a difference for your nutritional diet.  Whether you are trying to eat healthier or are just looking for alternate options, coconut milk is something to try.

Milk and Eggs offers fresh young coconuts ready to be delivered to you. Learn how to open a coconut on our other blog post.

Learn more about the health benefits of coconuts.

Learn to cook with coconuts on our other blog post.

Treat yourself to a better health. 

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