Thanks to its distinctive taste and creamy texture, coconut milk can add a nice twist to coffees, protein shakes and desserts. Although not as popular as other alternatives to plant milk in the United States, it retains loyal fans. But how nutritious is this drink? And can it bring any tangible health benefits?
Coconuts are well known for their high saturated fat content. For decades, this nutrient has been linked to the epidemic of obesity and many chronic diseases. In recent years, however, there has been a sharp increase in studies (opens in a new section) challenging and even contradicting these findings.
If you feel confused, don’t worry. In this article, we will discuss the nutritional value and potential health benefits of coconut milk to help you decide if it is the right plant-based alternative for you.
Coconut milk: nutritional information
|Nutrient||Amount per serving (1 cup)||% daily value|
|vitamin D.||3.6 mcg||18%|
|Riboflavin (vitamin B2)||0 mg||0%|
|Cobalamin (vitamin B12)||2.16 Yug||90%|
Coconut milk in a box against coconut milk in a carton
There are two types of coconut milk – canned and cardboard. Although they are made from the same ingredient, they differ in consistency, nutritional value, storage capacity and culinary use.
Canned coconut milk is a thick, white liquid extracted from the “flesh” of the coconut. Because it is canned and sealed in a sterile container, it is stable and has a longer shelf life than coconut milk in a cardboard box. In addition, it is not necessary to store in the refrigerator. Canned coconut milk has a much higher fat content than other types of milk and as such is used mainly as a cooking ingredient. It is a common product in many South Asian cuisines and is often used to make curry.
Coconut milk from a carton is an aqueous, white liquid extracted from coconut “meat” and usually enriched with vitamins, minerals and added sugars. It is used mainly as a dairy alternative in coffees, smoothies, shakes and cereals. Unlike canned coconut milk, the cardboard version contains significantly less fat and more water and in most cases should be stored in the refrigerator before and after opening.
How long does coconut milk last?
Just like milk, coconut milk can be divided into two categories: UHT (ultra-high temperature) / stable and fresh / chilled. UHT beverages are subjected to extensive heat treatment to extend their shelf life, while chilled beverages are not. As a result, they come with different expiration dates and storage guidelines.
Coconut milk, which is stable in shelf life, usually has a shelf life of six to 12 months. Chilled ones tend to have a much shorter shelf life – usually a few weeks from the time of production – and stay fresh for about a week after opening.
What are the health benefits of coconut milk?
When we don’t count water, saturated fat is the main ingredient in coconut milk. For several decades, Saturated fats is considered one of the biggest causes of obesity, cardiovascular disease and degenerative conditions. However, more studies (opens in a new section) begin to contradict this, pointing to the fact that the correlation between cardiometabolic states and saturated fat consumption remains weak.
There is also growing evidence to suggest that fatty acids are found in coconut oil – Lauric acid and in particular medium chain fatty acids – can actually be good for our health. According to a review published in Journal of Food Science and Agriculture (opens in a new section)Lauric acid has been shown to have significant antibacterial and antiviral properties, while medium chain fatty acids, which resemble fats found in human breast milk, may play an important role in regulating blood lipids, improving cognitive function, and combating free radicals and reduction inflammationas well as reducing the risk of development type 2 diabetes and several cancers.
Compared to animal fats, regular consumption of coconut oil can lead to lower levels of “bad” cholesterol with low-density lipoproteins and higher levels of “good” cholesterol than high-density lipoproteins, as shown by the results. from a meta-analysis published in Nutritional examinations (opens in a new section). However, it is worth noting that another meta-analysis published in Diabetes and metabolic syndrome (opens in a new section) points out the more adverse effects of coconut oil on cardiometabolic health.
Moreover, according to a review published in International Journal of Food Science (opens in a new section), coconut milk contains several compounds that can provide protection against damage to lipids, proteins and DNA chains. This drink also tends to be enriched with calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D., which can help vegans increase their intake of these nutrients without resorting to additional supplements. Unsweetened coconut milk is also largely devoid of carbohydrates and sugars, making it a good choice for people with low carb diets.
Coconut milk versus almond milk
According to Statesman (opens in a new section), almond milk is the most popular alternative to plant milk in the United States. Unsweetened almond milk tends to have much fewer calories as well as much lower fat and protein content than coconut milk. As for the nutritional values, they are approximately comparable in both drinks, although this obviously varies between brands. As such, almond milk may be a better option for people whose main goal is weight loss, while coconut milk would be suitable for people who want a stronger drink.
Both almond and coconut milk go well with a variety of dishes and drinks. However, coconut milk has a stronger taste and a more striking aroma that can prevail over other ingredients, so it may need to be used more sparingly in cooking.
From an environmental point of view, the impact of growing coconuts and almonds is quite similar in terms of their use of water and land, according to a review published in Global food security (opens in a new section) diary. So it really comes down to your health goals and personal preferences.