Is coconut milk healthy? The creamy liquid is a popular ingredient in soups, exotic drinks, and some health foods. But if you’re trying to watch your weight or reduce your fat intake, you might want to pay attention to coconut milk calories and nutrition. Then decide if the beverage is right for you.
|Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts|
|Serving Size 1 tbsp (15 g)|
|Per Serving||% Daily Value*|
|Calories from Fat 32|
|Total Fat 3.6g||6%|
|Saturated Fat 3.2g||16%|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 0g|
|Monounsaturated Fat 0.2g|
|Dietary Fiber 0.3g||1%|
|Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 1%|
|Calcium 0% · Iron 1%|
|*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet|
To understand coconut milk nutrition it’s important to understand what coconut milk is. It is not the liquid that you see right away when you open a coconut. Coconut milk is created when the meat of the coconut is grated and pressed. The fatty cream that results is sometimes blended with water to create coconut milk. Like dairy milk, coconut milk can be higher in fat or lower in fat depending on how it is blended.
Coconut milk nutrition depends on the variety and brand that you buy (or make at home). Natural coconut milk has a higher fat content because it hasn’t been blended with other ingredients. One cup of unsweetened coconut milk (coconut cream) provides 560 calories, almost 58 grams of fat and over 51 grams of saturated fat.
But you may not use an entire cup of this kind of coconut milk. If you use it as cream in your coffee, and consume just a tablespoon of the creamy treat, you’ll only consume 35 calories and under 4 grams of fat (as indicated on the label).
So what about the low-calorie coconut milk brands that you see in the grocery store? Those coconut milk products are blended with water and other ingredients (like sugar) to make the beverage. Silk Original Coconutmilk provides 80 calories per cup, 5 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. Pacific Organic Coconut Non-Dairy Beverage is even lower in fat and calories with just 45 calories per cup, 4 grams of fat and 4 grams of saturated fat.
Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
Some diet experts promote the health benefits of coconut milk. They say that real coconut milk (not blended with sugar and other ingredients), coconut cream, and coconut oil contain high levels of lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid. Some believe that lauric acid can have positive effects on your “good” HDL cholesterol.
But a large review of research studies was not able to confirm that claim. Researchers found that coconut oil can raise total and “bad” LDL cholesterol more than plant-based oils, but less than butter. They went on to say that consuming certain coconut products did not seem to increase the chances of heart problems. But they also cautioned that their findings probably weren’t applicable to a typical Western diet because of our eating habits and lifestyle.
So where does that leave you? Large health organizations like the USDA still recommend that we reduce our intake of saturated fat. Since coconut milk is very high in saturated fat, you may want to limit your intake of coconut milk.
Buying and Storing Coconut Milk
You’ll find coconut milk in different sections of the grocery store. You’ll find some brands of coconut milk beverages in the dairy aisle next to almond milk, soy milk, and other milk alternatives.
But you’ll also find coconut milk in cans in the baking or canned fruit section.
So what’s the difference? Coconut milk in cans is usually thicker, creamier and is often used in recipes. Most brands of canned coconut milk are unsweetened. The product in the dairy aisle might be thinner, may have added sugars or other ingredients and is often used instead of milk.
Cartons of coconut milk should be stored in the refrigerator according to manufacturer instructions and use by the “best by” date that you see stamped on the package. Coconut milk in cans can be stored in the pantry. But once opened, the milk should be refrigerated and used within a few days of opening.
Most manufacturers do not recommend freezing coconut milk.
Cooking With Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is commonly used in foods that are popular in southeast Asia. It is often included in curry sauces, it may be used to flavor rice or in seafood stews. Coconut milk is also a popular beverage and is often used as an ingredient in creamy drinks such as the pina colada.