Coconut’s creamy texture and slightly sweet aftertaste might make one wonder if the drink is actually good for them. Do not second-guess this super drink, because there are so many different health benefits from sipping on its creamy goodness. Coconut milk’s brother and sister (coconut water and coconut oil) are some of the world’s healthiest foods, as they contain healthy fats and natural fatty acids that are great for the body. You can drink coconut milk straight for optimal hydration and electrolyte replenishment, or you can cook your favorite curry with it. The options are endless, as are the health benefits of this creamy and delectable drink.
8 Fun Facts About Coconut Milk
- Palm trees can produce coconuts 13 times a year.
- In its peak years, one tree can produce up to 400 coconuts per year (1).
- Coconut in any form is said to help the body fight infection and viruses.
- Coconut oil helps the body boost HGH (human growth hormone) levels.
- Coconut water can be substituted for blood plasma (2).
- Coconuts contain plant-based iron, which can help with anemia.
- Coconut’s healthy triglycerides can lower inflammation in the body.
- Coconut milk comes in a can or a carton.
History/Mythology of Coconut Milk
Coconut milk did not always come from a can at the grocery store. Way back when, before anyone even knew what a coconut was, they were taking their shape on the palm trees in southern Asia. The name coconut derived from Spanish explorers traveling through the region, where they noticed three little eyes on the base of the coconut. They named them “cocos” which means grinning face, and they thought it resembled a monkey (3). Some say that the fruit was first discovered in what is now called “New Guinea” but that is up for debate. Ironically, it is classified as a fruit, but constantly gets called a nut!
Today, coconut in all its forms are recognized as one of the healthiest items in the world, and have been said to fight off many deadly illnesses.
Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts
“Coconuts are highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.” (3)
Coconuts belong to the palm family, and typically only grow on palm trees in warm climates either dry or humid. Coconut water and coconut milk are two different items entirely; so do not get the two confused! Coconuts do contain fat, but not unhealthy trans fat; it is saturated fat, particularly lauric acid. Coconuts help the body maintain optimal hydration by replenishing electrolytes. If you buy unsweetened coconut milk you will be buying a low-sugar drink with healthy fats and proteins.
Coconut Milk Health Benefits
Where do I even start with the health benefits of this creamy tropical drink? First of all, it lowers your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure, which, in turn, protects your heart! Because of the high presence of lauric acid found in coconuts, there are automatic antibacterial and antiviral properties (4). To add to this list, coconut milk helps you build muscle and lower fat percentages in the body because of the presence of MCT (medium-chain triglycerides). Potassium and magnesium are also found in coconuts, which in turn help fuel the muscles after a long workout. When the body is given back its electrolytes, it then has more energy to burn off, which, in turn, keeps you more active in the long run. Healthy fats found in coconut milk also power the brain, which gives the brain and body more energy overall.
As if that’s not enough, coconut milk also helps the body with any digestive problems it may encounter. A well-hydrated body will help alleviate any digestive distress, especially when it is hydrated with coconut milk. The electrolytes and healthy fats promote a healthy lining in the digestive tract, which can prevent IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). An additional benefit is that coconut milk will provide you with balanced blood sugar levels in the body.
Coconut Milk Uses
Coconut milk is very popular in curry and Southeast Asian dishes. It can be used in place of dairy milk in many recipes, such as in soup or pudding, or it can be added to your smoothie. You can even make vegan “whipped cream” from the cream in full-fat coconut milk.
How to Make Coconut Milk
Making coconut milk is quite simple, and is very much the same as the method for commercially available coconut milk. Puncture two “eyes” and drain and reserve the liquid. Crack open the coconut, scoop out the flesh (peeling and discarding any brown skin), and cut it into chunks or grate it. If you have a food processor or a high-powered blender, you can just cut it into chunks, but, if not, go for grated. (You could also skip all that and buy an 8-ounce package of unsweetened shredded coconut.)
Soak the coconut flesh in 2 to 4 cups of hot water with the reserved coconut water. Blend it up and strain it with cheesecloth or a mesh strainer; make sure to squeeze or press the pulp to get as much of the liquid as possible. The coconut cream rises to the top and can be scooped off or shaken back in. It will store well in the refrigerator for four days, or can be frozen. The pulp can be dried in a dehydrator or low oven and used as coconut flour or an addition to your homemade granola or baked goods.
Most Popular Coconut Milk Brands
If you are not making your coconut milk at home, you will have many options at the store. Find the purest form of coconut milk you can; make sure it does not have any added sugars, preservatives, or artificial sweeteners. Organic, cold-pressed coconut milk is the best kind to look for when shopping at your local grocer. There are some well-known and reputable brands of coconut milk to buy at the store, so take a look below.
Whether you are buying from a can or a carton, these brands are well-known (5).
Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk
This is one of the most favored carton-style coconut milks on the market today and is available at grocery stores nationwide. Per cup: Unsweetened has 45 calories, 0 grams of sugar, and 4.5g of fat; Original has 80 calories, 6 grams of sugar, and 5g of fat; and Vanilla has 90 calories, 9 grams of sugar, 5 grams fat.
So Delicious Coconut Milk
The unsweetened version is the healthiest choice. This brand is also available at most grocers nationwide. Per cup: Unsweetened has 45 calories, 0 grams of sugar, and 4.5g of fat; Original has 70 calories, 7 grams of sugar, and 4.5g of fat; Vanilla has 80 calories, 8 grams of sugar, and 4.5g of fat; and Chocolate has 90 calories, 9 grams of sugar, and 5g of fat.
Many are familiar with this particular brand of coconut milk, and the enriched and unsweetened version is the healthiest to purchase. Per cup: Unsweetened has 60 calories, 5 grams of fat, and < 1 gram of sugar; Original has 80 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 7 grams of sugar; and Vanilla has 90 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 8 grams of sugar. The only questionable ingredient with this brand is carrageenan.
Whether you buy your coconut milk from the store or make it in the comfort of your own kitchen, your body will reap the benefits. Full of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals this drink will not leave you dehydrated or depleted in any way. You can make some pretty delectable dishes with coconut milk, if you are not keen on drinking it straight. Next time you are at the grocery store, don’t forget all of the amazing benefits that coconut milk has to offer!