Benefits of Coconut Milk, Nutritional Value & Side Effects

Benefits of Coconut MIlk

Coconut milk is a thick, creamy liquid obtained by grating the flesh of a matured coconut fruit. Rich in texture and taste, a cup of fresh coconut milk not only offers deliciousness, but benefits health in many ways as well. Because of the health benefits of coconut milk, it has become widely popular these days and is included as a health drink in a balanced diet.

Coconut milk is simple to prepare, easily digestible, and rich in nutrients. It is also lactose-free, and thus, an excellent dairy substitution. Almost 30 million adults in America experience lactose intolerance symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and gas. Replacing cow’s milk with coconut milk for cream sauces, curries, desserts, or other dishes is beneficial to not only lactose-intolerant people, but to everyone else, too.

It is a popular drink and food ingredient in many Southeast Asian countries, the Caribbean, and North America. Another important thing to note is that all the wonderful health benefits of coconut milk are applicable to fresh coconut milk.

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Nutritional Value of Coconut Milk

Before we get into the benefits of coconut milk, we should know its nutritional value. Coconut milk has a negligible amount of cholesterol and sodium. Although one might argue that coconut milk contains a significant amount of saturated fat, it isn’t bad for health. Lauric acid, the saturated fat contained in coconuts, has many health benefits.

Essential Nutrients

Coconut milk has vitamins C and E, as well as B vitamins in abundance. While vitamins C and E help to enhance immunity, the B-group vitamins (B6, B12, and B9) are responsible for the overall health of cells. They provide energy to the cells in the body and also help to repair them.

Of all the important minerals, coconut milk is a good source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron. Magnesium manages the biochemical functions in the body like heart rhythm regulation, and supports proper nerve cell function. Potassium helps maintain organ tissues and phosphorus promotes stronger teeth and bones. Iron is useful in the production of red blood cells, and ensures proper oxygen delivery to various body organs.

Dietary Fiber

Coconut milk obtained from fresh coconut contains a good amount of fiber. As a result, coconut milk helps maintain blood pressure level and reduces inflammation. It also improves the digestive process by stimulating proper bowel movements due to its rich fiber content.

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Antioxidants

According to an article published in the Ceylon Medical Journal, coconut milk is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. This means that coconut milk protects the body from free radical damage by prohibiting the oxidation of cells in the body. Due to its antioxidant properties, coconut milk has the potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells as well.

Lauric Acid

Coconut milk has an abundance of lauric acid. Although it is a saturated fat, lauric acid is beneficial to the body. It has germ-fighting, antifungal and antiviral properties that are quite effective in countering bacterial and viral infections. It lowers cholesterol levels, manages blood pressure, and promotes good cardiovascular health.

With such a rich content of essential nutrients, the benefits of coconut milk for health are tremendous.

Health Benefits of Coconut Milk

Is coconut milk healthy? Yes, it is. There are ample health benefits of coconut milk. It is abundant in nutrients and is a rich source of fiber. The goodness of coconut milk nutrition can be enjoyed in its natural form, or as a food ingredient. You can also add it to smoothies for added taste and nutritional benefit. Here are some of the benefits of coconut milk.

Improves Heart Health

The opacity of coconut milk is attributed to its high oil content, which is mostly saturated fat. However, this saturated fat is healthy and is known as lauric acid. Studies revealed that the lauric acid present in coconut milk does not increase cholesterol levels. In fact, it helps to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, while improving the “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Lauric acid has antibacterial and antiviral properties that help to prevent many diseases and infections.

Coconut milk contains a good amount of magnesium and potassium which contributes to good heart health. Magnesium is helpful in regulating heart rhythm, while potassium helps to maintain its tissues.

Builds Muscle

Coconut milk contains threonine, an amino acid that builds the connective tissues in muscles and maintains elasticity in the body. Threonine also promotes healthy tooth enamel and expedites the healing process arising from injuries.

Supplies Electrolytes

Body fluids primarily consist of water and electrolytes. Electrolytes are ions consisting of four minerals—sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Coconut milk contains all four of these essential minerals.

They control cell membrane stability and transmit electrical charges caused by nerve impulses for muscle contraction. In addition, electrolytes also help maintain body temperature and blood volume, regulate heart health, and prevent dehydration or diarrhea.

Helps Lose Weight

According to a study by the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University, “consumption of a diet rich in MCTs results in greater loss of fat (adipose tissue) compared with long-chain fatty acids, perhaps due to increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation observed with MCT intake. MCTs may be considered as agents that aid in the prevention of obesity or potentially stimulate weight loss.”

MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) are highly abundant in coconut milk, and therefore, it has the capability to facilitate weight loss. It is a fat-burning food and due to the large quantity of healthy fats, its consumption keeps us full for a long period of time.

Boosts Digestion

Due to the presence of electrolytes and healthy fats, coconut milk improves gut health. The high-fiber content in coconut milk benefits the whole digestive system. It boosts digestion and prevents conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.

Manages Blood Sugar and Controls Diabetes

The presence of lauric acid (a medium-chain fatty acid) can slow down the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream. This, in turn, controls the insulin level and prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar levels in conditions like diabetes.

Prevents Anemia

Iron deficiency causes anemia, a condition in which the body organs do not receive the appropriate amount of oxygen for proper function. Iron is one of the essential nutrients available in abundance in coconut milk. Therefore, regular consumption of coconut milk can prevent and cure anemia.

Inhibits Joint Inflammation and Arthritis

Due to the rich MCT content, coconut milk also inhibits joint inflammation conditions like arthritis and other joint- or muscle-related aches and pains.

Keeps Ulcers in Check 

Since coconut milk has antibacterial and antiulcer properties, it can kill and inhibit the growth of ulcer-causing bacteria.

Homemade Coconut Milk Recipe

You can easily reap the benefits of coconut milk by making it at home. The process of preparing coconut milk is quite simple and easy. Here’s how to make coconut milk at home.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 2 cups shredded coconut

You’ll also need:

  • Nut milk bag
  • High-speed blender

Directions

Grate the fresh meat of a mature coconut. Put the grated coconut flesh into the blender and add water. Puree it for 30 seconds to a minute.

Transfer the coconut mixture into a pot and heat it on medium-low heat. Do not bring it to boil. Turn off the heat and allow it cool.

Next, pour the coconut mixture into the nut milk bag and wring the milk out of the bag. The coconut pulp will remain in the bag.

You can flavor the extracted coconut milk with vanilla extract or stevia for to enhance its taste.

How to Preserve Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a perishable food item, but with good preservative measures, it can be stored up to three months or more. Proper preservation of coconut milk can keep it fresh and flavorful for a long period of time. Put the coconut milk in a plastic storage container and seal it with a tight-fitting lid.

Frozen coconut milk should be thawed out properly and stirred thoroughly before using. Unopened coconut milk cans can be stored for up to two years or more in the fridge. Frozen coconut milk remains safe for longer than three months when kept at 0°F, although the quality may decline.

Side Effects of Coconut Milk

Fresh coconut milk is quite harmless. On the other hand, canned coconut milk and coconut milk powder may contain trans fats and added sweeteners that may lead to possible weight gain. Many canned varieties of coconut milk contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical compound used in manufacturing the tins and cans in which it is stored.

The chemical can leach from can linings into the coconut milk. The harmful effects of BPA has been linked to reproductive problems and cancer. There are some food manufacturers that use BPA-free packaging. If you wish to consume canned coconut milk, then check the label before purchasing it.

Since coconut is considered a tree nut, coconut milk may cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to nuts. Due to the presence of monosacchrides and polyols, coconut milk increases the chances of irritable bowel disorders. The high sugar content is responsible for the uneven fructose movement in the in the digestive system, which results in the development of bacterial growth in the small intestine.

It should be noted that aside from the potential allergic danger, fresh coconut milk is absolutely healthy. The potential side effects of coconut milk may arise only when it is consumed in excess. Also, it is recommended to opt for fresh coconut milk over the canned or powdered coconut milk varieties for complete and better health benefits.


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Sources:

“Nuts, coconut milk, raw (liquid expressed from grated meat and water) Nutrition Facts & Calories, “ SELF Nutrition Data web site; http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3113/2, last accessed February 27, 2017

“The Health Benefits of Coconut Milk,” SF Gate web site; http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-coconut-milk-2031.html, last accessed February 27, 2017

“Nutrition Information of Coconut Milk,” LIVESTRONG.COM web site, April 21, 2015; http://www.livestrong.com/article/113703-coconut-milk-nutrition-information/, last accessed February 27, 2017

“Coconut Milk Nutrition — 9 Benefits + Recipes,” Dr. Axe web site; https://draxe.com/coconut-milk-nutrition/, last accessed February 27, 2017

“Homemade & Healthy Coconut Milk Made With Shredded Coconut,” Body Unburdened web site; http://bodyunburdened.com/homemade-healthy-coconut-milk-made-with-shredded-coconut/, last accessed February 27, 2017

Harrington, J., “How to Preserve Coconut Milk,” LEAFtv web site; https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-preserve-coconut-milk/, last accessed February 27, 2017

“Top 10 Side Effects Of Coconut Milk,” StyleCraze web site, January 31, 2017; http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/side-effects-of-coconut-milk/#gref, last accessed February 27, 2017