Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
Coconut Milk is High in Saturated Fats, But Are They Really That Bad?
At Better Mind Body Soul we like to dig deeper than many people would on any type of nutrition topic. Coconut products got a pretty bad reputation in the past because of their high saturated fat content. This delicious milk made from coconuts was put on the list of foods to avoid by many health experts because consumption of coconut products was thought to increase theÂrisk of heart disease. Lately coconut milk is finding its way back into health recipes though, let’s find out why.
Lots of new research has been done during the past decade on saturated fats, and it looks like the so-called well-established link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease isn’t actually as well-established as it has been portrayed by science and media.
Recent research and reinterpretations of old research now show that the link between saturated fat and heart disease is much more complicated than was thought. A lot of food researchers believe that saturated fat alone is likely not a big contributor to heart disease, but rather a combination of high carbohydrate consumption, saturated and polyunsaturated fat consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Not only is it now believed that coconut milk isn’t as bad as it was made out to be, numerous health benefits of consuming coconut milk are even popping up in several new studies. Lets have a look at some of these benefits of coconut milk.
Coconut Milk Benefits
People who follow the increasingly popular paleo diet or other low carbohydrate diets often consume a lot of coconut products because they are seen as a great source of energy. While more research is still necessary to determine the real health impact of saturated fats, I believe that moderate consumption of saturated fats, especially medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs), can be beneficial for your health.
The benefit of coconut milk is that it contains mainly MCFAs, and more specifically lauric acid. After consumption of this type of fatty acid, it is converted into monolaurin by the body, which is a compound that possesses antibacterial and antiviral properties that helps kill a variety of malicious organisms. Because of this it is believed that coconut milk consumption can help battle infections and viruses.
Another advantage that MCFAs have is that they are quickly metabolized into energy by the liver and therefore are more likely to be used by the body as opposed to being stored as fat.
While I very much support the consumption of coconut milk, both because of its health benefits and its deliciousness in curries, smoothies, fruit salads and tons of other foods, there are a few ingredients in most coconut milks that may be bad for your health. Let’s have a look.
Coconut Milk Caveats
Bisphenol A, better know as BPA, is a chemical that is used in a lot of plastic products, including the plastic lining that is used in a lot of canned foods. BPA easily leaches into these canned foods, especially if the foods are fatty, salty or acidic.
Though research on BPA is still not conclusive, there are a lot of scientists who believe that the consumption of BPA has harmful health effects, such as the increased chance of cancer. Because of this we advise to avoid BPA as much as possible.
To avoid BPA consumption you should avoid canned foods and not use reusable drink containers that contain BPA. Luckily there are a few brands that make coconut milk that don’t use BPA lined cans, such as Native Forest. You can also make your own coconut milk fairly easily. We cover how to make your own coconut milk further down this article.
Most coconut milks contain guar gum. Guar gum is used as a thickening agent to prevent the coconut milk from separating in the can. This separation is completely normal, but many people tend to think it means the coconut milk has gone bad. Research indicates that for people with digestive problems, guar gum can exacerbate gut issues. Therefore it is advisable for anyone with digestive problems to limit their guar gum consumption and thus avoid coconut milk that contains guar gum (such as Native Forest coconut milk).
If you still want to enjoy the benefits of drinking coconut milk and you can’t find coconut milk without guar gum, then just make your own, it’s not that difficult at all. For people without gut issues, guar gum consumption should be fine though.
How to Make Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is used in a lot of Thai, Indian and other Asian recipes. It is delicious in curries and can be used as an alternative to cream and other dairy products. While coconut milk is available at most supermarkets, it is easy to make yourself and even tastes better when freshly made. Also, for people who want to avoid BPA and guar gum, homemade coconut milk is the ideal solution.
From Shredded Coconut
- Shredded, or shaved coconut
- Hot water
- Buy some unsweetened shredded or shaved coconut from your local supermarket.
- Measure the shredded coconut depending on how much you want to make. 1 cup of shredded coconut should yield about 2 cups of coconut milk.
- Put the shredded coconut into a blender or food processor and add 2 cups of hot (boiled) water per 1 cup of coconut. Stir the mixture with a spoon.
- Turn on the blender and let it blend the mixture until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
- Strain the coconut mixture using a cheese cloth or fine-mesh strainer. The liquid that is left is your homemade coconut milk. The coconut solids that are left can still be used in a salad or curry or just eaten like that.
- Put the milk in a jar or bottle and store in the refrigerator if you won’t be using it immediately.
From a Fresh Coconut
Making coconut milk from a fresh coconut tastes even better, though it involves a bit more work than using shredded coconut.
- 1 Fresh Coconut
- The hardest part comes first, opening the coconut. Set your coconut on a hard flat surface and use a hammer and screwdriver to hit a hole into one of the “eyes” of the coconut. There are usually 3 of these “eyes” on a coconut, but only one will be soft. Hit a hole into this one. Once you have made the hole you can drain the coconut water out of the coconut. If it drains too slowly, you can try to make 1 or 2 more holes in the other “eyes”. After the coconut is drained, hit the coconut with the hammer in the middle, all around it. Keep doing this (hitting around the coconut) until a hairline crack starts to form. Eventually the coconut will easily crack open into two pieces. You can also use a very sharp knife to cut open the coconut instead of a hammer. Make sure that the knife is sharp enough. Otherwise the knife may slip and you could hurt yourself. Hit the coconut in the same place until a deep enough cut is made and turn it a bit further around. Once you’ve gone all around the coconut it should fall apart into two pieces.
- Make sure the coconut smells good and doesn’t have any brown or yellow spots, because this may indicate it has gone bad.
- Pour the coconut water that you drained into a blender.
- Scoop the soft meat out of the coconut using a spoon. Just scrape along the inside of the coconut with a spoon and the meat should come off. Put it into the blender.
- Blend the meat and coconut water until you have a nice and smooth mixture.
- If you want you can strain out any solid pieces of coconut from the mixture using a strainer or cheese cloth, but you can also just leave it in since the pieces are soft anyway.
- Store the coconut milk in the fridge until you use it.
Coconut Smoothie Recipe
Coconut milk makes a great base for smoothies. You can basically combine any type of fruit you want with coconut milk to make a delicious smoothie. Below is the recipe for one of our favorites and often serves as our breakfast. Drinking a coconut smoothie regularly will help you take advantage of all the coconut milk health benefits.
- 1 cup of Coconut Milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 cup of strawberries or other berries
- Raw honey or Dark Chocolate
Combine all the ingredients into a blender and blend until you have a smooth mixture. You could also add some cinnamon or ginger (but perhaps leave out the berries then) for a bit of a different taste.
That’s just about all you needed to know about the health benefits of coconut milk and how to make it. Now it’s time to try out some delicious coconut recipes and please let us know in the comments if you find any great ones!