Coconut milk and its health benefits and side effects

Know in one minute about coconut milk

  • Coconut milk is a is plant-based lactose-free milk for vegans and people with nut allergies.
  • The flavor of this milk is mildly sweet,  nutty, and creamy.
  • This milk is a good source of carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, protein, and electrolytes.
  • It has medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which provide energy to the brain.
  • Milk of coconut helps to lower blood glucose and cholesterol level.
  • This milk is effective to lose weight, keep the stomach and mouth healthy.

Introduction

Among beverages, milk is one of the most commonly consumed and wholesome complete food items enjoyed by humans for ages. However, some issues like trouble digesting lactose (milk natural sugar), milk allergy, anemia, and heart problems, its consumption have raised concerns. Therefore other options like Coconut milk, almond milk, etc have become a good choice for a vegan or other people.

Moreover, other issues like adulteration in cow milk, animal mistreatment, and environmental pollution increase the demand for d plant-based alternative milk (1).

Coconut milk 

Coconut milk is a milky fluid obtained from the coconut (Cocos nucifera Family Palmae) and different from coconut water. It has the most widely used food ingredient in South East Asian cuisine. It is consumed directly or with cooked food.  Moreover, also used for confectionaries, bakeries, biscuits, ice-creams, curries, and desserts. The flavor of this milk is mildly sweet,  nutty, and creamy which is due to its high oil content. 

How to extract

Coconut milk is produced from young coconuts or green with tender meat (2).

It is made by processing and squeezing the kernel, with or without the addition of water (3).

Nutritional value of coconut milk

The composition depends upon that of the coconut meat (white or brown) used for extraction (4). According to USDA, fresh coconut milk contains water, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Moreover, it also contains vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, including potassium, calcium, chloride, and several other minor compounds (5, 6).

CompoundAmounts per 100 g.
Energy 165 kcal
Protein 2.53 g
Total lipid (fat) 13.92 g
Carbohydrate, by the difference5.06 g
Sugar3.8 g
Calcium0 g
Iron 0.38 g
Fatty acids, total saturated 13.92 g
Fatty acids, total  trans0 g

Coconut milk benefits

It has various health benefits such as anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and antiviral. Let’s look at some of its benefits.

1. Medium-chain fatty acids

In comparison to other milk, coconut milk contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). This fatty acid is converted into useful compounds in the liver. This compound is the fastest source of energy for the brain and treats memory impairment like Alzheimer’s (7).

2. Presence of nutrients in coconut milk

Besides the MCFAs it also contains vitamins and minerals such as iron, sodium, and many more. It also contains a high amount of proteins with a lower amount of fats (1)

3. Lactose-free coconut milk

It is good for the individual who has trouble digesting lactose and also safe for people with nut allergies (8).

4. Presence of lauric acid

Lauric acid found in this milk is also present in mother’s milk. It is an excellent source of energy in the human body. It is also helpful to promote brain development and boosts the immune system (9).

5. Manage diabetes

A research study suggested that intake of this milk may decrease plasma glucose levels. It lowers blood glucose levels without affecting liver or kidney functions, or fat metabolism (10).

6. Vasodilatation properties

Coconut milk helps to open or widens the blood vessels and improves blood flow. It increases nitric oxide in the body, which maintains the elasticity of the blood vessels (11).

7. Anti-aging properties

It is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E which helps to fight against aging. Other benefits are nourishess the skin and have cooling properties (12).

8. Make nutritious yogurt

The yogurt prepared from coconut milk is rich in taste. In addition to this, it has high levels of calcium, other minerals, and nutrients of interest just like other yogurts (13).

9. Lower cholesterol level

It has lauric acid which increases good cholesterol (HDL) cholesterol levels and reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in the blood. The presence of soluble fiber and protein in coconut milk is also beneficial in terms of lipid reduction (14).

10. Antioxidant properties

A research study suggested that Malaysian coconut milk exhibits the highest antioxidant activity. These antioxidants prevent oxidative damage and reduce the risk of various diseases (15).

11. Good for stomach

It helps to treat ulcers by reduction of swelling, stimulate mucus secretion. This mucus is a critical protective layer that protects from gastric injury (16).

12. Treat obesity

Consumption of this milk helps to lose bodyweight and visceral fat by a reduction in food intake (17).

13. Keep oral healthy

Lauric acid, which is present in milk,  is effective in preventing tooth decay and plaque buildup thus preventing gum disease (18).

The side effect of Coconut milk

1. Due to its high oil, moisture, and organic compounds, fresh coconut milk spoils quickly after extraction (3).

However, consumption of this milk is rarely associated with allergic reactions. 

2. The presence of saturated fats (87%), low calcium, and the least amount of protein limit its consumption (1).

3. It is different from cow milk because cow milk has equal amounts of oil and proteins. On the other hand, coconut milk has ten times more oils than proteins (19)

4. This milk cannot be considered a good substitute for cow’s milk due to its low nutrient density and very high content of lipids. 

5. Coconut milk is the option for consumers that are allergic to soybeans and/or almonds (20).

6. Medium-chain fatty acids found in this provide a ready source of energy. Thus, this milk may be useful in baby foods or in diet therapy.

However, the presence of saturated fatty acids and the absence of the essential fatty acid prevent its use regularly in adults (21).

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