Coconut or cocos nucifera is a palm tree that grows usually in coastal areas of tropical regions. Coconut fruit obtained from it has several medicinal benefits and uses.
It is used to make Coconut milk.
Coconut milk is often misunderstood with coconut water.
Coconut water is the water which you get from a coconut (immature or mature coconut). Thus coconut water is naturally occurring.
Coconut milk is obtained from the mixture of grated coconut meat and coconut water. The white flesh of a mature or brown coconut is grated and mixed with coconut water.
It is then strained to derive a thick, white liquid known as coconut milk. Depending on its consistency, it is available in two forms: thick coconut milk and thin coconut milk. Thicker the milk, the more fat it contains.
Nutrition Profile of Coconut Milk?
It contains about 50% water along with saturated fats from the oils.
It has 24% fat content of which about 89% is saturated fat. The major fatty acids present are caprylic acid(8%), capric acid(7%), lauric acid(49%), myristic acid(18%), palmitic acid(8%), stearic acid(2%), oleic acid(6%) and linoleic acid(2%). It has the goodness of the white flesh of coconut including virgin coconut oil.
It is high in calories. It contains various proteins required by the body. It is rich in various minerals like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, manganese, and iron. It has high levels of vitamin C and folate. All these nutrients help in metabolic and enzymatic pathways in one way or the other.
Although it is being made and used since centuries for its good taste and nutritive value, recent studies have proved its health advantages.
If you want to compare Dairy Milk with Coconut Milk, read here>
Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and provides several health benefits. Coconut milk is proven to have anti-microbial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties. It is also beneficial for heart bones, immune system, digestive system, and for weight loss. It regulates cholesterol levels and contains many antioxidants.
Here are coconut milk benefits discussed in detail:
1. Improves Cholesterol levels
Maintenance of optimum cholesterol levels is very important for heart, liver and kidney health. It is also required for hormone and vitamin D production by the body.
The polyphenols in coconut maintain normal levels of lipids in serum and tissues by reducing cholesterol absorption in intestines.
Our body requires cholesterol, but one type of cholesterol is favourable over the other. For instance, HDL cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein is called good cholesterol as it prevents accumulation of fats by carrying them to the liver for removal.
On the other hand, LDL cholesterol, or Low-density lipoprotein is responsible for fat accumulation in arteries and causes blockage or atherosclerosis.
Thus, high HDLs and low LDLs is the required serum lipid profile for the body to prevent complications and diseases.
It was believed that high-fat content of coconut milk is detrimental to health, but studies show that the fats in coconut milk improve lipid profile by decreasing LDL and increasing HDL.
Presence of lauric acid as a major fatty acid in coconut milk accounts for a favorable serum lipid profile.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk helps in maintaining the required levels of cholesterol and preventing health conditions arising due to lack of it.
2. Helps in Weight loss
For obese or overweight individuals, it is very important to consume a proper diet consisting of the right type of fats, so that dietary requirement is met without extra fat accumulation.
Coconut milk contains just the right type of fatty acids.
The medium chain triglycerides in coconut kernel reduce adipose tissues( containing fats) in the body by stimulating greater oxidation of fats and expenditure of energy. Thus they help in preventing obesity and stimulate weight loss.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk can be included in diet of people aiming for weight loss without compromising the taste.
3. It Has anti-ulcer properties
Various diseases and infections lead to the formation of ulcers in the stomach. During this time, it is important to have a carefully planned diet consisting of foods that do not aggravate the condition but help in resolving it.
Coconut milk is the food that can be consumed by such people as it has anti-ulcer properties.
In a study, it was concluded that coconut milk leads to a reduction in the size of ulcers compared to coconut water. It thus protects the gastric mucosal lining and helps in treating the ulcers.
What does this mean?
For people with gastric ulcers, coconut milk helps in reducing ulcer size and protecting the mucosa of stomach.
4. It is anti-microbial in nature
Microbes such as virus, bacteria, and fungus cause several diseases and infections in humans.
They are present everywhere, in food, water or our environment and even in the body. To protect our body from their harmful effects, it is important to consume foods that have anti-microbial nature.
Coconut milk shows antibacterial activity against various strains of bacteria.
Viruses of the HSV (herpes simplex virus) family are known to cause several viral infections.
The fatty acids and monoglycerides from saturated fats of coconut have an inhibitory action on all members of HSV family.
It has anti-bacterial activity against streptococcus bacteria that causes tooth decay. It is also anti-fungal, antiviral and anti-parasitic in nature.
The medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are capable of destroying the wide range of lipid-coated bacteria by damaging their lipid membrane.
These bacteria cause stomach ulcers, sinusitis, dental problems, food poisoning, and urinary tract infections.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk consists of many components that act against bacteria, fungus, virus and parasites. Thus they prevent the body from infections and diseases caused by them.
5. Rich in antioxidants
Metabolic reactions in the body from radical species as by-products which are neutralized by antioxidants in the body. More radical species causes oxidative stress.
To counter it, more antioxidants are required from food. In their absence, these radical species attack cells and tissues of the body and damage them.
Virgin coconut oil in coconut milk ( as compared to commercially available coconut oil) is full of antioxidants like phenols and flavonoids.
It consists of L-arginine and polyphenols which prevents lipid peroxidation by trapping the reactive oxygen species.
It also contains various micronutrients and vitamins, which are essential for the body’s antioxidant defense system.
Thus it protects the body from harmful toxins and diseases caused by them.
What does this mean?
Antioxidant rich coconut milk should be included in the diet to protect it from damage by toxins.
6. Anti-inflammatory and helps in wound healing
Various infections or diseases cause inflammation, swelling and tissue damage.
This can be attributed to the presence of phenolic compounds and flavonoids in coconut milk.
The pure oil present in coconut milk called virgin coconut oil reduces granuloma formation and serum alkaline phosphate activity, which cause inflammation. Inflammation is many times accompanied by pain and fever.
It also shows analgesic (pain relieving) and antipyretic (anti-fever) properties.
Another compound in coconut oil, lauric acid also exhibits anti-inflammatory action.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk is beneficial to have during illness accompanied by inflammation as it helps in reducing swelling and repair of damage of tissues.
7. Good for cardiovascular health
Coconut milk is abundant in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are not involved in the accumulation and transport of cholesterol. They are directly absorbed by the intestine and sent to the liver for metabolism and energy production.
Coconut milk is also known to lower the total cholesterols (TC), triglycerides, phospholipids, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and very low-density lipoproteins)VLDL), while it increases the HDL(High-density lipoproteins).
High LDL levels may otherwise lead to fat deposits in arteries, blocking them and increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
It also has an anti-thrombotic effect, which prevents blood clots in blood vessels and decreases the risk of arterial blockages.
It thus helps in improving heart health by ensuring normal blood flow and pressure and prevention of strokes, heart attacks, and heart failures.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk is beneficial for the heart as it reduces the risk factors of heart diseases. It regulates cholesterol and blood flow and pressure, and prevents heart conditions.
8. Boosts the immune system
Active and fully functioning immune system protects the body from infections and diseases. Our immune system responds with the help of various immune cells that fight against pathogens and promote healing.
Coconut milk has immunomodulatory action. Vitamin C, which is present in coconut milk helps boost the level of immune cells and protects the immune system.
The zinc present in coconut milk also increases the number of various immune cells.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk helps in immune response by increasing production of immune cells.
9. Beneficial for bones
Osteoporosis causes bone damage leading to their risk of breaking and frequent fractures.
Virgin coconut oil in coconut kernel component retains the bone structure and mass in osteoporosis. Lack of antioxidants causes free radicals to damage bones.
The phenols and antioxidants in coconut milk prevent bone loss.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk maintains the bone strength and preserves bone mass from damage in patients of osteoporosis.
10. Anti-diabetic in nature
Improper blood glucose levels cause diabetes. It can be treated or controlled by modulating the sugar levels and decreasing the risk factors.
This ensures proper breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates and decreasing glucose levels in the blood.
What does this mean?
Coconut milk exhibits anti-diabetic activity by helping in regulation of the sugar levels.
11. A great substitute for coconut oil
Several readers wanted to know how else can take and benefit from coconut oil without using it for cooking (frying and baking), here is their answer – coconut milk.
Coconut milk is the best source of coconut oil (second only to coconut oil itself :).
What it actually means is all the great benefits which coconut oil can provide coconut milk can also provide them. In fact, coconut milk can also be used topically as coconut oil can be.
This is a huge advantage. As coconut milk can be used in so many different ways as compared to coconut oil. As starters, you can drink coconut milk easily while you may not like to drink coconut oil!
12. Coconut milk – topical usage
Coconut milk can be used topically as one can use coconut oil.
Coconut milk can be applied to the skin to make it soft and smooth. It can be applied to hair (fermented form) to nourish them and get rid of head lice. It also makes hair shiny and free of dandruff.
A sizeable percentage of the world population suffers from lactose intolerance. Coconut milk is a natural and healthy answer to this problem.
Coconut milk is a great substitute for dairy milk.
14. Digestive systems health
Coconut milk is great for the digestive system of our body. Anti-microbial properties of coconut oil due to the presence of medium chain fatty acids are well known.
Coconut milk also has a similar effect on the digestion system. It kills harmful microbes and promotes good bacteria which helps in digestion and overall health.
15. Thyroid function
Like coconut oil, coconut milk also helps in proper thyroid function. Coconut milk speeds up metabolism and thus assists in the work of thyroid gland.
According to various research Selenium present in coconut oil helps in hypothyroidism condition.
16. Free radical and pH control
Like coconut oil, coconut milk helps in checking the growth of free radicals by acting as an effective anti-oxidant. Coconut milk has an alkalizing effect on the body and helps maintain proper pH balance.
Minerals such as manganese are also responsible for these anti-oxidant properties of coconut milk.
17. Helps in Anemia
Anemia is a common disorder caused due to deficiency of iron. Regular intake of coconut milk can help in this situation as 100 gms serving of coconut milk can provide close to 10% of the daily iron requirement.
18. Magnesium helps in diabetes and hypertension
Coconut milk is rich in magnesium which is known to help with type 2 diabetes and heart disorders. According to research close to 90% Americans do not get required magnesium dosage. This is where delicious coconut milk can play an important role.
Is Coconut Milk Better than Dairy Milk?
Why one should prefer coconut milk over traditional milk?
Coconut milk retains most health properties of coconut meat. It is also very close to dairy milk in terms of colour.
Nutritional comparison of dairy and coconut milk
Here is a small comparison of nutrition provided by 1 cup (240 gms) of dairy milk (buffalo) and coconut milk:
|Nutrition heads||Dairy milk (buffalo)||Coconut milk|
|Carbohydrates||12.6 g||13.3 g|
|Total fat||16.8 g||57.2 g|
|Saturated fat||11.2 g||50.7 g|
|Protein||9.1 g||5.5 g|
|Key Vitamins||Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid||Vitamin C, Folate, Niacin,|
|Key Minerals||Calcium, Phosphorous, Selenium, potassium, zinc, copper||Iron, magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium|
The above is just a small comparison.
We would like to highlight that in case of dairy milk the nutritional value will change a lot based on the kind of milk you choose – which animal (buffalo, cow, goat etc.) and processing (low fat, full cream etc.). We have just taken a representative case of buffalo milk here.
There are some quick observations one can make here:
Coconut milk provides far more calories and fats as compared to buffalo milk.
The saturated fat contact in coconut milk is very high (this is not surprising though). Coconut milk does have too many prominent vitamins but is very rich in minerals.
Calcium is the most prominent mineral in dairy milk while Potassium in coconut milk.
Why Coconut Milk Scores Over Dairy Milk?
What we present here are few key advantages Coconut milk has over dairy milk.
1. Suitable for lactose intolerant people
There is a sizeable population in the world which is lactose intolerant and thus cannot consume dairy milk. For such people coconut milk is a great choice. It looks and feels like milk.
It is rich in minerals and vitamins and essential nutrients which milk is supposed to give to our body.
2. Goes well with vegan diet
Vegans do not prefer dairy products and thus for them, coconut milk is a great substitute. Coconut milk is best plant-based alternative to milk for vegans. Consuming coconut milk provides them with essential calories and fats needed for a healthy body.
3. Infection-fighting fatty acids
Coconut milk is rich in medium chained fatty acids which are known to fight various microbial infection caused by bacteria, virus, fungus etc. They promote the overall health of our body including the heart.
4. Easy substitute for milk in recipes
Coconut milk can be made part of many food recipes. You can even develop coconut cream from coconut milk, just like dairy milk. Not only as a substitute you can use coconut milk to make dishes which cannot be made from dairy milk!
5. Aroma and taste
If you make your own coconut milk you will get mild aroma and taste of coconut in the milk. Thus you are making a flavoured milk naturally! This milk can be great for kids which hate the taste of dairy milk.
6. Shelf life
Coconut milk has longer shelf life and does not have to be boiled again and again for preservation. This saves time and effort.
Advantages of dairy milk over coconut milk
Humans have been consuming milk for thousands of years now.
It is mother’s milk which given child initial strength and immunity. Dairy milk’s key benefit is the supply of calcium which is essential for building healthy bones and teeth.
Milk also provides several essential vitamins and minerals which are required by our body. Milk is also associated with lowering of blood pressure and thus help in heart-related problems.
So what’s the verdict?
We are not saying dairy milk is bad nor saying coconut milk is best.
Simply because there are things coconut milk cannot provide to your body most important of which is calcium and there are benefits coconut milk can provide (because of its MCTs) which dairy milk cannot.
Thus unless you cannot take dairy products at all it is best to use a mix of both coconut and dairy milk because according to me one should not choose between them but consume them in appropriate quantities to get best of their benefits.
Ways of using coconut milk in the diet
As mentioned above, the most important benefit of coconut milk over coconut oil is flexibility in ways you can use this. Here are a few simple ways to include coconut milk in your diet:
- Drink it raw with flavours and fruits: Of course, this is the easiest of all. While coconut milk is anyways tasty, adding light flavours and fruits to it enhances it further!
- Smoothies: You can make delicious smoothies using coconut milk
- Curries: Coconut milk is not sweet and thus can be included in curries too to provide flavour of coconut in them
Where to get coconut milk from
The best way is to make your own (see here) as then you are absolutely sure of the quality.
Also, it does not take too much time. If this is not an option to buy coconut milk of a brand you trust, we would suggest against going for a cheaper option if you are not sure about the quality.
How to Make Coconut Milk at Home
While coconut water is almost transparent, coconut milk is white and thick and made using coconut meat.
Coconut milk is available in the supermarket these days but you can also make your own coconut milk.
This not only gives assurance that you are getting the best of coconut without and preservatives etc but also given flexibility in terms of quality, the thickness of the milk and flavours.
Well, one more thing – homemade coconut milk is also fresh. Let’s move on the steps to make it, it is really simple.
What is required
- Fresh coconut (mature, the one which has a hard brown shell)
- Vessel / jar,
- Hot water
- cheesecloth or Tea Strainer (cheesecloth is better).
Steps to Make Fresh Coconut Milk
- Break open the coconut and drain the water. remove the brown shell completely. If you are not used to breaking up a coconut, this, in fact, will be the toughest part of the process!
- Coconut meat will have a thin brown layer above it, just scrub that layer softly with a blunt knife or a peeler. While this is not necessary, but peeling slightly improves the colour and taste of the milk. It is your choice though
- Break the coconut into small pieces and put them in the refrigerator for an hour. This will soften the coconut meat and thus it will blend nicely.
- Take out the coconut pieces put in a blender along with some hot water. This water not only increases blending but also increase juice extraction. Small precaution here – do not add too much water as in that case coconut milk will get too diluted.
- Blend the mixture till you can feel that the coconut pieces have been cut into very small ones and evenly distributed. This may take several minutes.
- Use cheesecloth or tea strainer to separate liquid and coconut pulp in a vessel. Press tightly to extract max. out of the pulp.
- Next step, there is none! your fresh coconut milk is ready!
You can add flavours and sweeteners to it if you want and also dilute it based on requirement. Adding Manuka honey is a great way to make sweetened coconut milk.
It is best to make a small quantity of milk at a time as it gets spoiled in 3-4 days even when refrigerated.
How to Take Coconut Milk
One can easily prepare natural and fresh coconut milk at home by mixing grated coconut meat and water and straining in cheesecloth to obtain a maximum pulp.
However, it is available commercially, packed, tinned, canned or bottled.
It is better to have a small serving of 1.25-1.5 cup coconut milk daily as part of recipes or on its own.
It can easily be substituted for milk in tea, coffee, and other beverages. Because of this, it is excellent for people pursuing a vegan diet, or for people who are allergic to normal dairy, fructose, soy or nuts.
It can be added to smoothies or drinks.
It is used widely in Thai and Southeast Asian cuisines in gravies, curries, rice, and desserts.
Coconut Milk Recipes
Coconut Ginger drink
Here are some very imp. health benefits ginger can provide your body:
- Very beneficial for removing gastrointestinal distress. It is helpful in removing symptoms of motion and sea sickness
- Nausea and dizziness
- Ginger has anti-inflammatory effects and is beneficial osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Prevents cancer
- Boosts immunity
Now you know how amazing ginger is, let’s move on to making Ginger coconut drink. You need the following to make it:
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Sliced ginger – 1 tbs
- Sweetener – you can use sugar, jaggery or even honey. I personally prefer pure/natural honey as it has its own health benefits too!
If you have made ginger tea, the process is very similar:
- Heat water till it boils. Add ginger to it and keep for 10 min on slow gas. This will reduce the water and also water will extract all benefits of ginger into it. This is why thin slices of ginger are important so that every last bit of ginger juice extracted.
- Switch off the gas. Use a tea strainer to remove ginger.
- Add coconut milk and sweetener to water and stir them well
Your Coconut Ginger drink is ready! It has to be served warm.
Coconut ginger is found to be particularly useful in case of nausea and indigestion.
Coconut Pineapple Sorbet
Before we start with the recipe, just for information, sorbet is a kind of dessert made out of sweetened water and fruit. It is very popular across the world.
This sorbet is made using pineapple, but you are free to experiment with fruits you like.
- Coconut milk – 1 cup
- Fresh pineapple, cut into spears – 1
- Sweetener – based on taste and choice. One can use stevia (1/4 spoons). I personally used pure honey with it.
- Flavour extract – vanilla or some other you like
- Coconut oil – 2 tbps
TFlavorty of the above recipe is it is amazingly customizable. As you can see, you can change the fruit, you can choose your sweetener and flavour extract. It is best if you make your own coconut milk and use it but if not possible canned coconut milk can also be used.
Process of making Coconut Pineapple Sorbet
- Using a juicer and put pineapple. Run it till you can see mixture of juice and pulp both. Store pulp and juice separately
- Take a large glass bowl and put one cup of coconut milk in it. Add pineapple juice so that the quality becomes 3 cups.
- Blend this liquid along with sweetener, flavour and coconut oil
Pour the mixture into ice cream maker, add pulp you saved while juicing pineapple. The output from your ice cream maker if your Coconut Pineapple Sorbet. It has close to 200 calories per serving.
This is a great dessert because it has health benefits of not only coconut milk and coconut oil but also pineapple. Further if you add honey as sweetener, you get even more healthier one.
Coconut Milk Kefir
Kefir is a popular dish generally made using cow’s milk and fermentation process.
Kefir is considered great for health and known to provide several benefits including aiding digestion, improving the immune system, etc.
You will be surprised that you can also make Kefir using coconut milk. The logic behind this is both have the ability to ferment which is the key thing here.
People have tried making coconut Kefir using coconut water too, will try to cover it sometime later. Here we make it using coconut milk.
Things required for making coconut Kefir
The list is very short really:
- 1 tbps Kefir grains (these are the same ones you use for making milk Kefir, there are no special grains available to make coconut Kefir)
- 1 cans of coconut milk. Go for natural milk if possible. Best will be if you can yourself extract coconut milk at home (see method here) as the purity of coconut milk plays a key role in the quality of Kefir
- Glass jar / glass Vessel for fermentation
Kefir making process
Well now we have all the ingredients lets follow the process here:
As you may already know, Kefir is basically a fermentation product. Thus we would right away start with it. Use all glass material for holding stirring etc. this avoids and reactions possible when metal jar / spoon is used.
- Fermentation is achieved using Kefir grains. Place Kefir grains in the glass jar and then put coconut milk over it. Once done you may want to stir the mixture a bit.
- Cover the jar’s mouth with a clean cloth, which is not too thick and keeps the mixture to ferment properly. This can take anywhere between 15-25 hours based on factors such as weather, coconut milk quality, thickness etc.
- While there is no specific time when you can remove the kefir grains but start inspecting the mixture every hour after say 10 hours. If you are satisfied with the culture to go ahead and remove the kefir grains from it. Regular inspection helps t ensure that over fermentation does not happen. This may give a sour taste to kefir and also make it very thick.
- Kefir grains are reusable at least 4-5 times so keep them dipped in some milk in your refrigerator.
- Keep the Kefir in the refrigerator, this will also further thicken it.
Your Kefir is ready!
What can you do with coconut kefir
- Literally, anything you can do with milk kefir. Firstly, feel free to add flavors of your choice if you want while using it.
- Coconut kefir can be a great substitute of milk cream as it looks and feels like milk cream but is healthier.
- Coconut kefir works very well with smoothies, ice creams, coffee, vegetable curries, over bread etc. Just like milk kefir.
Some precautions while making coconut kefir
- Use glassware and not metal
- Prefer kefir grains and not kefir starter packets
- After 10-12 hrs start checking for kefir regularly. Kefir needs a warm climate (as fermentation required that) so if the room is not warm it may take a longer time to make kefir.
- Once use kefir grains should be kept in milk (preferably cow’s) in refrigerator
If it your first time to make kefir, do not get disappointed if you do get it right the first time, people rarely do! start over again.
Precautions to be taken while taking Coconut Milk
Drinking coconut milk is very safe. Here a few precautions to take while taking it:
- It is always better to consume fresh and natural coconut milk. Packaged foods contain bisphenol-A (BPA) in the plastic or metal packing. It can cause breast cancer and infertility. Before buying such products, check for BPA-free containers.
- Also, prefer unsweetened varieties to avoid extra sugar consumption. Organic products that are free of preservatives, chemical stabilizers, artificial sweeteners or are not pasteurized(may damage certain nutrients) are best to consume.
- It may contain a polysaccharide guar gum, which can cause stomach discomfort in some people.
- Although it is seldom known to cause allergies, some people with tree nut allergies should avoid it.
- Pregnant women and people on other medications should seek medical intervention to know if and how much to consume. It can interfere with the functioning of other drugs.
Coconut milk is a very healthy food which has all the benefits of the white coconut meat and contains the important virgin coconut oil.
Its multiple benefits make it a must-have in every household for good health. It can easily be substituted for milk in beverages or meals.
It is a very versatile ingredient that can be added to smoothies, drinks and gravies. Including in moderate amounts in your diet will result in better health and nutrient gain.
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