For many people, the only time you’ve tasted coconut is on vacation with a delicious piña colada or fresh coconut water right from the tree. But, there’s a growing body of evidence that the many forms of coconut can actually offer you a lot of health benefits. Today, we’ll be looking at a few of those benefits from the most accessible form of coconuts — coconut milk. Then, we’ll teach you a refreshing, tasty way to use coconut milk!
Coconut milk can be made a few different ways. Some take freshly grated coconut flesh and add it to hot water. As you work the coconut in the water, the cream separates. Depending on the amount of water used, coconut cream or coconut milk is created. Other methods include using gravity, centrifugation, or a press to separate coconut cream from the meat. Since coconut milk derives from coconut meat, it has the majority of the coconut’s health benefits, but also its fat content. For this reason, coconut milk can be healthy, but should be enjoyed in moderation.
Coconut Milk and Weight Loss
It may surprise you after our last note, but there’s evidence that coconut milk can help you lose weight. There are multiple facets that could assist with weight loss, but it’s primarily down to the type of fat that’s prevalent in coconuts. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are also found in coconut oil, have been found to influence weight loss in several different ways. MCT fats like lauric acid and caprylic acid go directly from the digestive tract to the liver, more efficiently being used for energy. This makes them less likely to be stored as body fat.
At the same time, MCTs can boost both athletic performance and your metabolism, burning more calories and weight as a result. This type of fat is even seen to lower how many calories you take in from foods. MCTs also have been found to dampen appetite, which further assists with weight loss.
As we’ve discussed before, while fat can be bad for your heart, healthy fats can have the opposite effect. For this reason, coconut milk and its MCT fats, can be effective at improving your heart health. Lauric acid, an MCT fat prevalent in coconut milk, can lower your blood pressure. Studies with coconut flakes and oil also linked coconut to cholesterol, both lowering levels of bad LDL cholesterol and improving healthy HDL.
With this evidence, it’s clear that coconut milk and other coconut products can be healthy for your heart, despite being high in saturated fat. What’s interesting is that studies have shown that saturated fat from different sources can react differently in our bodies. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, tested two prominent sources of saturated fat (coconut oil and butter) and compared it to a famous monounsaturated fat (olive oil). The coconut oil’s effect ended up being closer to that of olive oil than butter. With that in mind, unhealthy fat is still unhealthy fat, and coconut products are still best enjoyed in moderation.
How to Use
Adding the occasional coconut ingredient to your diet is pretty simple. For many, it’s as easy as occasionally replacing your milk with coconut milk or oil, like in your coffee. You can also use coconut oil as a cooking oil, especially in baking. Another option would be making a coconut curry to add an interesting note to an otherwise savory dish. Finally, you can try our version of a classic tropical cocktail, a Bay Breeze Sorbet recipe!
Bay Breeze Sorbet
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- ¼ cup of no sugar-added pineapple juice
- ½ cup of no sugar-added cranberry juice
- ½ cup of water
- ½ cup of sugar
- In a small saucepan, mix water and sugar together and boil until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Allow the syrup mixture to cool.
- Stir in pineapple and cranberry juices, as well as the coconut milk.
- Pour into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for two hours, stirring approximately every 15 minutes or until desired firmness is reached.