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Nutrition

The Pros and Cons of Coconut Milk

To say that I’m a fan of coconut milk would be an understatement. I use it to make smoothies, soups, sauces… you name it and I’ve probably used coconut milk to make it.

The thing I love the most about coconut milk for me is that I get quality fat without having any negative reaction to it.  I can’t consume too many nuts or drink too much nut milk (because it causes digestive issues) and I don’t do well with dairy because of my lactose intolerance, which is why I use copious amounts of coconut milk.

But there are some potential negative side effects that you need to be aware of, if you’re a frequent consumer of coconut milk, like I am.

So in this article, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons of drinking coconut milk.

Pros & Cons List

Pro: Coconut Milk is a Good Source of MCT

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are saturated fatty acids that are not available in many types of food.  MCT’s get metabolized differently than other fats.  MCT’s are sent directly to the liver, and then utilized as energy.  So when you eating MCT’s, your body can burn them as fuel source, much like carbohydrates, which is especially beneficial if you’re on a low carb diet and you need energy for working out.  MCT oil is my go to source of energy before my workouts.

Con: Guar Gum

Canned coconut milk often contains guar gum, which might cause digestive issues for some people.  If you experience digestive problems when you eat legumes and beans, then you should try cutting guar gum out of your diet to see if your digestion improves.
At this point, there isn’t any evidence that guar gum causes health issues, so it may be fine to consume it if it doesn’t cause digestive issues for you.  Also, there are a few brands of coconut milk that don’t contain guar gum.  You can read the labels and select a brand that doesn’t include this ingredient.  Also, if you can’t find coconut milk without guar gum in it, you can also mix coconut cream with water to get coconut milk as well.

Pro: Antimicrobial Benefits

One of the benefits of coconut milk is the fact that it contains antimicrobial properties, including antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal elements to boost your immune system.  To receive these benefits, it’s best to consume raw coconut milk instead of canned coconut milk, because some of the nutrients and health benefits can get diminished in the canning process.
In addition to antimicrobial properties, coconut milk is thought to benefit all of the major organs in your body, as well as enhancing nerve cell functions.

Con: Bisphenol-A

Bisphenol-A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a chemical that’s been known to cause hormone disruption and lead to several negative health conditions.  BPA is quite common and it is often found in the lining of canned foods, and so it can seep into the food.  Most types of commercial coconut milk are sold in cans with BPA linings, which means that you might be consuming BPA while you are drinking the coconut milk.  Makes sure that you look for brands that do not use containers with BPA.

Pro: Antioxidants

When you drink coconut milk, you are getting a rich source of antioxidants which can help to reduce free radical activity within your body.  Free radicals cause cellular damage and increases inflammation in your body which can lead to serious health problems like stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and many more.  Antioxidants fight off free radicals, reducing your risk of diseases and it repairs and rebuilds the cells in your body that have been damaged from free radicals.

Con: Carrageenan

Another common additive in coconut milk is carrageenan, which has been found cause inflammation when consumed.  Researchers have found that carrageenan can trigger an inflammatory response in the body due to its unique chemical structure.  Carrageenan helps to thicken the milk and give it a good texture, and it is also used to prevent the separation of the liquids within the milk.  But there are no nutritional benefits to carrageenan, so it’s best to avoided it as much as possible.  Look for canned coconut milk without any carrageenan in it.  If all else fails, you can mix coconut cream with water to get coconut milk as well.

Alternatives to Canned Coconut Milk

As you can see, some of these cons are the result of ingredients that are added to the coconut milk.  But it’s possible for you to gain all of the health benefits of coconut milk by avoiding canned coconut milk all together, and making your own coconut milk instead.

You can make homemade coconut milk with fresh coconuts.  Here are 2 easy ways to make home made coconut milk:

Homemade coconut milk #1

Coconut milk made with fresh coconuts and water:

  • Cut open two fresh coconuts and pour the water into your blender.
  • Split the coconuts and pull out the flesh. Remove any brown pieces that may be stuck to the flesh.
  • Add the coconut flesh to the coconut water in the blender.
  • Add an additional four cups of water, or however much water is needed to blend it well.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture through a mesh colander, and then use cheesecloth to squeeze it dry.
  • The colander and cheesecloth help to remove the chunks, so that only the milk is left.

Homemade coconut milk #2

Coconut milk made with coconut flakes and water:

  • In a saucepan, add two cups of unsweetened coconut flakes and four cups of water.
  • Heat it up, but remove the pan from the heat source before it starts to boil.
  • Add the water and coconut into a high speed blender, either in one or two batches depending on the size of your blender.
  • Blend well for several minutes until it’s creamy and smooth.
  • Use the colander and cheesecloth method to strain the milk and remove any pieces that may be left.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If you’re like me and consume copious amounts of coconut milk, it may be a good idea to spend a little extra time and effort to make your own homemade coconut milk, so you can reap all of the health benefits coconut milk has to offer and avoid any side effects that come with buying store bought, and pre-canned products.

References
  • http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-coconut-milk-2031.html
  • http://www.thealternativedaily.com/3-things-hiding-coconut-milk/http://chriskresser.com/3-reasons-why-coconut-milk-may-not-be-your-friend
  • http://chriskresser.com/3-reasons-why-coconut-milk-may-not-be-your-friend

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