Everything You Need To Know About Coconut Milk

Have you tried coconut milk in your favorite smoothie yet? How about in your coffee? When you drink coconut milk, calories and healthy fats come together to provide you with top-notch fuel. Coconut milk is delicious and good for you, so when you do try it, you just might fall in love. That said, there are quite a few confusing misconceptions floating around about coconut milk, what its benefits are, and whether it’s different from coconut water. Here’s everything you need to know about coconut milk.

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What is coconut milk, anyway?

Coconut milk comes from coconut meat, the “fruit-like” ingredient found inside a mature coconut. It is a combination of thick coconut cream and more lightweight coconut water, and it’s usually made by squeezing grated coconut shavings. Coconut milk is most often used as a cooking ingredient or in beverage blends as opposed to on its own.

What are the health benefits of coconut milk?

Coconut milk, especially when enjoyed in moderation, can offer all kinds of fantastic health benefits.

Improved heart health.

Coconuts are high in magnesium, which can help to keep stress low and aid in circulation. Coconuts also have high amounts of lauric acid, which many experts believe helps to improve cholesterol and leads to a healthier heart. Coconut milk is also thought to help lower blood pressure, all of which leads to a healthier heart.

Higher energy.

Coconut milk calories are a great source of energy for both your brain and body. This is thanks to the high amounts of healthy fats in coconut milk. It can also help to keep you hydrated, which keeps your energy up.

Better digestion.

The hydrating qualities of coconut milk keep your digestive tract running smoothly, and can help to relieve constipation.

Decreased inflammation.

Coconut milk can help combat inflammation of the joints. If you suffer from arthritis, or simply have lots of aches and pains, coconut milk can contribute to pain relief.

Healthier eating habits.

Coconut milk has lots of healthy fats, and because of this, it can help you to stay full longer. This can help you stick to healthy eating habits and encourage you to avoid grabbing unhealthy food due to unexpected hunger.

A happier stomach.

If you suffer from ulcers, studies have found that coconut milk may to reduce their occurrence.

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What makes coconut milk so healthy?

Coconut milk is high in lauric acid, a healthy fat that the body can use for energy. Because coconut milk calories can run fairly high, you may want to enjoy a smaller serving than you would if you were drinking cow’s milk. Then again, the taste of coconut milk is often so rich that you might prefer a smaller serving for that reason alone!

If you’re allergic to soy or nuts, coconut milk can be a great alternative to popular nut milks. Coconut milk is also a good option for anyone who is lactose intolerant.

Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, you may want to consider decreasing the amount of dairy you consume. (And don’t worry, there are plenty of excellent plant-based options for calcium if that’s a concern.) While not everyone is full-on lactose intolerant, many others have mild tolerance issues with dairy. Dairy can cause exhaustion, stomach issues, sluggishness, and other issues. 

If you find yourself regularly experiencing low energy levels for reasons you can’t quite pinpoint, dairy might be the culprit. There is more dairy in the average diet than most of us realize, and cutting back on how much of it you consume could lead to big improvements in how you feel each day. If you’re interested in giving up dairy milk, there are all kinds of alternatives to enjoy, like soy milk, almond milk, and hemp milk, just to name a few—and coconut milk also tops that list, especially when it comes to cooking substitutes.

Coconut milk is not the same thing as coconut water.

You’ve probably seen coconut water in single-serving bottles all over your local grocery store. It tastes great, but it’s definitely not the same thing as coconut milk.

Coconut milk comes from coconut meat, usually after the meat is grated. It is thicker than coconut water, and more, well, milk-like. Coconut water comes only from young coconuts, while coconut milk comes from more mature coconuts, which have much less water inside.

You can drink coconut water straight out of the coconut (which is often when its health benefits are the most potent), whereas coconut milk needs to be made from the meat. People looking for something with a coconut flavor to sip on the go are more likely to pick up some coconut water than coconut milk, but if you’re picking up a prepackaged coconut product at the grocery store, coconut milk is more likely to retain its health benefits than coconut water.

There is often a misconception about the health benefits of coconut milk and coconut water, and what the differences are between the two of them. Of course, a big defining factor in whether these products have strong health benefits is how they are packaged and what additives are included (especially when it comes to coconut water), but let’s break down the basics.

Coconut water is known for its fiber, vitamins, minerals, sugar, and antioxidants. Because of its high levels of potassium and magnesium, coconut water can be a good choice for post-workout recovery, especially as part of a cold pressed juice or smoothie. If you’re looking for something sweet after a workout but want to avoid the extra calories and sugars of a sports drink, coconut water is an excellent option.

That being said, coconut water is not as high in vitamins as it is often advertised to be, and it also has many more health benefits when it’s fresh from the coconut. Coconut water that is not fresh is pasteurized, and that process depletes the nutrients and electrolytes coconut water is known for. This is why it can be especially beneficial to drink coconut milk in cold pressed juice, in which it is processed in a way that preserves its nutrients.

Coconut milk calories are high, but rewarding.

Depending on how fresh it is and how it is packaged, one cup of coconut milk can have between 350 and 550 calories. That said, those calories do pack a punch. Coconut milk has a type of saturated fat that many scientists believe is good for your health. This is thanks to the presence of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can raise your HDL cholesterol, also known as “the good cholesterol.”

There are “skim” coconut milk options, which offer a decreased amount of fat, but this may also mean a decrease in nutrients. You may want to opt for drinking the full-fat coconut milk option, but in small amounts. One-third of a cup of coconut milk has about 120 calories, so that could be a good amount to include in a smoothie or other beverage.

You can make coconut milk at home.

At the grocery store, you can buy coconut milk canned or in a carton. Canned coconut milk is more likely to be used in the cooking process, while coconut milk in a carton is often used to drink and may contain more sweeteners. If you want to avoid additives, you can make coconut milk in your own kitchen.

You can start with a whole coconut or with coconut meat from a health food store. Rinse the meat thoroughly, chop it into smaller pieces, and blend it with water. Once the coconut meat has blended into a thick consistency (coconut cream) strain it to separate the coconut meat from the liquid. And there you have it!

How to drink coconut milk.

When it comes to making coconut milk a part of your regular diet, the sky’s the limit. Here at Pure Green, we’re partial to enjoying coconut in a smoothie. Pure Green’s Blue Royale, Pure Berry, Banana Nut, and Chocolate Mousse blends all contain coconut.

If you’re looking to add coconut milk into your life beyond your smoothie routine, here are some other options to try:

Mix some coconut milk into your coffee.

Use coconut milk to add a hint of sweetness to your tea.

Enjoy a small amount of coconut milk in a bowl with mixed berries for a tasty dairy-free version of berries and “cream.”

When preparing curry, add some coconut milk to your recipe for extra flavor.

Make a delicious mocktail with coconut milk, seltzer, natural sweetener, and other flavorful mix-ins.

Heat a small amount of coconut milk and mix in cinnamon and vanilla for a warm winter drink.

Pour coconut milk into a popsicle tray with your favorite fruit or other add-ins, pop it into the freezer, and enjoy some refreshing coconut popsicles.


When enjoyed in moderation, coconut milk can be an excellent source of energy and healthy fats. If you’re looking to feel full for longer, stay energized throughout the day, and enjoy a hint of sweetness, coconut milk is your go-to ingredient.
 

Taylor Rohwedder