7 Habits of Weight Loss

Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts

Trying to figure out the value of drinking coconut milk is a little confusing. Here are some coconut milk nutrition facts to help you understand some of the reasons that are confusing scientists about the value of this popular ingredient in many asian diets.

Milk versus Water

First there are two types of coconut liquid that are described as “milk” and they are nutritionally very different. A fresh coconut that is still growing contains a jelly-like substance. When the coconut is harvested this jelly like substance contains both the milk that becomes the coconut flesh as the coconut ages and dries, and the water that becomes the liquid in the middle of the coconut.  The hard flesh is the part that is dried and grated and we can buy it in stores under the name “dessicated coconut.”  The coconut flesh can be squeezed to produce a thick milky liquid. Sometimes it is soaked in warm water and squeezed again to produce a thinner milk. This milky liquid is used extensively in Thai and Malaysian cuisine. The thicker the liquid, the more likely it is to be used in desserts and rich sauces. This milk is high in fat.

When the jelly dries into the hard white flesh of the coconut, water is left in the center of the coconut. This liquid is sometimes mistakenly referred to as coconut milk, but it is more properly known as coconut water.

Fat Content

Coconut milk nutrition facts therefore vary depending on whether  you are talking about the actual milk squeezed from the fruit or the water that is left behind when the fruit hardens. The water makes a refreshing beverage which is rich in electrolytes and so is naturally rehydrating. It is low in fat, relatively low in calories and has no cholesterol. It makes a great sports drink because it replenishes several essential vitamins that are lost when we sweat, like potassium and chloride. It also contains lauric acid, a nutrient found in natural mother’s milk.
The richer coconut milk is high in fat and calories, having almost  as many calories ounce per ounce as whole milk. The effect of the fat content of this type of coconut milk on the human body is still being being evaluated. While there is no cholesterol in the water, the coconut nutrition facts of the milk are not so straightforward.

Coconut Nutrition... Controversy Abounds

Some scientists argue that it is high in cholesterol, whereas others argue that because of the combination of fats contained in coconut milk, it reduces rather than raises cholesterol in the human body. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are both necessary to good body function, and the balance between them is key in determining whether we have high or low cholesterol. Coconut oil is a saturated fat. Saturated fat is one of the bad fats known to raise LDL levels and consequently cholesterol levels. However saturated fat is now being disputed in the medical and scientific communities as more cultural diets are studied. As an example, Polynesians, who consume a diet rich in coconut milk, a rich source of saturated fat, do not suffer widely from high cholesterol. Scientists do not understand why that is so. Perhaps  coconut nutrition is really a balancing of ingredients that also raise HDL. When LDL and HDL are balanced, even at higher levels, there is less impact to the body’s cholesterol level. It is clear that coconut milk nutrition facts are still under investigation and the real effects on the body may be dependent upon other ingredients in your diet.

Philip Kustner

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