Is Coconut Milk Good For You?

When you think of coconuts, it's probably the flesh of the coconut or coconut oil that comes to mind first, not coconut milk. Coconut milk can be found in two places in the grocery store — either in a paper carton in the milk-alternative case or in a can in an international foods aisle. Not to be confused with coconut water, which comes from unripe coconuts, coconut milk is made from the flesh of mature coconuts and is much thicker, according to Healthline. Therefore, it's higher in calories and fat. A cup of thick coconut milk has 552 calories and 57 grams of mostly saturated fat. Coconut milk is often used in cooking, but the kind used as a milk alternative is typically watered down, because it's normally too thick to drink like regular milk (via WebMD). 

You'd think that coconut milk's high-fat content would make you bypass it altogether, but coconut milk is high in nutrients such as iron, magnesium, folate, copper, selenium, manganese, and potassium (via Healthline). It also has five grams of fiber. Coconut milk also has other nutrients and benefits that you might not have considered.

Health benefits of coconut milk

Coconut milk is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs (via WebMD). According to a 2015 meta-analysis in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, MCTs have been linked to decreased body weight, waist circumference, and body fat. The MCTs in coconut milk could also improve cognition in people with Alzheimer's and cognitive impairment, according to a 2020 meta-analysis in Ageing Research Reviews. Coconut milk's lauric acid could have microbial properties, and the phenols in coconut milk are antioxidants that help remove metabolic waste from the body, according to Medical News Today.

If you choose canned coconut milk, remember that it's high in fat (via WebMD). They can also have Bisphenol A (BPA), which could affect your thyroid. Rather than drink the full-fat coconut milk, you can add it to oatmeal or use it to thicken smoothies, soups, and sauces. Aim for coconut milk with as few added ingredients as possible so you can avoid added sugars or preservatives (via Medical News Today).