Have you ever picked up a recipe for something a little exotic like a Thai curry and wondered about the ingredient coconut milk? It sounds tasty, but how do you know if you are putting something healthy onto your dish and into your body?
There is some confusion within the nutritional community and for consumers alike as to whether coconut milk is healthy or not. On the one hand coconut milk is natural and comes from a plant source but on the other hand it does contain high amounts of saturated fat. Some people say steer clear for the health of your heart, others say that those who drink coconut milk have healthier hearts on average. How can you decide when the experts themselves seem to disagree? Maybe we need to look deeper.
What is coconut milk?
Clearly it is not milk, so for those of you who are lactose intolerant there is no problem there. Also it is not coconut water, the clear liquid that can make a refreshing drink when you slice open a fresh coconut. Coconut milk is actually made from soaking the white solid coconut flesh in water, then pressing and draining it. What comes out is the coconut milk.
Does it have any health benefits?
The sheer idea of saturated fat in coconut milk might send many people worried about their health running for the hills. But the saturated fat from coconuts, being plant based is of a different sort than that from animal sources. Some nutritionists even believed that the saturated fat in coconut milk can actually raise the metabolism and therefore help you lose weight. Those who use coconut milk in their diet tend to be slimmer and suffer from less heart disease and have lower cholesterol than those who are getting all their saturated fats from French-fries and animal sources in the West.
If you are worried, then there is an easy way out; follow the age-old advice, everything in moderation. After all your body does need some fats to be healthy. If you do use coconut milk and are worried about the fat content, then once every week or two is probably going to be OK. And it is going to be better for you than something like butter.
In addition there are light coconut milk options you can buy or you could try just diluting the coconut milk with some water.
Coconut milk verdict
It is not necessary to add coconut milk to your diet but on the other hand in moderation it should not be anything to worry about. And if you are going to add some fat to your diet you may as well use a healthier plant based option. Just be sure to balance what you eat with green vegetables, fruits nuts and seeds and complex carbohydrates. If you are following that kind of healthy diet then a little indulgence now and again is going to be OK.