The coconut tree is one of the most useful plants you will ever encounter, because no part of it goes to waste. From the leaves all the way down to the roots, there’s something you can make out of each part of the tree. Here are some practical examples:
- Leaves: They can be used to make brooms, baskets or even temporary sheds.
- Husks and shells: You can use them to improvise bowls, pots or even as a floor scrub.
- Coir: The elastic portion of the husk can be used to make brushes, floor mats and stuffing for mattresses.
- Trunk: The midsection of the tree contains strong wood, which is useful for making furniture and housing materials.
One of the most well-known products derived from coconut is coconut milk. It’s used in various dishes around the world and is noted for its healthy fat and vitamin content. Discover more about this healthy food here and how you can use it in your cooking.
What Is Coconut Milk?
What is the difference between coconut water and coconut milk? Those who are unfamiliar with them may think they are one and the same, but they are actually very different and, fortunately, easy to distinguish, too.
Coconut water is essentially the naturally occurring liquid inside green coconuts. It exhibits a clear (but slightly whitish) appearance, and is rich in various nutrients such as minerals, antioxidants and healthy fat. Coconut water can be a refreshing and hydrating drink after a tiring day.1,2
Coconut milk, on the other hand, is a liquid made from the meat mixed with water. To create a thick texture, the flesh is finely grated and then boiled in water. Afterwards, the mixture is strained through a cheesecloth. A thinner texture can be achieved by simmering the coconut meat left in the cheesecloth. The straining process is then repeated to produce a thin viscosity.3
Various Benefits of Coconut Milk
The nutrients of coconut are mostly concentrated in the meat.4 Hence, if you want to gain most of the benefits, you should eat products derived from it, such as coconut milk. Research has shown that this liquid can benefit you in the following areas:
• Weight Management and Energy Boost
The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut milk are immediately digested and metabolized in your liver, providing you with an energy boost. This also reduces their chances of being stored as fat, so it’s a good weight management tool as well.5 In one study, researchers suggest that MCTs can help reduce overall calorie consumption, leading to gradual weight loss over time.6
• Cholesterol Maintenance
Coconut milk may have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels when consumed regularly. In a study that looked into the effects of coconut on lipid levels, researchers noted that coconut can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in as quickly as two months.7
• Lower Risk of Inflammation
Adding coconut milk frequently to your diet may help reduce inflammation in your system. In a mice study, the authors tested lauric acid, a type of MCT found in coconut, against Propionibacterium acnes, a microbe responsible for acne infection. They discovered that lauric acid helped reduce NF-kB activation, a signaling pathway that influences inflammation.8
• Antibacterial Properties
The MCTs in coconut may help fight bacteria and viruses in your system. Research has found that lauric acid can help inhibit the maturation of the vesicular stomatitis virus.9 In other studies, coconut is suggested to be an effective tool against the yeast strain Candida,10 as well as the bacterial strain Staphylococcus.11
The Different Uses of Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a diverse food. You can drink it by itself to refresh your body, mix it in smoothies or you can add it to various foods to give them a coconut flavor. But before you experiment in the kitchen, you can try several well-known foods from around the world that use coconut milk as the centerpiece.
One example is laksa, which is a noodle dish popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Its uses coconut milk for the soup, and various spices are added to give it a red color and a hot flavor.12 In the Philippines, coconut milk is used as the broth for their own variation of chicken curry.13
Coconut milk can be used for personal hygiene as well. You can use it to make your own coconut milk shampoo, soap, body wash and lotion.14 That’s because the milk is rich in various vitamins and minerals that can help promote healthy skin, boost hair growth and treat common skin ailments.15
Coconut Milk Substitutes You Can Utilize
Coconut milk can be interchanged with other types of milk, which means you can use it in place of a different kind of milk essential in a particular recipe, and vice versa. Since there are subtle differences in each milk’s flavor, you may notice that your final dish has taken on a new taste. Below are a few substitutes you can experiment with:
- Raw cow’s milk: High-quality raw milk made from grass fed cows contains a collection of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that can help boost your health. Use it to make homemade desserts such as ice cream and smoothies healthier.
- Coconut water: It can be added to smoothies and soups, giving them a thinner consistency compared to coconut milk.16
- Nut milk: Milk derived from nuts (such as almonds) can be beneficial to your health, but make sure it is homemade using raw, organic ingredients. Pasteurized nuts can endanger your health because they undergo toxic processes.
- Yogurt: Replacing coconut milk with yogurt can provide your gut flora with much-needed probiotics and vitamin K2 to help optimize your health.17
Cooking With Coconut Milk:
Coconut Kale With Sesame-Crusted Salmon
Coconut kale ingredients:
✓ 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
✓ 1 bunch of kale, chopped 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk
✓ Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the ginger and sauté over medium heat for five minutes.
- Add the kale and sauté, stirring constantly for five minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat, and simmer until kale is tender.
✓ 4 tablespoons of raw, grass fed butter
|✓ 4 tablespoons of organic coconut oil
||✓ 4 tablespoons of ginger, minced
|✓ 1 cup of sesame seeds
||✓ Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a small pan, melt the butter and oil with the ginger.
- Brush the butter, oil and ginger on the salmon steaks. Roll them in the sesame seeds, and place them on an oiled sheet pan. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
- Place the pan in the oven and roast until the sesame seeds are brown and the salmon is rare inside, about three minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
This recipe makes six servings.
Don’t Be Afraid to Give Coconut Milk a Try
If you haven’t tried coconut milk before and want to enjoy its benefits, it’s recommended you slowly ease it into your diet. You can start by drinking a small glass of it, or add a little bit to your recipes to help you get used to the flavor. In time, you’ll grow fond of coconut milk and it’ll become a regular part of your meals.
Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts
Aside from being a good source of healthy medium-chain fatty acids and assorted vitamins and minerals, the table below provides a good overview of other nutrients, as well as the total calories in coconut milk:
Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 100 grams
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.