Coconut Milk Nutritional Benefits + Recipes to Get Started
By Amber Alexander
There has been a lot of talk surrounding coconut milk lately and how it’s involved in diet/lifestyles such as Paleo. So what is all the hype for?
First, let’s differentiate between coconut water and coconut milk.
If you were to pluck a young coconut off of a tree and crack it open, a liquid almost resembling water would pour out. This is coconut water and it has a whole host of benefits.
If you were to let that same coconut mature, that water would be used to create more “meat” inside of the coconut. If you were to crack open a mature coconut, there would be very little water to run out, but a thicker layer of “meat.” When this “meat” is blended and strained, a thick, white, milky substance is created and this is coconut milk.
The water is high in electrolytes, while the milk is high in healthy fatty acids.
But that is not all the milk is good for!
1. Coconut milk contains nutrients (like magnesium and potassium) that muscles need to repair broken down tissue and grow back stronger. What is also great as far as physical performance is concerned is that, due to the higher level of medium-chain fatty acids in coconut milk, it can help enhance your physical performance by using more energy.
2. Because the type of healthy fat in coconut milk does not need to be fully digested first before your body can use it, it is a great source of energy for your brain (which is primarily made up of fat), which needs a steady stream of fuel to function properly.
3. The electrolytes and healthy fat found in coconut milk can help improve digestion by nourishing the lining of your digestive tract. This can help improve nutrient absorption, relieve constipation and help keep certain conditions (such as IBS or stomach ulcers) at bay.
4. Coconut milk is an excellent source of plant-based iron. This means if you are anemic or one of those ladies that struggles with menstruation, this can be a great way to supplement your diet.
5. While coconut milk is high in saturated fats, it is actually the healthy kind. One medium-chain fatty acid in particular – lauric acid – is especially useful in the body for creating energy.
6. While it would make sense to assume that, due to the saturated fat, coconut milk would raise your cholesterol, the opposite has actually proven to be true. It has shown to be helpful in not only lowering cholesterol, but in improving blood pressure and general cardiovascular health. It may even help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
7. For those of you with blood sugar problems (like me!), the fat found in coconut milk can help slow down the release of sugars into the blood. This helps keep you from experiencing the sugar high followed by the sudden crash (that leads to me wanting a 3 hour nap). This is why it is considered a healthy food to incorporate into desserts (keep reading for a few of my favorite ways to do this!).
8. If arthritis and joint problems are of concern for you, coconut milk can be a great alternative to refined sugars. It is naturally sweet, so it is healthier than processed sugars, which are linked to inflammation and lowered levels of immunity; and the medium-chain fatty acids coconut milk contains help reduce inflammation already present.
Now that you know some of the reasons why coconut milk is good for you, let’s explore some of the delicious ways to incorporate it into your diet, shall we?
Below are a mixture of my favorites and some recipes that I have on my list of things to try out:
1. This Spiced Coconut Rice with fresh fruit is something I just created recently based on a craving I was having. It is a filling, energy and nutrient packed way to start your day, or to enjoy as a snack!
2. This Mango Coconut Ice Cream is a new summertime favorite in our house, it’s sweet but not too sweet and is creamy and zesty. We love it!
3. Coconut Whipped Cream is a yummy addition to fruit salad or any other sweet indulgences.
4. One of these two coconut recipes: Thai Green Coconut Curry or Braised Coconut Spinach Chickpeas with Lemon from thekitchn.com
5. Make your own (healthier) Coffee Creamer using one of these flavor varieties from Planks, Love and Guacamole.
6. Try this Coconut Dream Smoothie!
7. These Coconut Curried Bananas are the right blend of sweet and spice when you are looking for some flavor variety and can be eaten as a dessert or with vegetables and protein as a main dish.
What’s your favorite way to use coconut in your diet? Tell me in the comments below!
As a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Amber Alexander follows her passion for vibrant wellness by supporting others in cultivating greater health and joy, specializing in family nutrition and individuals recently diagnosed with autoimmune diseases and/or food sensitivities.
When not working to make the world a healthier place one person at a time, she can be found on her yoga mat breathing deeply, in her kitchen cooking up nourishing deliciousness for her family and loved ones, or out dancing in the woods. She strives everyday to do at least one thing that infuses her whole being with radiance, joy and strength and believes that a hug can solve almost any quandary.
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