Coconut Milk: Not Your Bovine’s Milk

by Coach Tim


Coconut milk is pretty great, and is increasingly getting recognized for its greatness. Not only can it add a creamy texture to many dishes that those that are dairy-averse can be missing out on, it has some fantastic health benefits. Namely, coconut milk (and most coconut products) contain a high level of medium chain fatty acids. The MCFA have a unique absorption process through the body that provides a quicker supply of energy, is easier to digest, can promote weight loss, prevents oxidation and inflammation, and can help to stimulate the immune system among other things. This is all to say that coconut milk is good because of its fat content.

Coconut milk is not the only way to get the deliciously healthy benefits out of a coconut. A quick primer on coconut products:

1. If you crack open a coconut (especially a young coconut) you will find water inside. This is coconut water. It is rich in potassium along with other excellent electrolytes, vitamins and minerals and makes for a great post-workout recover drink in place of a sports drink. This does not contain any of the MCFA.
2. If you take the white meat out of a coconut, this is coconut meat. If you shred said meat, you have shredded coconut. If you add sugar to the shredded coconut you have sweetened shredded coconut and have basically negated all of the positive aspects of coconut we discussed above. If you take sweetened coconut, throw some almonds on it, and cover in milk chocolate, you have an Almond Joy and the reason I went through the first 20-some years of my life thinking I didn’t like coconut.
3. If you take the (unsweetened) shredded coconut, put it in water, boil the bejesus out of it and strain off the resulting solids you have coconut milk.
4. If you take the coconut milk, let it sit and chill it, some of the water will separate. Skim off the water and the resulting thicker stuff is called coconut cream.
5. If you take the coconut cream and heat it, even more liquid will boil off. Once all of the water is boiled off, you will have a coconut oil of sorts. The coconut oil you buy in the jar is usually from a pressing process – it’s faster and more energy efficient.

low fat coconut milk

So with the research and good vibes being poured into these coconut based products, of course our food providers are going to capitalize on it, which can be fantastic for the consumer. In fact, when I first started regularly seeking out coconut products, I had two options of coconut milk available at HyVee and had to go to a specialty health store to find coconut oil. There are now four or five coconut milk options at HyVee and coconut oil can be procured in bulk at Sam’s club. However, with an increase in consumer interest, it always seems a food company will find a really dumb way to capitalize on it. And here we are, at the local grocery store where there are not one, but three selections of “Reduced Fat!! Coconut Milk” available. If we go back to what we learned over the past three paragraphs, we will recall that not only are the benefits of coconut milk in the fat, but the major constituent of coconut milk is fat and water. It’s not cow’s milk where in addition to fat you have protein and carbohydrate constituents that you can still have a nutrient-filled product by removing the fat. It’s just (healthy!) fat and water. Therefore, a reduced fat version of fat and water means you’re getting more water for the same price. Or, better yet, you may get a perfectly healthy product cut with corn syrup and vegetable starch so it maintains its creamy texture. This is a step backwards, folks. This principle can also be applied to a lot of “low fat” foods: mayo, dressings, dairy, and so on. Check out Mark’s Daily Apple for his little rant on this.

In conclusion –
Coconut: good.
Low fat coconut: dumb.

See y’all at the gym