The incredible taste and texture of coconut milk certainly make it seem like coconut milk would be bad for you. Plus, many people are aware that coconut milk has saturated fats and contains quite a few calories. However, the saturated fats found in coconut milk are actually highly beneficial to your health and can help fight chronic diseases and prevent cardiovascular disease. Keep reading to find out exactly what coconut milk is and three major health benefits that ingesting coconut milk provides.
What is Coconut Milk?
The name coconut milk is a bit misleading, but it isn’t actually a “milk” at all in the sense that the word milk is generally used. Coconut milk is a liquid found naturally in the coconut “meat” inside of mature coconuts. Coconut milk has a mild coconut flavor and can be used in many recipes as a dairy substitute. Coconut milk is not to be confused with the liquid that first leaks out when you crack open a coconut – that is coconut water. Coconut water has more sugar and electrolytes, but coconut milk is higher in saturated fatty acids from coconut oil.
One of the fats that coconut milk provides is the medium-chain fatty acid, lauric acid. Lauric acid is absorbed easily by the body and is used as a source of energy. Although coconut milk does contain many saturated fats, it is not a threat to your cholesterol levels or to your heart. In fact, experts say that coconut milk can help you lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, because it is high in calories, it is best to consume coconut milk in moderation.
Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
Coconut milk has multiple benefits to your health, some of which include:
- Heart Health – As mentioned above, coconut milk does contain saturated fats, but 50 percent of the fats found in coconut milk is lauric acid. This protective fatty acid has been linked to a decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. Coconut milk also helps lower your blood pressure and keeps your blood vessels flexible and free from heart disease-causing plaque.
- Builds Muscle – The medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut milk increase your energy expenditure and provide enhanced physical performance. Those benefits help you to build muscle and because the fats in coconut milk are good fats, they fill you up and can help curb your cravings for snacks and prevent overeating.
- Prevents Joint Inflammation – Inflammation is one of your body’s main enemies because it plays a role in so many diseases and uncomfortable conditions, one of which is arthritis. Inflammation also decreases your body’s immune function, but coconut milk can help to reduce inflammation. The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut milk decrease inflammation, and when used in place of refined sugar, can decrease inflammation even more because refined sugar is pro-inflammatory.
Coconut milk, like its relatives coconut water and coconut oil, is considered to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. Enjoy coconut milk in place of dairy milk, use it to make curries or use it in your morning smoothies for an added boost of healthy fats.