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Coconut milk comes from the flesh of mature brown coconuts, which are the fruit of the coconut tree. The milk has a rich, creamy texture and thick consistency. It is also used in many traditional cuisines around the world. Grown in abundance in South East Asia, coconuts are well known for their delicious taste and numerous health benefits. Coconut milk is known to be one of the healthiest foods on earth and the wide range of health benefits of coconut milk make it quite popular. Coconut water shouldn’t be confused with coconut milk. Coconut water is about 94% water. It has much less fat and fewer nutrients than coconut milk.
Coconut milk is a high-calorie food. One cup of it contains calories, fat, protein, carbs, fiber, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese. Also some experts believe that coconut milk contains unique proteins that may provide health benefits. It is also high in calories and saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides. Coconuts are packed with fiber and highly nutritious and rich in vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6 as well as minerals, including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. It improves blood pressure and helps prevent cardiac arrhythmia due to its potassium content. Coconut milk is lactose-free so it can be used as a milk substitute unlike cow’s milk. It is also a good option for anyone allergic to dairy and nut or grain-based milk, plus it’s vegan and good for plant-based eaters.
15 Nutritional and Health Benefits of Coconut Milk:
1. Boosts Immune System
Coconut milk has a good amount of vitamin C, a nutrient that helps to boost our immunity. Hence, regular consumption of coconut milk can help ward off infections and fight cold and cough. Coconut milk also contains lauric acid, which is a type of saturated fat found in several vegetable-based fats. Lauric acid is often extracted from coconut to develop monolaurin, an antimicrobial agent used to treat viral infections including influenza (flu). It can boost the immune system and further fight against bacteria and yeasts.
2. Weight loss
Coconuts contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are known to burn fat and induce satiety, which eventually helps prevent overeating. This specific quality of coconuts helps in long-term weight loss. In a study, it was noticed that consuming MCTs resulted in decreased levels of adipose tissue as compared to LCTs. The study further stated that MCTs could be considered as agents that help in the prevention of obesity.
3. Keeps heart healthy
Coconut milk is also a great way to improve heart’s health. That’s because the lauric acid in it provides antiviral and antibacterial properties, and being a healthy fatty acid lauric acid can improve cholesterol levels. A 2013 study found that people who consumed coconut milk porridge for five days a week over an eight-week period experienced decreased LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) levels, and increased HDL (the “good” cholesterol). They also concluded that the coconut fat in coconut milk is actually beneficial to overall cholesterol levels.
Coconut milk has also been found to help lower blood pressure and free plaque build-up from blood vessels, further supporting heart health and even lowering the risk of a heart attack. Iron which is the mineral responsible for oxygenating red blood cells, further promotes cardiovascular health. Copper content of coconut milk increases the absorption of iron and aids in increased red blood cell formation as well.
4. Strengthens The Bones
Coconut milk contains a good amount of calcium and phosphorus – nutrients that help to maintain healthy and strong bones. No specific research is done but many people all over the world testify that drinking coconut milk on a regular basis gives them stronger bones and lowers their risk of arthritis, osteoporosis, joint inflammation, and fractures.
Coconut milk also contains vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are one bone-strengthening power duo as the pair strengthens bone density and structure. Its valuable phosphorus and manganese content further aids in bone metabolism.
5. Ensures Blood circulation
Coconut milk is also known to provide elasticity and flexibility to your skin and blood vessels. It has a good amount of copper and vitamin C, both of which are claimed to provide rigidity and elasticity to the collagen fibers. This property of coconut milk ensures a proper flow of blood in the blood vessels and minimalizes fluctuations in blood pressure.
6. Helps prevent anemia
Anemia, one of the most common diseases caused due to nutrient deficiencies, is a lack of iron in the body. This can be overcome by drinking a glass of coconut milk regularly. It is said to provide our bodies with almost one-fourth of our daily recommended dose of iron per day. It is also useful for preventing fatigue related to anemia. Though the iron content of coconut milk isn’t very high, it still provides a good source of plant-based iron that can contribute to a diet sufficient at preventing anemia.
7. Controls diabetes
The virgin coconut oil that is prepared from coconut milk affects the blood glucose levels positively. It contains antioxidant properties that improve the insulin secretion in the body. Another paper researched in Thailand talked about the benefits of coconut oil for diabetes. It suggested that virgin coconut oil increases the efficiency of cellular response to insulin, reduces blood sugar levels, stimulates metabolism, and decreases the glycaemic index of food, thereby controlling diabetes.
8. Helps prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Coconut milk contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These medium-chain triglycerides are easily absorbed by the liver and get converted to ketones. Ketones are identified as an alternative source of energy for the brain and are known to be highly beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease or are still in its initial phases.
9. Helps in lowering inflammation and helps relieve arthritis
In coconut milk, the medium-chain fatty acids, or MCTs are known to help lower inflammation. Inflammation is also associated with many types of health issues, including arthritis, muscles aches and joint pains, which means adding coconut milk to your diet can help reduce both swelling and pain. Coconut milk instead of sugar is helpful for people with arthritis because sugar is a pro-inflammatory and linked to low immunity, worsened pain and swelling.
10. Promotes prostate gland’s health
Coconut milk contains a lot of vitamins and minerals. Among all those nutrients is zinc, an element that helps to maintain the health of the prostate gland and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The prostate gland already contains a high amount of zinc in its soft tissues, but drinking coconut milk regularly makes sure that the zinc levels in the body are replenished.
11. Helps prevent ulcers
If you are suffering from stomach ulcers, drinking coconut milk can help in significantly reducing and preventing ulcers altogether. Coconut milk contains anti-ulcer and antibacterial properties that fight the bacteria causing the ulcers. Drinking a glass of coconut milk at least once a week can give positive results in no time. A study was carried out in Chennai, India, to test the efficacy of a polyherbal cream, containing coconut milk as one of its main ingredients, on diabetic patients with foot ulcers. The study suggested that due to the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of coconut milk and some other ingredients, this cream was highly effective in healing the ulcers.
Several studies have been conducted on coconut and its various forms to test their abilities on inflammation and microbes. Virgin coconut oil, the pure form of oil extracted from coconut milk, is rich in MCTs and lauric acid. Due to this, virgin coconut oil has excellent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Another study performed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, investigated the pharmacological effects of virgin coconut oil. The results suggested that the oil possessed anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic properties.
13. Improves digestion and relieves constipation
Feeling constipated? Having trouble with digestion? Coconut milk can help. This milk contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals, which provide the necessary electrolytes and good fats that help move the food along the intestinal tract and leave the body at regular intervals. A good hydrated digestive tract is important for preventing or treating constipation. Coconut milk helps in nourishing the digestive lining due to its electrolytes and healthy fats, improving gut health and preventing conditions like IBS.
14. Healthy skin and hair
Coconut milk is highly nutritious when consumed and these nutrients may help moisturize and condition skin and hair as well. In coconut milk, the fatty acids are natural antiseptic and may help treat dandruff, skin infections, wounds, and dry, itchy skin. Also, the high fatty acid content in coconut milk serves as a natural moisturizer for healthy skin and may help repair wrinkles and sagging in aging skin.
15. Provides Electrolytes and Prevents Fatigue
Though coconut water is a higher source of electrolytes, coconut milk also provides important minerals needed to maintain blood volume, regulate heart health, and prevent dehydration or diarrhea. Especially in hot weather, following exercise or after being sick, electrolytes help prevent exhaustion, heat strokes, heart problems, muscle aches or cramps, and low immunity. Coconut milk also has the types of MCTs that are easily used by your brain for energy, without even needing to be processed through your digestive tract with bile acids like some other fats. Coconut milk’s calories provide a good and efficient source of healthy calories for the brain, which is actually primarily made up of fat and relies on a steady stream of it to function.