Having recently returned from the “land of coconuts”, as one Vietnamese local called it. It seems only right to have a conversation about coconuts.
It’s a taste you either love or hate. Personally, I love it. Excellent for those with dairy, lactose, soy, nuts or grain allergies or intolerances. Plus it’s vegan.
Now coconuts contain significant amounts of fats, but they are a good version, with plenty of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs). So eat in moderation, roughly ½ cup per day and remember it can be diluted with water to extend it further.
What are the benefits of coconut milk?
- Antiviral and antibacterial, through our body converting lauric acid to monolaurin, so great for preventing infections in the gut.
- Increases good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), plus contains minerals for blood flow, circulation and elasticity, so lowers blood pressure and reduces cardiovascular disease. Despite it’s apparent saturated fat content, which has some medics up in arms. Chill, it’s all OK….nature has it sorted.
- Aids weight loss, by reducing hunger and overeating throughout the day. It also supports detoxification and hydration.
- Helps build muscle by providing MCFAs that are rapidly metabolised into energy, so less likely to be stored as fat. Also quick and efficient fuel for healthy brain.
- Nourishing electrolytes and healthy fats improve gut health, aid digestion and can healing of gastric ulcers.
- Regulates blood sugar levels, by slowing the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream, preventing sugar and insulin highs.
- Preventative for inflammation and arthritis by reducing pro-inflammatory blood sugar fluctuations, that exacerbate pain and swelling.
Please avoid the “light” and “reduced fat” versions, instead opting for the brand with the simplest ingredients. Plus make sure there are no added sweeteners.
You can also use Coconut cream in a similar way. It is essentially the same as coconut milk – just without as much water, making it a lot thicker. You could always water it down yourself.
How to select and store
If you are able to get fresh coconut milk be aware that it goes bad very quickly and should be used the same day as pressing. The canned variety is a useful option, that can be stored easily until needed.
Once opened, transfer the contents to a resealable container and refrigerate. Use within a few days. The high oil content makes coconut quickly turn rancid if not stored under proper conditions.
…..DIY coconut milk (from desiccated coconut)
Try making your own with just water and unsweetened coconut flakes. Heat the water (make sure it doesn’t boil), add the flakes and blend in blender. Pour through cheesecloth or nut milk bag to filter out the coconut pulp. Use immediately or store in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Not a big fan of this method, is quite watery (pic on left) & just doesn’t have the full flavour of a great coconut milk (pic on right).
…DIY coconut milk (from fresh coconut)
Remove the flesh from mature coconut by cutting it out with a paring knife. Rinse coconut meat well, chop it into small pieces. Add to blender with two cups of water. Blend then strain it using cheesecloth. Squeeze coconut pulp well within the cheesecloth with your hands to extract coconut milk. You can keep the meat for homemade coconut flour, coconut scrubs, to make dried coconut flakes or to add to smoothies. Store leftover coconut meat in the freezer or use straight away.
We are not the “land of the coconuts” so hard to get fresh produce at a good price.
Canned Coconut Milk – What To Avoid.
As for canned coconut milk and refrigerated diluted versions, it can be hard to find one without the mysterious stabiliser, thickeners, numbers, which I personally would rather not consume. Here is a list of what some of the numbers lurking on the cans may stand for.
Stabilizer E466 (or just 466) or Carboxymethyl Cellulose
This is an emulsifier, thickening agent, a filler and anti clumper. It is also used in ceramics, detergents & textiles. Made from cellulose (found in wood & plant) possibly genetically modified, which is then chemically modified.
Vegetable gum (412) or Emulsifier, E412 or Guar gum
Added as a thickener to avoid the contents of the tin separating. Made from the seed of legume, Cyamopsis tetragonoloba shrub. The seeds are processed into off white powder. I’ll take the coconut milk with a huge layer of cream on top.
Emulsifier E435 or Polyoxethylene sorbitan monostearate, Polysorbate 60, or Tween 60
Is created from ethylene oxide (a synthetic compound), sorbitol and palmitic acid. Vegetable oils seems to be main source, but it was not easy to find out. There is some associations with cancer, but was difficult to find any relevant studies.
Thickener E415 or Xanthin gum
Is created from fermenting corn/wheat/soy sugar with a bacterium. It may also use wheat, dairy or soy. As with all of these additives it is very hard to determine exactly how the chemical was derived.
One final note: Is BPA, it can be found in some aluminium cans and has the potential to cause certain health and behavioural problems when it leashes into foods (especially foods high in acid or fat, like coconut milk). So “BPA free” would be good.
With all that in mind…….
Thankfully Bulk Wholefoods has come to the rescue with their no nasties coconut milk they stock.
Personally I love adding coconut milk to a quinoa porridge, satay sauce, homemade dairy free ice cream, soups, curries.
CocoQuench is also available, which is less concentrated for warm drinks, such as Turmeric Tea or Golden Milk
What is your favourite recipe that includes coconut milk? Comment below.
And if you love the blog, share it. Until next time…..