Coconut cream is a thicker form of coconut milk that has an important place in Thai, Indian, Indonesian, and Polynesian cuisines. In general, coconut milk and cream are made by squeezing the meat of ripe brown coconuts and saving the liquid that emerges. This thick liquid is different from coconut water — the water comes from unripe, green coconuts and doesn’t involve any squeezing.
The big difference between coconut cream and coconut milk isn’t very big at all: coconut cream has less water and more coconut fat than coconut milk. This makes coconut cream a creamy, luxurious-tasting alternative to dairy heavy cream in many recipes.
The rich flavor and thick texture aren’t the only benefits to coconut cream, however. Science is beginning to find that coconuts offer a number of health benefits when consumed in moderation.
A one-tablespoon serving of coconut cream contains:
- Calories: 68
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 10 grams
- Fiber: Less than 1 gram
- Sugar: 10 grams
Coconut cream is a great source of:
Coconut cream is also an excellent source of potassium. Studies show that potassium is critical for maintaining the health of every cell in your body. Getting enough potassium daily is connected to a reduced risk of high blood pressure, salt sensitivity, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
Potential Health Benefits of Coconut Cream
Coconut cream is a great source of vitamins and minerals. However, the same aspects that make coconut cream so healthy can also cause complications for people with specific medical conditions.
There aren’t many studies that considered coconut cream specifically. However, because coconut cream is essentially jellied coconut flesh, studies about the flesh can be considered when looking at the cholesterol benefits.
One such study found that adding coconut flakes to your diet can help reduce “bad” cholesterol levels and raise “good” cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol, a condition that raises your risk of heart attack and stroke. More studies need to be done to identify the source of this benefit, but the current science shows promise.
May Help Stomach Ulcers
While more studies need to be done, early trials suggest that adding coconut to your diet may help reduce the size of stomach ulcers. There also appears to be a link between thicker coconut milk having a stronger effect than coconut water, which places coconut cream at a distinct advantage.
These early trials suggest that coconut milk and cream may help protect the lining of your stomach from irritants that make ulcers worse.
May Improve Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions that are linked to a generally higher risk of mortality, including high blood pressure, high waist-to-hip ratios, and high cholesterol.
Consuming coconut products has been shown to reduce waist-to-hip ratios, which indicates a reduced risk for conditions such as heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Potential Risks of Coconut Cream
Because coconut cream is such a dense source of nutrition, it may have negative effects on some people. Consider the following before preparing or drinking coconut cream:
May Cause Weight Gain
Coconut cream is a high-calorie food. Using coconut cream as an alternative to dairy creams may lead to weight gain, especially if you are using sweetened coconut cream. Pay attention to recommended serving sizes if you choose to add coconut cream to your diet.
High in Saturated Fats
In unsweetened coconut cream, the majority of the calories come from saturated fats. These fats have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and chronic health conditions. While studies are being done to confirm or deny this correlation, people at risk for heart disease may want to consult their doctor before adding coconut cream to their diet.
May Trigger Allergies
Coconut allergies are rarer than other forms of nut allergies, but they still exist. If you have another type of nut allergy, be cautious when consuming coconut cream.
Even if you are not allergic to coconuts, many types of coconut milk are processed in facilities that also handle tree nuts and soy products, so there’s a risk for potential cross-contamination.
Coconut cream is one of the thickest and most high-calorie forms of coconut milk available. If you enjoy coconut flavor but want to eat fewer calories, consider using light coconut milk or coconut water instead. You should also look for unsweetened coconut cream if calories concern you.