Health Benefits of Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream

Coconut milk and coconut cream are two of the many edible products made from the fruit of theCocos nucifera plant. Both are made from coconut meat but coconut cream is thicker and more concentrated than coconut milk.

People generally use coconut milk and coconut cream as ingredients in cooking. They can be used to thicken and sweeten savory sauces or add creaminess and coconut flavor to desserts.

Though both coconut milk and coconut cream may be used as ingredients in beverages, such as the famous piña colada, they are not made for people to drink straight. A few non-dairy milk companies sell a drinkable beverage they call "coconut milk." This drink is essentially coconut cream mixed into water.

Health Benefits

Unfortunately, researchers haven't studied coconut milk and cream as extensively as other coconut products, such as coconut oil. Still, eating it likely provides some health benefits. 

Lower Cholesterol

Eating coconut milk could improve your cholesterol levels. In one study, people who consumed coconut milk lowered their LDL or "bad” cholesterol while their HDL or "good” cholesterol increased. Healthy cholesterol levels are important for heart health.

Weight Loss

Coconut milk and cream are sources of healthy fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Several studies have found that consuming MCTs promotes weight loss by decreasing appetite and increasing energy. 

Nutrition

Although coconut milk and cream are similar, they are two separate products with different nutrition. Coconut cream contains significantly higher amounts of carbohydrates and sugar compared to coconut milk.

Nutrients per Serving

Two tablespoons of coconut milk contain: 

  • Calories: 56

  • Protein:  1 gram

  • Fat: 6 grams

  • Carbohydrates: 1 gram

  • Fiber: 0 grams

  • Sugar: 0 grams

Coconut milk also contains small amounts of calcium and iron.

Two tablespoons of coconut cream contain: 

  • Calories: 136

  • Protein:  Less than 1 gram

  • Fat: 6 grams

  • Carbohydrates: 20 grams

  • Fiber: 0 grams

  • Sugar: 20 grams

The nutritional content of coconut milk and cream can vary across brands depending on how the products are processed.

Health Considerations

Coconut milk and cream are both relatively high in calories and fat, especially saturated fat. Although healthy when consumed in moderation, people concerned about eating too many calories or too much saturated fat should limit how much coconut milk or cream they consume. 

Some brands of coconut milk and cream are packaged in aluminum cans lined with Bisphenol A (BPA). Studies show BPA might negatively affect thyroid function. 

Experts don't fully understand how BPA affects the human body, but some people choose to avoid BPA because of potential health risks. People concerned about ingesting BPA should look for products labeled BPA-free when buying coconut milk and cream.

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How to Prepare Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream

Coconut milk and cream can be used in a variety of flavorful dishes. Here are just a few ways you can incorporate them into your cooking or baking:

  • Add coconut cream to savory sauces for sweetness and flavor.

  • Blend coconut milk into smoothies.

  • Drizzle coconut cream on top of soups.

  • Stir coconut milk into cocktails to make them creamy

  • Whip coconut cream and spoon it on top of desserts

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 28, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Cholesterol Myths and Facts."

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: "Bisphenols as Environmental Triggers of Thyroid Dysfunction: Clues and Evidence."

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietitics: "Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials."

Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: "Impact of a Traditional Dietary Supplement with Coconut Milk and Soya Milk on the Lipid Profile in Normal Free Living Subjects."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

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