Monday, March 4, 2013

Be healthy with Coconuts - The Fruit of Life

You may think that the only reason to use coconut milk is because it makes other foods taste better and creamier.

This is true.

However, it's also considered a functional food. This means that it can improve your health along with enhancing the look and feel of food.

Benefits of Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a healthy addition to your diet because:
  1. Compared to cow’s milk it’s easier to digest because the body uses 3 less enzymes for its digestion as opposed to cow’s milk.

  2. It contains a high level of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats along with high amounts of amino acids. This excellent combination of fats and amino acids make it a complete meal in an of itself.

  3. The high level of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats and protein in this milk are more bio-available to humans compared to all other animal fats and most vegetable fats. This bio-availability results in the body’s ability to assimilate all its nutrients.

  4. It’s very healing to the digestive tract and even heals damage done to the system in cases of IBS, Crohn’s disease and severe malnutrition.

  5. It’s a healthy and dairy free food. Especially helpful for people who want to avoid dairy, are lactose intolerant, or have dairy allergies.

  6. Helps build strong bones because it contains phosphorus. Phosphorus is a nutrient that is needed along with calcium to prevent bone loss and which supplies the body with phosphates. Phosphates are key for the building of bone.

  7. Helps maintain balanced blood sugar levels by being a good source of manganese. This mineral is usually deficient in people with blood sugar issues.

  8. Helps to reduce inflammation in joints by controlling the amount of free radicals in the system. As a result, arthritis sufferers can feel relief.

  9. Aids in lowering blood pressure levels because of its high level of potassium.

  10. Keeps the immune system strong and healthy by providing an optimal level of vitamin C.

  11. Helps prevent anemia. Iron deficient anemia is a very common ailment among people throughout the world. One (1) cup of this milk can provide nearly a quarter of your daily iron needs.

  12. Helps nerves and muscles relax because it has an abundance of magnesium. This mineral counteracts the hyperactivity of nerves caused by too much calcium and relieves muscle pain and soreness. The B vitamins in coconut milk also benefit nerves by calming them.

  13. Promotes prostate health because it contains the mineral, zinc. Zinc helps to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

  14. Helpful for weight management because when you consume this milk you feel fuller sooner due to its level of fiber.

Benefits of Coconut Milk For Skin
  • Helps blood vessels and skin stay elastic and flexible. In order for the body to carry out many of its functions, the mineral copper is necessary. Copper works hand in hand with vitamin C to keep skin and blood vessels staying flexible and elastic.

  • Is an effective skin cleanser and exfoliator.

Benefits of Coconut Milk for Hair

  • Coconut milk benefits hair because it contains vitamin E and a high level of fat. The combination of vitamin E and fats work together to moisturize hair deeply and effectively along with nourishing hair which promotes healthy growth. The milk is also effective at controlling excessive hair loss.

5 Healthy Ways to Enjoy Coconut

Coconut products are flooding the market – first there was coconut water, now there's coconut milk, coconut milk yogurt, coconut kefir and coconut milk ice cream. This decadent nut used to be considered a major nutritional no-no but it now enjoys a serious health halo and is touted for weight loss benefits. Is this tropical treat really all it’s cracked up to be? Here’s my take on five popular products:

Coconut Water

Coconut water is the clear liquid that pools inside whole green coconuts. It’s different from coconut milk, which is pressed from the fatty “meat” of the fruit. An 11 oz serving of pure coconut water contains about 60 calories, no fat, a gram of protein and 15 grams of carbohydrates. It’s often promoted as nature’s sports drink because it’s rich in the electrolyte potassium (lost in sweat), and packs twice as much as a banana. It’s not linked to weight control, but a recent study found that coconut water was just as effective as a statin drug for lowering cholesterol in rats, and numerous studies have pegged potassium as a key nutrient for controlling blood pressure. 

Verdict: Try it either during or after exercise. Just remember that though it’s not very sweet, one serving does contain 60 calories, so even though it’s called water, it’s not calorie free. You can sip it as is or blend some into a smoothie.

Coconut Oil

For weight loss, pure coconut oil, not water, is where the research lies. Several studies have found that coconut oil may aid weight loss because the type of fat it contains, called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), are metabolized differently than fats from other oils. Most of the fat in this delicious oil is saturated, but more and more research confirms that not all saturated fats are villains. Coconut oil can actually raise your “good” HDL cholesterol and provide antioxidants similar to those in berries, grapes and dark chocolate.

Verdict: Try it. I use it myself and recommend it, but keep it occasional and go easy – it still contains 120 calories and 14 g of fat per Tbsp. Look for it in the natural section of your supermarket. It’s a perfect alternative to butter in baked goods, it’s one of the secret ingredients in my dark chocolate truffle recipes in my new book, and it’s my go-to oil for pan-searing – major yum. 

Coconut Milk (from the dairy case)

Coconut milk includes some of the “good” coconut fat – 66 percent of the fat comes from MCTs, and while the unsweetened is low in carbs (just 1 g per cup), it’s also low in protein (1 g vs. 8 in cow milk or soy milk) and calcium (10 percent of the daily value vs. 30 percent in cow milk or soy milk).

Verdict: If you decide to try it, buy unsweetened (vanilla has nearly double the calories) and don’t count it as a protein source. It’ll work in cereal, coffee or smoothies. 

Coconut Kefir

Kefir, sometimes referred to as drinkable yogurt is fermented with “good” probiotic bacteria linked to better digestive health, immunity and possibly weight control. Coconut kefir contains live active cultures with the added benefit of its natural MCTs. 

Verdict: Try it. Compared to kefir from cultured cow’s milk, coconut kefir has just 70 calories per cup (vs. 160) and only 6 g of carbs, half of which come from dietary fiber (compared to 15 grams with the equivalent 3 g fiber from cow milk kefir). The only down side is less calcium – 10 percent of the DV vs. 30 percent. 

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

There are a few brands of coconut milk ice cream on the market now. I compared the chocolate version of one brand side by side with a pint of premium ice cream and here’s what I found: the coconut provides about the same number of calories as well as the same number of total carb grams, but contains just 2 g of saturated fat vs. 11 in the cow’s milk ice cream - and 6 fewer grams of sugar.

Verdict: Try it, but stick to just a half cup. It’s very rich so you should feel satisfied with a small portion but you can pump up the volume with fresh berries or grilled fresh fruit like plums or pineapple. Again, the major downside is less calcium (0 percent DV per serving vs. 10 percent in ice cream).

Coconut Milk Health Benefits

Coconuts are seen by some as a miracle food, helping protect and cure the body of internal and external ailments. Coconut milk has many uses, most of which build up the immune system and the body's defenses. You can find coconut milk in the ethnic foods section of a local grocery store or make it at home.


  • Coconut milk contains many vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, including potassium, calcium and chloride.

Saturated Fat

  • The saturated fat in coconut is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids the body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. Therefore, even though it's high in saturated fat, coconut can aid in weight loss.

Lauric Acid

  • Half the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut milk are composed of lauric acid, which is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. Coconut milk can help boost the immune system.


  • Coconut milk is a dairy-free alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to animal milk. This vegan drink is also soy-free, gluten-free and nut-free.

Relief of Ailments

  • Coconut milk is known to relieve the symptoms of sore throats and ulcers.

Skin Care

  • Coconut milk is used in skin-care products to moisturize the skin and relieve dry skin and rashes. It also can be used on the hair and in baths.
The Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
For much of the last few decades, coconut oil got a bad rap in mainstream media. Critics said it was high in cholesterol and fat, and so many people did not include in in their daily diets. But island populations around the world have celebrated the coconut for centuries for its health benefits, using the meat juice, milk and oil the fruit provides in everything from cooking to disease prevention. Modern medicine is now jumping on the bandwagon and releasing its own findings on the health benefits of coconut.

Weight Loss

New research has revealed that not eating enough fat can actually make you fat. According to Bruce Fife, N.D., in his article "The Fat that Can Make You Thin," people who include more healthy fats in their diet, like coconut milk, eat less than those who don't get enough fat. Healthy fats help the body feel full and satiate the brain receptors that control appetite.

Immune System Health

Coconut milk contains lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids and capric acid, which have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which is believed to fight the viruses and bacteria that cause herpes, influenza and even HIV. According to Serena Gordon, a reporter with "U.S. News & World Report," one study found children being treated with antibiotics for pneumonia benefited from a complementary program of coconut oil therapy more than those taking the antibiotic alone.

Heart Disease

Recent research on the health benefits of medium-chain fatty acids -- saturated fats -- is bringing coconut milk into the spotlight for heart health. According to Katherine Hobson in an article for "U.S. News & World Report," Pacific Islanders and Asians who eat primarily coconut oils, rather than vegetable or animal fats, show significantly lower levels of heart disease. Another link between coconut milk and heart disease is in coconut milk's ability to fight off diseases, which new research shows may cause cardiovascular problems. Medium-chain fatty acids kill the three major types of atherogenic organisms -- bacteria that cause the formation of plaque in the arteries -- that may lead to heart disease, something antibiotics alone are unable to do, says Bruce Fife, N.D., in his article "Coconut Oil and Heart Disease."

Healthy Skin and Hair

Coconut milk is highly nutrient when ingested, as well as when used topically on skin and hair. Applying coconut milk to the hair supplies it with necessary nutrients to grow and provides optimal conditioning. Massaging the scalp with coconut oil can treat dandruff and dry, itchy skin. Applied to the rest of the body, coconut milk moisturizes and restores healthy skin and repairs wrinkles and sagging, and can also treat skin infections and wounds as an antifungal and antibacterial.

Homemade Coconut Milk Recipe
Do not confuse coconut water fresh from the coconut with coconut milk. It is easy to make your own coconut milk at home.



  • 1 coconut, shell removed and flesh grated (or 2.5 ounces fresh grated coconut)
  • 1-1/2 cups hot, simmered (not boiling) water


Place the coconut in a heat-proof bowl. Cover with hot water and stir. Let cool to room temperature.

Place a sieve or strainer over a large bowl. Line it with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour the soaked coconut with its liquid into the lined strainer. Lift the cheesecloth, pull the edges together, and squeeze out the coconut milk. Refrigerate the coconut milk.

The remaining coconut flesh may be air-dryed and/or toasted for other uses.

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